Archive for month: January, 2012

Premier League Preview : January 31st

31 Jan
January 31, 2012

Manchester United v. Stoke City

United are a fairly short order to beat Stoke at Old Trafford tonight even though their price has drifted to a best price of 4/11. It doesn’t look as poor value a price as the 2/5 Liverpool were to beat the Potters at Anfield a few weeks ago. The difference being is that United have at least a handful of potential goalscorers in form at present. In my opinion Antonio Valencia is possibly the most effective right sided attacker operating in the league at present. Welbeck, Scholes, Giggs and Carrick are all playing close to their potential also. United dominated the possession statistics for long spells of play at Anfield on Saturday and there is the potential this evening for them to record unearthly numbers in that department. Stoke have earned a reputation for solidity but their defence is far from impenetrable. It is most usual that they allow the opposition at least 6 opportunities to shoot at goal from inside the box over the ninety minutes. Granted that United are threatening to display defensive frailties but should Etherington be absent for Stoke, some of the threat will subside. Despite the numerous absentees from United’s panel, they are still able to field the better players this evening.

Recommended bet: Man. Utd to beat Stoke, 4/11.

Tottenham v. Wigan Athletic

Tottenham probably got away with one last Friday night at Watford. They were unusually quiet offensively, probably due to the absence of their excellent wide players, and they allowed Watford close to a dozen decent sights at their goal. Had Watford had genuine Premier League quality in their front line they would have had enough chances to win the game comfortably. It remains to be seen if Wigan will be able to capitalise on any similar generosity from Spurs. Absences will shape people’s thinking on how this match will play out. It is likely that Defoe and Lennon, two of Tottenham’s more mobile players, will not play. Rodellega of Wigan has been the subject of much transfer speculation over the past days and may have played his last game for the club. Diame is still away on African Cup of Nations duty and his tackling will be missed. The view of the bookmakers is that goal chances will be plentiful. Allowing for 26 efforts at goal and a conversion rate of just over 12 %, over 3.5 goals should be priced at close to 6-4. Most quotes are below this and some are as short as 6-5. An over 2.5 goals quote of 4-7 is more in line with the actual probablities. Even so, with the ever increasing variables associated with this fixture, a wager can not be confidently recommended.

Leopardstown Review : January 28-29th

31 Jan
January 31, 2012

Leopardstown’s two day meeting provided its share of spectacles and memorable performances. SIR DES CHAMPS recorded the first graded race victory of the weekend when somehow finding a way to win the grade two novice ‘chase. He is beginning to look like a horse that just about does enough in winning. It may not always be pleasing on the eye but the fact remains he is unbeaten since relocating to his Irish stable and already numbers a Cheltenham Festival success amongst his wins. He has cemented his position on the list of likely novice ‘chase winners at this year’s Festival especially in light of Saturday’s weight carrying performance. HIDDEN CYCLONE‘s drift in the betting before the race didn’t auger well and he put up a bizarre performance. His fencing was less than accurate but even so, he looked likely to prevail turning into the homestraight before running around, seemingly less than fully concentrating on the task in hand. He may still be in need of experience before facing more accomplished rivals. Reportedly CITIZENSHIP had everything go wrong in the Hurdle before landing the prize. Clearly he remains progressive but there is some debate as to whether he won a strong renewal of the race and it will be interesting to see how he copes with a rise in class. It is possible that he has started to turn a corner but with his career record of only 4 wins from 30 attempts his profile is less than convincing. A horse with no such problems is the winner of the Leopardstown Handicap ‘Chase, SEABASS, who now boasts a near 50 % wins to runs record over fences. His biggest obstacle on the day appeared to be a loose horse which preceded him for much of the race but when he was set down on the run-in he showed a determined attitude to win decisively.

As well reported conditions changed markedly leading up to Sunday’s card. Rain persistently fell at the course before and throughout racing. The strong looking mare, BURN AND TURN initiated an opening race double for the sire Flemensfirth when staying on well enough to land the maiden hurdle. With a win in the bumper field and over hurdles she is now a valuable commodity. Another foray into graded company could now be expected but should she line up in a handicap race it will be well worth taking note. FLEMENSTAR dominating in winning the Frank Ward Arkle ‘Chase. The underfoot surface had eased well beyond the degree to which he would have felt necessary to show his best. His jumping was particularly convincing and down the backstraight he was noticeably fast over at least one of the obstacles. His form ties in conveniently with the another genuinely exciting prospect, BOG WARRIOR.

HURRICANE FLY did not disappoint those who had braved the elements to witness his return to action in the Irish Champion Hurdle. In what was a measured display he could be counted as the winner even before turning for home. He powered home after taking the last flight and appears to be on course to defend his Cheltenham title. OSCARS WELL again showed improvement to finally master THOUSAND STARS on the course but they are all in a different division compared to the favourite for the race in March. BOSTON BOB emulated his stablemate SIR DES CHAMPS in carrying a substantial penalty to victory, on this occasion in the grade two novice hurdle. In the field, BOSTON BOB and SEA OF THUNDER had the most obvious physiques that would enable them to adapt to ‘chasing in future. Both had size and substance but the winner showed abundant class in giving LYREEN WONDER a five length headstart approaching the the final hurdle and a convincing beating at the line. The pace was moderate up to the third last hurdle. By then visibility had been much reduced by the enclosing mist. The race itself turned into a sprint for home and MAKE YOUR MARK made up a lot of ground out wide to arrive in contention before tiring in the homestraight. In all probability he needs time to develop into the horse people hope he can become. There was plenty of backing for TOUCH BACK before the race as his odds halved in the betting. Strangely he was anchored in rear and could never become involved in the race itself. In view of the confidence that has already been placed in him he still warrants notice wherever he reappears next.

Leopardstown Preview : January 29th

28 Jan
January 28, 2012

The maiden hurdle which opens the card on the second day of Leopardstown’s mini-festival has attracted an intriguing set of entries. BURN AND TURN is a hard pulling type and will benefit from strong handling. The better ground will give him a chance of getting home. THOMAS EDISON has already been lauded on this site for his effort at Christmas. Clearly others were impressed and he has been purchased by Champion owner, J.P. McManus. TENNIS CAP hails from the all winning Mullins’ stable and merits respect since the yard has already bagged the two novice events here this weekend. The trainer’s recent run of form is noteworthy and it’s worth breaking down the numbers to reveal their significance. Over the last three completed seasons the Mullins’ horses have won nearly 25.5 % of their entries in Ireland. Including yesterday’s results this season’s strike rate stands at close on 31 %. It is highly unlikely that the stable remains a 25.5 % outfit but more efficient. Put another way, a 25.5 % yard would be bigger than 50-1 to post the sequence of winners and runners that the Willie Mullins team has put up since the first week of May. The recent effort over the last fortnight would rate as nearly a 43-1 shot for a stable with the capability of producing 25.5% winners to runners over a season. The conclusion is that Mullins has been outperforming since the beginning of the season rather than just over the past few weeks and to a higher degree. This points to a significant change surrounding the operation, possibly due to the influx of the Gigginstown and Wylie horses.

All concerned with the Frank Ward Arkle Novice ‘Chase have a keen eye trained on the weather. BLACKSTAIRMOUNTAIN was the victor when the majority of the field assembled here last month. He was the class of this field over hurdles and has made an impressive transition to the fencing sphere. He is such a good traveller on good ground that rain would not enhance his chance. Connections of FLEMENSTAR seem to be those who would appreciate rainfall most of all. This powerfully built gelding is the unknown quantity in the race and bar the favourite looks the most likely to graduate to championship level. Rain would also benefit NOTUS DE LA TOUR in his attempt to reverse form with BLACKSTAIRMOUNTAIN. Interestingly, he was shipped to race at Auteil back in June on forecast very testing ground. Surely he would never have set sail for France if he wasn’t at least ambivalent to soft underfoot conditions.

The Irish Champion Hurdle sees the eagerly awaited return of HURRICANE FLY. The result and the betting on the race revolves around him. Unless a bettor is in possession of reliable inside information, this is fantastic race to be watching. Only the filly, UNACCOMPANIED, on account of her generous weight allowance could inflict an honourable defeat on the favourite. The rest of the field have not shown the ability to beat an in-form HURRICANE FLY. An unimpressive performance could well see challengers diverted from the World Hurdle to the Champion Hurdle at the Festival, seeing as BIG BUCKS did little in winning the Cleeve Hurdle to persuade anyone further to take him on.

Singularly, the grade two novice hurdle is the race I’ve been looking forward most to seeing all weekend. There are at least four entrants due to race that have immense potential. SEA OF THUNDER looked set to run away with the Albert Bartlett hurdle at Cheltenham before blundering at the last. He had pricked his ears well before the flight and I suspect that the very close promixity of spectators and a television camera near the running rail had much to do with this. Another last hurdle leader at the same meeting found themselves in a similar predicament. The performance as a whole marked SEA OF THUNDER down as a live contender for the Festival edition of the Albert Bartlett. TOUCH BACK is highly regarded and he will add value to the form. This is a very stiff assignment for a second run over hurdles and only time will tell if he’s ready for such a steep rise in class. BOSTON BOB is the proven graded race winner in the field and as a consequence has a penalty to carry. If he can run away from this field under his burden, he will just about win the novice event of his choosing at Cheltenham. It’s hard to crab his progression but he could well put up an immense effort and still find one of these to beat him. At level weights he could well have been an odds on shot in the betting. MAKE YOUR MARK is the horse in the race that I would be most confident, that given even luck, will be in future be plying his trade in the highest class. There will be some long faces tomorrow if he doesn’t go at least close to winning this event.

Leopardstown Preview : January 28th

27 Jan
January 27, 2012

The new format for Leopardstown’s first meeting of the year whereby two fantastic cards are run on the same weekend has given the event the feeling of a mini-festival. Whilst the weekend’s races are important in their ownright, as ever there is always one eye on Cheltenham.

The two and half mile maiden hurdle features last year’s Cheltenham bumper runner-up in AUPCHARLIE. He has largely been disappointing and looks the type to run into the frame no matter what the class of the race but actually winning seems to be against his nature and he is not one to take a short price about. COMPETITIVE EDGE is a viable contender in this grade. Time will probably tell that he faced an impossible task when running against the potentially very decent MAKE YOUR MARK. Even so, he was heavily backed on the day as the each way alternative to the favourite before filling the runner-up slot.

The grade two novice ‘chase features horses with pretensions to make an impact on at least one of the Spring festivals. HIDDEN CYCLONE has already been given a big write up on this site but now looks less likely to head to Cheltenham. He has no doubt been finely tuned for this assignment and the P.J. Moriarty ‘Chase back here next month. He landed a little flat-footed after the last on his debut and then recovered to regain his momentum on the run to the line making the bare result look less than flattering. Singularly, however it was a most professional performance. SIR DES CHAMPS is a worthy opponent as he is both a proven graded novice ‘chase winner and a Cheltenham Festival victor. The five pound penalty he has to concede to the field could prove decisive but it would be disappointing if he is unable to beat any of them bar HIDDEN CYCLONE.

The feature handicap hurdle, the Hurdle, is as undecipherable as it usually is. Some speculative suggestions as to a group of horses that may make an impression based on the fact that they have bumped into well handicapped opponents in recent races, are given as follows; ASKTHEMASTER was a course winner at Christmas and even at the age of twelve appears to remain progressive. He is rated a lot higher over fences, with the pick of his form being a second placed finish at Cheltenham last season. The first time I saw him on course was when he lined up for the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse back in 2006. He didn’t look out of place in a grade one novice field that day. At 16-1 he can go well on the prevailing good ground. MADAME MADO was undeniably disappointing when only 17-2 to win a listed mare’s race here. In mitigation, conditions deteriorated rapidly before the race and the start was delayed. She raced well off the pace in the race itself and without getting a breather, she tired at the second last. It is interesting that as a valuable broodmare, she already has black type, she takes her chance in handicap company rather than the less crowded environment of pattern class. At 40-1 she is not without a chance.

The Leopardstown Handicap ‘Chase has also has attracted a fully subscribed field. I can’t help but get the feeling that some part of the decision to send SEABASS here rather than to the Thyestes ‘Chase was heavily influenced by the presence of the eventual winner, ON HIS OWN. Connections had clearly planned on going for a shot at a big pot this month given they still have a progressive horse on their hands. If you had backed MONTAN at Leopardstown over Christmas you must still be wondering how he didn’t win. He travelled and jumped superbly and was visibly being restrained, even towards the later stages, probably due to the trip being an unknown variable. It was his first effort at three miles. A particularly strong jockey has been booked for tomorrow’s assignment and a stronger pace will be of benefit. His weight is a slight concern but he gives the impression of a horse going places.

Recommended bets:

1:45 Leopardstown, Lay AUPCHARLIE at 2.52 or less

2:45 Leopardstown, Back ASKTHEMASTER at 16-1 (ew), Back MADAME MADO at 40-1 (ew) 5 places freely available.

3:20 Leopardstown, Back SEABASS at 7-1 (ew), Back MONTAN at 12-1 (ew).
ALTERNATIVELY; Back MONTAN (ew) in betting without SEABASS.

FA Cup 4th Round Preview : January 27th

27 Jan
January 27, 2012

Watford vs. Tottenham

On paper this appears to be a mis-match and should the away side field a strong team in reality it should be. Tottenham are displaying a curious pattern in their performances of late and probably throughout the season as a whole. It is more common than not that the majority of their opponents’ shots occur from within the penalty area. In contrast the majority of Spurs’ efforts habitually are made from outside the box. This is not surprising since Spurs possess some of the most coveted midfielders in the league and also field at least two defenders adept at scoring with long range efforts. Their expansive and attacking style is always likely to leave them vulnerable on occasions in defence. In the context of this evening’s game it would be no surprise to see Watford register a few close range efforts at the Tottenham goal. This is par for the course. In contrast if Spurs start firing in shots from 18 yards or less at a rate of one every seven minutes and they restrict Watford to long range attempts only, there in all probability will be only one outcome. Essentially Watford will be doing far worse than the majority of Tottenham’s opponents have done this season. This will not bode well seeing as Spurs have won a great many of their games since August.

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