Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Binocular – An Enigma

As we all know, regaining a title at the Cheltenham Festival is tough going, Kauto Star managed to do that in the Gold Cup and in the history of the Champion Hurdle there is also only one candidate Comedy Of Errors who managed to grab back his title in 1975.

That’s the task facing Binocular this year and of course he also has an exceptional Champion in Hurricane Fly standing in his way also, but of late the horse has looked back to his enigmatic best especially on his last outing at Wincanton where he brushed aside a horse as good as Celestial Halo who may be exposed but you know that he provides a decent form yardstick. Those who bet on horse should remember this.

Maybe, just maybe we have learnt a little more about Binocular in his Cheltenham preparations this year, as in previous year’s we haven’t really learnt much beyond the fact that he has four legs and a heartbeat, and plenty of his victories have thrown up more questions than answers. Last year he even failed to make Cheltenham but even then in what would or could have been his Festival prep race he looked lethargic and his jumping was adequate at best. People following the 2012 Cheltenham betting tips need to bear this in mind.

Compare that with his jumping at Wincanton in what has turned out to be his prep race this time and it was slick and efficient and bore a striking resemblance to how he moved over the hurdles when winning the hurdling crown two years ago. That Cheltenham victory was the last time we saw him at his best but remember before that he had problems and was struggling to even make the Champion Hurdle. The demands of that race and the course appear to bring out the best in him and there is genuine optimism that we could be in for another dose of Binocular powering up the Cheltenham hill.

An on-song and well-prepared Binocular has every right to give Hurricane Fly something to think about and maybe the Champion Hurdle is not the one-horse race that everyone assumes it is and Binocular for all his faults and enigmatic style has a shot bat creating a little bit if history and regaining the hurdling crown.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase preview

Just the six races on the third day of the Festival and it's the amateurs turn to take centre stage in this handicap over an extended three miles. The conditions have been changed this year slightly and the race is now open to horses rated 0-145 instead of the previous 140 ceiling. That change may well change the balance of power in term of the trends and that's a shame as the rating level was one of the strongest traits around in what was admittedly a weak race for trends.

The bottom weight has been rated 126, 127 and 129 for the last three seasons and that is likely to be higher again this season given the change to the race conditions so we wouldn't be mad keen to rely on previous weight and official ratings patterns for strong clues. Five of the last eight winners could be found in the relatively-tight ratings band of between 124-128 but that may not now be good enough to even squeeze in at the bottom of the handicap, given the five pound extension that has taken place at the top of the handicap. People placing Cheltenham 2012 bets should remember this.

So what help can we provide to hone down the field, well, British horses have like the Byrne Group Plate dominated over the recent few years and the Irish are 0-38, so we would be very wary of their challenge in this race, they last won the race in 1983 with Greasepaint and it's been blanks all the way ever since. Fans of Cheltenham betting should bear this in mind.

In terms of age group, those 7-10 are the ones to concentrate on with the six-year-olds holding a 0-19 record and anything older than ten being in a similar position. Being an amateur-riders' race, horsemanship is important and six of the last seven winners were ridden by non-claiming amateurs so experience in the saddle certainly does count in this handicap and we would be looking out for one of the more experienced riders and especially those that have experience around Cheltenham.

The race has also provided a decent "core" of trainers to follow Nicky Henderson, Donald McCain and Ferdy Murphy have the best recent record with three, two and two winners respectively, and there are also some names that it could pay to avoid among them Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Jonjo O'Neill all of whom have questionable records in the race.

Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle tips

The second of the week's influential novice hurdles this one for more staying types and run over 2M 5F, and the first thing to say is that it has been dominated by horses that are aged five and six. They have won the last 12 renewals and 17 of the last 18 – the only exception coming in 1998 when French Holly triumphed for the older brigade but generally they pay to ignore in this contest.

In form horses have also been the ones to keep on-side in the Neptune, just one of the last 28 winners did not finish in the first two last time out and the class of race is also important where it really pays to avoid those animals coming from a Class 4 race or less, over 117 have tried to and none has been successful. Those searching for horse racing betting tips should remember this.

The most influential guide to the race has been the Deloitte Hurdle over 2m2f at Leopardstown on Irish Hennessy Day which Danoli, Istabraq and Hardy Eustace all contested before winning this prize but in more recent times the Grade 1 Navan Novices' Hurdle won this season by Boston Bob has a better record with a winner and runner-up going on to win the Neptune in the last six years. Boston Bob heads the betting for this year's Neptune and although he has an alternative engagement in the Albert Barlett Novices' Hurdle over 3M, he will probably come here especially with the doubt over his main rival – Fingal Bay – participation at the moment due to injury. Fans of Cheltenham betting should bear this in mind.

The Neptune is another of the races at the Festival where it pays to keep the Irish challenge on your side, they have taken four of the last six runnings and look to hold a strong hand gain this year, this may be due to the fact that NH bred horses do far better in this event than those that are flat bred and experience in bumper races is another important facet of any runners make-up.

Speaking of trainers, Willie Mullins trains Boston Bob and he took back-to-back runnings of this contest in 2008 and 2009, so his runners always command plenty of respect, but we would be wary of anything that Nicky Henderson saddles in this, he has a 0-23 record in the race and has only had two runners finish higher than tenth since 1990.

Monday, 27 February 2012

FA Cup a London priority

For two big London clubs used to Premier League success, the FA Cup represents their last hope of silverware this season.

For years, Arsenal and Chelsea have been Manchester United’s main rivals for the title. However, more recently, they have fallen behind Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the pecking order.

Arsenal’s struggles for silverware have been well-documented. Their last success came in the FA Cup seven years ago and the natives are becoming restless.

Chelsea have hardly been starved of success, having achieved the double as recently as two years ago, but are going through a period of transition under Andres Villa-Boas and will be desperate to take something away from a disappointing season. People looking for the best FA Cup bets should remember this.

Spurs, on the other hand, are a side hungry for success under Harry Redknapp. The Lilywhites have gone from strength to strength under Redknapp and are well placed in the title race.

Whilst Spurs will be keen to lift the FA Cup for the first time since 1991, they still harbour hopes of lifting the Premier League title and need to remain focussed. The game away at Stevenage comes in the middle of a tough run of league fixtures. Those searching for FA Cup free bets need to bear this in mind.

With Tottenham’s thoughts occupied by the Premier League and Liverpool having one eye on the Carling Cup final, the door is open for Chelsea and Arsenal in this season’s FA Cup.

Chelsea host an in-form Birmingham City side, while the Gunners face a tough trip to Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland.

Despite Birmingham’s impressive Championship form, Chelsea will be confident of booking a place in the quarter-finals. Arsenal will be hurting after their dismal defeat in Europe and can take heart from their victory at the Stadium of Light last weekend.

It won’t be easy for either side, but desperation might just pull them through.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Can the three new boys survive?

The three promoted teams have certainly established themselves as viable contenders in the Premiership. In this particular article I am going to focus on the three promoted sides from the previous campaign and analyse their chances of remaining in the top tier of English football. The teams that were promoted into the Premier League last season include: Queens Park Rangers, Norwich and Swansea City.

Out of the three promoted sides, the team that is currently performing the best when regarding their Premiership standing is Norwich. The Canaries have been in outstanding form this season and their current manager – Paul Lambert – must be very proud of his team. Their star player, Grant Holt, has scored a total of nine goals this season making him Norwich's top goal scorer. Those looking at football predictions need to remember this.

Lambert's team currently resides in eighth position in the Premier League and looks likely to secure a top half finish. Their chances of being relegated into the Championship are slim to none.

The second team I shall talk about is the Welsh outfit Swansea. The Swans have been in inspired form this season and manager Brendan Rodgers has made his side an incredibly hard team to beat, especially at home. Currently, the Welsh team's star individual has to be their highest goal scorer Danny Graham. Swansea look highly unlikely to be demoted this season. They play some great football and it's hard to see them finishing behind some of the lesser teams in the Premiership. Those betting on football should bear this in mind.

Lastly, I shall talk about the recently promoted side that has failed to meet expectations; that team being QPR. Neil Warnock – the manager that gained promotion with the Hoops – was sacked with the owner of the London club looking for someone with more experience at the top level, this manager being Mark Hughes.

Since Hughes' arrival he has brought in some great players, the most notable two being Djibril Cisse from Lazio and Bobby Zamora from Fulham. These two signings have yet to make a drastic impact to the QPR side with the London club residing in a disappointing sixteenth position. Of the three promoted sides Queens Park Rangers look the most likely to endure a relegation.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Premier League: Can Newcastle United remain in 6th position come the end of the 2011/12 season?

The northeastern club Newcastle United have been a formidable force in this year's Premier League season. The Magpies remain to be in 5th position, a total of 2 points ahead of 6th placed Arsenal.

Alan Pardew – Newcastle's current manager – must have some terrific scouts as he has managed to build what is undeniably a very strong team in the top tier of English football. Fans of football betting should remember this.

One signing in particular that has been incredible is the Senegalese international Demba Ba. Senegal's strong striker has made a total of 22 appearances scoring a total of 16 goals making him the 2nd top goal scorer so far this season.

Pardew claimed Ba on a free transfer from the recently relegated West Ham. Premier League sides Stoke City and Everton were keen on Ba but it was Newcastle that managed to acquire the talents of the Senegalese forward. People looking at the football predictions should bear this in mind.

The Toon's greatest victory came against the Premier League powerhouses Manchester United. They beat the Red Devils at a score of 3-0 with goals from: Demba Ba in the 32nd minute, Yohan Cabaye in the 46th and Man United's Phil Jones scoring an own goal in the 89th minute. It was certainly deserved and proved that Newcastle are no pushovers in the top flight.

The most disappointing loss that the Magpies gathered was against Fulham where they endured a 5-2 away loss. Pardew could not have been happy with his men as the strong Fulham side demolished them.

So, to answer the question in the title: "Can Newcastle United remain in 6th position come the end of the 2011/12 season?" The answer to this question would have to be no. All throughout the season the Magpies have been on the rise. But it's inevitable that at some point they are bound to drop points. The best Pardew and his men can hope for in my eyes is to finish in 7th position come the end of the 2011/12 Premier League season.