Friday, December 31, 2010

Exciting Christmas Hurdle Showdown

The propects of an exciting day of racing action at Kempton on Boxing Day increased following a successful inspection by the clerk of course. Assuming that there is no further heavy snowfall over the next few days then the Christmas Hurdle will be expected to produced another superb race this year.

Those who get free bets note that the Grade 1 race is held over two miles with eight hurdles and the chatter within racing circles regards the prospects of last season’s Champion Hurdle winner, Binocular.

The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old is currently available at a best price of 2/1 and is expected to put in a strong performance against a number of strong contenders. The odds might have been expected to open a bit tighter but a poor run in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle has led to some doubts with the punters. The defeat on that day was to a well-prepared Peddlars Cross and another Donald McCain-trained horse, Overturn, is due to run as part of the field on Sunday. At 8/1 this certainly allows an Each-Wy punt but another that is well-fancied in the betting market is Khyber Kim. The horse has been reported to be in good sorts with Nigel Twiston-Davies and is second favourite to grab the win (10/3).

Others in with a chance according to those who Bet with Paypal include Oscar Whiskey (10/1) and Escortman (12/1) but all eyes will be on Binocluar. The performance will be expected to quickly reflect in the ante-post betting market for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle 2011 with Binocluar currently proced at (5/1), slightly behind the favoutrite Menorah (4/1).

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NFL fans to suffer from 2011 lockout?

With the current labour agreement due to run out at the end of the season, and the players' union and the NFL owners failing to come to any kind of agreement over a new one, NFL fans need to start lapping up every touchdown, and even every punt, as they face the stark and unwanted reality that the NFL is looking likely to be headed for lockout.

Although those placing a super bowl bet note that the players are annoyed that they are being asked to take a pay cut whilst the franchises receive extra cash, and the franchises and owners are annoyed by the fact that the players have changed their tune as to how to gauge the fiscal state of the NFL, there appears to be little hope of the two sides coming to an agreement at the moment.

Super bowl betting pundits agree that the NFL is making great strides forward in its efforts to promote football abroad (with its games held in the UK selling out very quickly and continuing to grow in popularity) but the fact remains that the NFL is continuing to suffer at home from the current economic situation, which is leaving fans unable to spend the level of cash that they have done in the past, and corporations not as keen to spend the big bucks on buying the plushest executive boxes to impress clients with.

However, with the players seemingly unable to accept that they are going to need to take a pay cut for the time being, NFL fans are likely to be the ones who really lose out as they will be denied the opportunity to cheer on their team because of the greed of others.

Wade out

James Wade has been dumped out of the World Darts Championship at the second round stage.

The world number two, who was one of the favourites to win the tournament in Ladbrokes Darts Betting, was below-par as he lost 4-2 to Mensur Suljovic on Tuesday evening.

Those looking at the lads cup championship note that the result has enhanced Phil Taylor’s odds as favourite to win his 16th World Championship, which have narrowed from 5/6 to 8/11.

Suljovic, the world number 47, took the first set and Wade soon found himself trailing 2-1 as he struggled to combat the Austrian’s methodical style.

However, he presented an opening to the Englishman in the fourth set, missing two shots at double six to allow Wade to equalise.

Suljovic was not to be deterred though and took the decisive fifth set, despite missing seven doubles. He then wrapped up the win as Wade’s game fell to pieces.
Speaking to Sky Sports 3 after his historic victory, Suljovic found it hard to conceal his delight.

He said: "I feel like never before in my life.

"I'm so pleased and over the moon. This is the best moment of my career. I don't have the words."

Simon Whitlock has moved to 11/2 joint second favourite with Raymond van Barneveld to clinch the title after he emphatically dismissed Denis Ovens 4-0.

Whitlock was ruthless as he constrained Ovens to just two legs. The Australian was runner-up to Taylor at last year’s tournament and is hoping to go one better this time around.

Speaking after the match, he admitted that winning the world title is his aim.
He said: "I started a bit slow but knew I was going to play well because over the last 10 days I've been putting a lot of time in on the board.

"I've been working hard for this. We're all working hard and all want the same thing."

Even those focusing on the lads cup championship event know that Taylor is the man to beat though and he enters the second round fray later on Wednesday when he faces Peter Wright (Taylor 1/50, Wright 10/1 – Ladbrokes Match Betting).

Double Barrelling

You have raised in the cut off and received one caller in the big blind. You completely miss the flop. Your opponent checks to you and you decide to make a continuation bet and the big blind calls. The turn also misses your hand completely and once again the big blind has checked to you - do you fire that second barrel?

Having a good double barrelling strategy while using the betfair code bonus will make you a ton of money but what is a good double barrelling strategy? This all depends on your knowledge of your opponent. If an opponent has a 70% fold rate once they check to you on the turn for example, then firing any turn against that particular opponent will turn a profit.

If you don’t have good strong reads on your opponents then following these few rules will put you in good stead.


When you are in position you control the size of the pot and when you are out of position you don’t. Remember the importance of this when deciding to double barrel as a semi bluff. Double barrelling in position will turn more of a profit than trying it out of position.


Those over at will agree that double barrelling when your equity improves is an excellent strategy. Here is a good example. Let’s say you are on the button with AsKs and there are two of you seeing the flop of 7s9c2h and you decide to make a continuation bet and your opponent calls. The turn if the 6s and your opponent once again checks to you. This is a perfect spot to fire that second barrel. You have shown strength pre flop, on the flop and now on the turn and you have a lot of outs if called. If you get check-raised in this spot then just do the Math.

Celtics just streak ahead

Ahead of the clash between Boston and Philadelphia you would have been forgiven for believing that this would be a walk in the park for the Celtics against the 76ers.

Boston on a 13 game winning streak before Wednesday night, at the TD Gardens, and the Sixers going into this game on the back of a 121-76 trouncing from the Chicago Bulls the previous night.

Those following the Livescores note that The Celtics did make it 14 wins on the trot as they came out 84-80 winners over Philadelphia but by no means did they have it all their own way.

Elton Brand managed to net 16 points and 12 rebounds to be one of the Sixers top players on the night.

However the performances of Ray Allen and the ever imposing Paul Pierce were too much for the visitors, who put in one of their best performances of the season.

Andre Iquodala had two late chances to tie the game for the Sixers but a missed shot and an impressive block Kevin Garnett was enough to keep the guard at bay.

So yet another win for the Celtics but what has been most impressive about the Atlantic Division leaders according to those following the Latest basketball scores regularly is the fact that they have gone on this winning streak with an injury list as long as Shaquille O'Neal’s arm.

Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins have all been injured at some point this season and Perkins has not played in the NBA in the current campaign.

Shaq has also been out of four of the games from the winning streak but the unity and strength in depth of the team has helped them go on this run of wins.

Head-coach Doc Rivers has been surprised by the manner of his side’s recent results.

He said: "Usually, when you're on a winning streak, everybody's healthy, everybody's playing well and you're rolling.

"You could make the case it's the opposite with us."

No matter how they are doing it Rivers will want to keep up the wins when they face the struggling Orlando Magic on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wilson proves a Wornambool wonder man

At an age when most of his contemporaries find it tiring enough playing snakes and ladders with their grandchildren, 64-year-old Aussie riding legend Neville Wilson put the younger generation to shame when upsetting the fixed odds by stealing the show at Wornambool on Monday afternoon riding a brilliant treble on the country card.

Wilson’s sporting longevity is already the stuff of Australian racing legend, and he reminded race fans in no uncertain fashion that he intends to boot home plenty more winners before he reaches for the Zimmer frame, by kicking off with victory on the Colin Chandler-trained Akhafacet in the Southern Financial Group Maiden over 1400m, before following up in the 1000m maiden sprint on board Geoff Duffy’s Raise Your Banner.

With the Wornambool regulars already scratching their collective heads at the conditioning of a man who was riding winners 20 years before some of his Monday rival jockeys were born, Wilson stepped up again to present plenty of interest for those who like to compare odds during racing by completing a famous treble, guiding Four Legs Good to victory for Trevor Murphy.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Wilson is the oldest professional jockey in the world at present. Most riders hang up their boots in their mid-40s or maybe last as long as 50. Even the mighty ‘Long Fellow’ Lester Piggott called it a day at the age of 57, not long after coming out of ‘enforced’ retirement to famously partner Royal Academy to victory in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Mile for Vincent O’Brien.

Wilson is already acknowledged as extra-special by his Aussie contemporaries, the five-time Group 1 winner who has ridden more than 2000 career winners, having been recognised in recent years with the presentation of the Neville Wilson Medal, an annual award given to the winner of the Victorian Country Jockeys’ Championship.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

EPL 2010-11 : Manutd - Sunderland goals

Manchester United 2-0 Sunderland

1-0 - Berbatov

2-0 - Berbatov

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mark Selby has admitted that he would like to face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the Masters tournament at Wembley Arena next month.

The duo have met in the last two finals, with the record currently standing at one win each, and Selby has confessed that he enjoys the atmosphere that the titanic tussle brings.

Selby will be aiming to win his third Masters title in four years in 2011 after tasting success on his debut in 2008 and again in 2010. He also reached the 2009 final but succumbed 10-8 to The Rocket.

However, he gained revenge for this defeat by beating him 10-9 earlier this year and he admits he would like to face O’Sullivan – who is 7/2 favourite in Ladbrokes Snooker Odds - for a third successive time in the Masters final.

Speaking ahead of the tournament, which runs from January 9 to January 16, Selby said: "I've got a very good record in the event, I love playing at Wembley and it tends to bring the best out of me. The atmosphere in the last two finals against Ronnie O'Sullivan is the best I've ever played in.

"Ronnie beat me in 2009 then I beat him last year so it would be great to meet him in the final for a third time. The public might start to get bored of seeing us in the final every year, but I wouldn't mind!"

Those who are looking to place snooker bets should note that Selby is an 8/1 shot to taste success in Ladbrokes Snooker Odds and admits that the competition is getting tougher due to the greater number of tournaments now involved in professional snooker.

This means he will be taking the Masters tournament one game at a time, starting against Mark King in his opening match on January 9 (Ladbrokes Snooker Odds – Selby 1/3, King 9/4 to win match). However, he clearly has one eye on claiming the coveted crown again.

King George card still touch ‘n go

The showcase two-day William Hill Festival meeting at Kempton on Boxing Day and on the following Monday remains in doubt due to the freezing weather conditions as betting on whether or not the fixture will go ahead has proven highly unpredictable, writes Elliot Slater.

Although temperatures once again fell below zero on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Sunbury track, the forecast snow on Tuesday failed to arrive and Wednesday also remained clear. Frost covers are in place on the track and clerk of the course Barney Clifford welcomed the let-up in the snow, but remained non-committal as to his belief of whether or not the fixture will actually be able to go ahead as planned.

Having been 11/10 against the meeting taking place as recently as Tuesday afternoon, the betfair paul nicholls tips column (doubtless full of Christmas cheer) seeing the respite in the weather, have plunged on the fixture beating the big freeze and have forced the odds down to 4/7 that racing will indeed go-ahead, with those more pessimistic race fans being able to currently avail themselves of 6/4 against.

The weather forecast for Xmas Eve and Christmas Day suggests little if any snow, but does suggest that temperatures will remain around, or just below zero during the course of the day, and a freezing north-easterly wind could make it feel considerably colder.

A light layer of snow still continues to cover Kempton Park racecourse but Clifford pointed out that on Wednesday, for the first time in many days, he can now see the black frost covers under the snow, suggesting that a thaw of sorts has already set in.

Fingers of betfair horse racing pundits are very firmly crossed that the thaw will continue and racing fans across Britain and beyond will be able to sit down at 3 o’clock on Boxing Day to see the mighty Kauto Star bid to make history in winning the race for the fifth successive year.

49ers still can’t decide which Smith to use

The 49ers are about to play their most important game to date this season, but coach Mike Singletary has been forced to admit that he still does not know the identity of his starting quarterback for the win or bust tie against the St. Louis Rams.

With Singletary previously having preached the importance of experiencing continuity in a team's offence, he is now going back on his word in dramatic style by jumping between Troy and Alex Smith in almost every game, something that goes a long way towards explaining precisely why the 49ers have had such a poor season.

Although it has to be acknowledged by those who bet on super bowl that Singletary is being forced to choose between poor and poorer for the starting QB place, the fact is that he should surely have chosen his main man by this stage, if only to give one QB the opportunity of becoming used to getting the best out of the 49ers' best offensive weapons such as Michael Crabtree.

It seems to be becoming ever more clear to the super bowl odds that the 49ers are going to be looking to pick up a QB in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft (with any failure to beat St Louis sure to leave his coaches thinking about this decision far sooner than they would have hoped), so Singletary is going to need to start taking notice of his own words.

Should Singletary fail to secure a rookie QB who can get the 49ers back to winning ways and successful seasons, he will need to learn from his mistakes this season and ensure that continuity is the name of the game from this point onwards.

Rees has one eye on Welsh captaincy

Welsh hooker Matthew Rees admits that he is keen on taking on the role of captain on a more regular basis following the taster he enjoyed in the aftermath of Ryan Jones’ injury for the autumn internationals against Australia and South Africa. Whilst he admits that being crowned captain in that fashion is far from ideal, he also made it clear that with a total of 39 caps, he is experienced enough to adequately perform the role, and happy to fill in for as long as he is required.

Now that he knows Wales’ opening fixture will be against Wales’ most bitter of enemies, England, the desire to lead his team out at the Millennium Stadium is all-encompassing, even if the rugby union betting suggests it will be a tough battle.

"I would like to be captain and hopefully, Gats (Warren Gatland) is more than happy with me. As a captain you have got to look to lead from the front – whoever it is has to give 100 per cent and it would be great, playing at home and running out in front of a fantastic crowd against England at the Millennium Stadium. It's a great opening match for us to have in the Six Nations - we couldn't ask for a better fixture to start it."

The front-row forward has long impressed fans and pundits alike – and was rightly rewarded for his performances with three caps for the British Lions back in 2009 – but now he wants to cement his place in Welsh folklore by joining the greats before him who have captained a side which have slain the English and gone on to win a Grand Slam and those who bet on rugby may fancy them to do it.

But Rees knows that first and foremost he must concentrate on maintaining his form for regional side, Scarlets, as he knows the Welsh selectors will be letting no one in on merit or reputation.

However, he was a key part of the scrum which obliterated Australia’s in November, and if he can maintain that sort of form, there is no doubt that he will be taking to the field against England on 4th February – but will it be with the captain’s armband on? Only time will tell.

Priestland looking to fill Jones' boots

It would appear that Wales' Six Nations campaign could well be rescued by the strength in depth of regional side, Scarlets. With Stephen Jones - capped 95 times by his country - looking doubtful for the start of the 2011 campaign following an incident in which he strained his knee ligaments during a recent 35-17 win over Treviso for his club, his understudy, Rhys Priestland, is odds-on to keep his shirt warm for him.

The 23-year-old has filled in for Jones at club level whenever the star fly-half is on national duty, and has received glowing reviews in a season where his side are currently sitting third in the Welsh Premiership, with the rugby union odds suggesting they can push on. His performances have not gone un-noticed by his coach Nigel Davies either, with him describing him as a top player, only lacking in experience - but this is something which is fast being remedied following Jones’ unfortunate injury. Priestland himself has admitted to feeling a degree of sympathy for his stricken team-mate, but has vowed to make the most of his opportunity.

"I don’t want Steve to be injured but if it is an opportunity for me, I have to take it," he said.

"Christmas is always a busy period in Welsh rugby and if you are playing well for your region you are going to be there or thereabouts for Wales… but ideally I would just like to concentrate on what is happening down at the Scarlets."

Wales also have the option of moving prodigious talent James Hook into the No. 10 berth which would mean Priestland could also play at full-back for his national side - a position he’s played in for Scarlets a number of times over the last couple of seasons.

Alternatively, a space opening up in the back-line could mean an opportunity for prodigal son, Gavin Henson, who has recently affirmed his desire to become a star once more for his national side after putting a long list of off-field incidents behind him. Henson has said that he believes that despite what the Six Nations betting odds say, Wales can do the Grand Slam next year.

Whatever happens, the emergence of Priestland as a serious candidate to take part in Wales' Six Nations campaign will certainly be a boost to the chances of recapturing the title.

You can't look beyond Barca and Messi for Champions league glory

Ask any Arsenal fan I am sure they will say they did not want to draw Barcelona in the first knock-out round of the Champions League. But the quirky hand of fate was always going to deal the Gunners a date with the 2009 European Champions after they failed to win their group.

Arsenal will no doubt give them a good game, but such is the form of the Catalan club I simply can't look beyond them, not only for this tie, but for the competition itself and the Champions League promotions reflect this.

They were simply glorious to watch in winning the 2009 tournament and their demolition of Arsene Wenger's men in last year's quarter-final put them on course for another. But Jose Mourinho's tactical masterclass saw Guardiola's men bow out at the semi-final stage to eventual winners Inter.

Mourinho, of course, is now at bitter rivals Real Madrid - the score when the two sides met? 5-0 to Barca in one of the most complete club displays I have ever seen.

I don't think the special one has the players to replicate those semi-final tactics should they meet in the Champions League and looking around at the rest of the teams involved I feel Barca are too good for all of them. They are rightful favourites in the Champions League betting.

They also have the little genius Lionel Messi.

The Argentine wizard became the youngest player to finish top scorer in the competition back in 2009 and has hit six goals already this year.

With Arsenal set to play fire-with-fire and try and pass their way through Barca there are going to be goals. So it may well be worth backing not only Barca to be European Champions but little Leo Messi to collect the golden boot as well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


If you made all of your raise sizes the same then no one would ever be able to pick up a bet sizing tell from that information alone. This is a good example of balancing your play.

There are lots of other examples that can be used by those accessing the betfair welcome bonus to explain the concept of balancing your play. In the end they all mean the same thing. Balancing your play is a strategy one will use to prevent their game from being exploited by a skilled opponent.

The key word in the sentence above is skilled. There is absolutely no need for Stevie Wonder’s wife to wear a very expensive and beautiful looking dress if the only reason she has worn it is to please Stevie Wonder. The same can be true in the game of poker.

Those studying the betfair poker tips will agree that balancing your game is extremely important when you are playing in tough games against skilled opponents. It is so important that balancing your game should be part of the poker foundation of every player on the planet. But to draw on the Stevie Wonder analogy, what is the point of balancing your game if you are playing in a game where everyone is blind? The definition of blind being that no one is taking any notice.

Sometimes you can out think yourself and over estimate the skill level of your opponents. Sometimes you find yourself in a game so juicy that balance goes out of the window. In these games it makes absolute sense to bet pot each and every street with the nuts because your opponent will call every time. It makes sense to make your three-bets 6 times the initial raise because you know your opponent will call.
Only be balanced when you need to be. Being wonky is often fine too.

Patriots obvious Super Bowl favourites, Falcons overlooked

It seems the New England Patriots are most people's favourites to win the Super Bowl this year, and you can't really argue given the impressive performances they have put on in recent weeks.

In a poll of 3,300 NFL fans some 34 per cent have stated they think the Patriots, who do boast the best record in football this season, will win the Super Bowl 2011 and you would be hard to bet against it.

They boast an excellent record and have winnable games remaining, meaning they have a chance to finish with a 14-2 record and secure home field advantage for the Super Bowl play-offs.

It has been their success at running with the ball that has really impressed fans, with Danny Woodhead and Ben Green-Ellis excelling with their pace and also, when needed, their ability to catch the ball. If this continues it can only boost their Super Bowl 2011 odds.

While it is no shock that people fancy the Patriots so much, fans of the Atlanta Falcons could question why only 9 per cent think their team can win the Super Bowl, especially considering they share the best record in the league with the Patriots. Anyone looking to bet on Superbowl action may want to bear this in mind.

Some 11 per cent of the fans thought the New Orleans Saints can repeat their Super Bowl success of 2010, while 10 per cent fancy the Pittsburgh Steelers. The same percentage that fancies the Falcons also picked the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens for Super Bowl success.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tony McCoy deservedly wins the 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award

As expected, Tony McCoy won the prestigious BBC Sports personality of the Year Award with well over 40% of the votes cast. His crowning marked a personal triumph for him and for National Hunt horse racing, a sport not necessarily as well supported by the ‘Beeb’ as it possibly should be. It was also a triumph for the various campaigns that were launched to win McCoy the vote and for the media politics that went hand in hand with those campaigns; but is the award really valid?

There is no doubt that McCoy, who won his fifteenth champion jockey trophy this season as well as riding the winners of both Aintree Grand National and the Champion Hurdle, deserved an award of some description, his services to racing both in and out of the saddle are truly profound. He sets examples in professionalism that far outweighs the efforts of others in other sports and is a truly magnificent exponent of National Hunt riding. However, to win an award based purely on achievements made in the calendar year, then why should he win in 2010 and not all the preceding years that he has become champion jockey? What should happen for instance if he wins the jockey championship again next year, along with the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle and every other big race that takes place? Will he even get nominated?

That said, there is no taking anything away from the Ulsterman, sport by and large in Britain has not been at its highest level in 2010. The England soccer team had a miserable time of it in the World Cup and no single player from the any of the league’s excelled either in domestic or European competition. In Rugby Union, it was France that lifted the Six Nations and a French club who won the Heineken Cup, with no British player staking any particular claim for nomination for the BBC award. In tennis, Andy Murray, whilst up there with the best in the world has yet to win a Grand Slam event, although it is interesting to note that Greg Rusedski won this award in 1997 after reaching the final of the US Open. Interestingly, runner up in the BBC Award that year was none other than Tim Henman, who failed to reach any Grand Slam final and yet Murray has reached two already, the 2008 US Open and the Australian Open in 2010 but he has yet to be voted into the first three for this Sports Personality of the Year Award!

In cricket, England did win the 20/20 World Cup and bowler, Graeme Swann emerged during the year as the world’s best spinner. He at least was nominated but failed to make the first three, being beaten by Phil Taylor from the sporting world of darts, who was second and the lovely heptathlete, Jessica Ennis in third.

There were of course no Olympics this year, which rules out many of Britain’s finest athletes, and those from the more obscure sports such as rowing, eventing and Cycling, sports of course that have all spawned winners of the BBC top sports prize. Neither Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button could regain the Formula1 crown, which effectively kept them out the running, although it is noted that when Hamilton did win the world crown in the world’s fastest and probably most dangerous sport in 2008, he was beaten into second place by cyclist, Chris Hoy who just for good measure was also knighted!

All in all therefore it does look like McCoy has achieved more than any other sportsman or woman this year, although a thought should be spared for golfer, Graeme McDowell also from Northern Ireland who became the first Brit for 40 years to win the US Open golf championship. McDowell also won two other tour events in 2010 as well as sinking the winning Ryder Cup putt in October.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dunguib closing in on the comeback trail

According to his trainer Philip Fenton, Irish star Dunguib, one of the star novice hurdlers of last season, is within four weeks of a return to action and a chance to confirm himself a genuine contender for top honours in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in mid-March, writes Elliot Slater.

One of the Irish bankers for last season’s Cheltenham Festival when sent off at cheltenham odds of 4/5 to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle following an eight-race winning sequence, Dunguib could only finish third behind Menorah and Get Me Out Of Here, a disappointing effort at the time, but one that has subsequently proved to be high-class form.

Sent off favourite once again a month later at Punchestown to win the Grade 1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle, the seven-year-old could only finish sixth when looking as if a hard season had taken its toll of him. Now, after a long break through summer and autumn, Dunguib is on the way back and connections are targeting the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on January 15, or the Red Mills Trial Hurdle some four weeks later.

Fenton reported that he has been able to keep his stable star ticking over during the freezing weather conditions endured over the last few weeks, but that he needs to increase his training schedule to have him ready to do himself justice when eventually the wintry weather releases its grip and he does get the chance to set foot on a racecourse.

Most bookmakers and cheltenham gold cup betting pundits have priced up the son of Presenting at 20/1 for the Champion Hurdle, but Paddy Power appear reluctant to get too involved in the horse that some saw last year as the next great Irish hurdler after Istabraq, and make him just a 12/1 shot to win the two-mile hurdling crown on the third Tuesday in March.

Rovers appointment still no closer

The identity of the next permanent Blackburn Rovers manager is really anybody's guess. The club's new owners decided to relieve Sam Allardyce of his duties last week and the list of names for his replacement that has been drawn up is as long as it is diverse. As well as the obvious choices - Martin O'Neill, Martin Jol, Alan Curbishley and Gareth Southgate - there have been some leftfield candidates such as Diego Maradona.

Alan Shearer was linked to the job, more out of nostalgia rather than any sense of realism. The former striker was quick to rule himself out of the race, keeping his place sitting on the fence in the Match of the Day studio.

First team coach Steve Kean has been asked to take the reins on a temporary basis until a successor can be appointed, but the Scot had admitted he would love to a crack at management.

"I would be delighted to have the job. If I do a good job, perhaps I will come into consideration," he said.

The people making the decision regarding the position will be the new owners at the club, the Venky group. The Indian owners have made it clear that they are looking to hire another British manager to replace Allardyce and chairwoman Anuradha J Desai has thrown her support behind Kean to do a good job for however long the search takes. Indeed, the Andy Gray bets odds make him favourite to land the role.

Kean took charge of his first game in the 1-1 draw with West Ham at the weekend, thanks to Ryan Nelson tap in. Kean's next chance to strengthen his case for the gig will be a tough Boxing Day test against Stoke, who lie a point behind Blackburn in 13th.

If the club could convince an O'Neill or Jol to get behind the new project at Ewood Park, then it could be the start of some exciting times at the club. If the board lose their mind and stick Maradona in the job at what is a very modest club, then this could be a tough second half of the season for the Lancashire club.

Meanwhile, the Hull City betting tips suggest the side could be in for a tough end to the season.

The club, who were relegated from the Premier League last term, look in danger of going down again.

Pady set for King George tilt

Forpadydeplasterer must be one the most luckless horses in training having finished second on 11 of his 17 career outings including all of his last seven starts, but a runner’s-up spot in the Grade 1 William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park during boxing day horse racing would be seen as something of a victory by connections, writes Elliot Slater.

Amongst the very best two-milers in the business, the Tom Mullins’ trained eight-year-old last got his head in front when winning the 2009 Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, since when he has finished second in four Grade 1 events; to the ill-fated Twisted Magic in last year’s Tingle Creek Chase, to Big Zeb in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, to Alberta’s Run in Aintree’s Melling Chase (over two-and-a-half miles), and to Golden Silver in the Punchestown Champion Chase last April.

Mullins believes that if there is one track where Forpadydeplasterer might stay three miles it is likely to be Kempton, and looking at his career record on all four occasions he has tackled two-and-half miles he has run well and shown no signs of stopping. If it transpires that he does stay the three miles and is anywhere close to the mighty Kauto Star down the home straight, there is no doubt that Forpadydeplasterer possesses a smart turn of foot and connections are hoping that he will be able to give a very good account of himself.

Bookmakers and live horse racing betting pundits are certainly not ruling out the possibility of Mullins’ stable star proving capable at the new trip and make him third favourite for the big holiday period race offered at a general price of 10/1. On official figures, if you take out Kauto Star who towers over the field on 190, Forpadydeplasterer’s rating of 167 leaves him with only 1lb to find with Burton Port and rated the equal of The Nightingale.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Can Johnson maintain his form and bowl the Aussies to victory?

Despite the fact that England are still the side that is firmly in control of the current Ashes 2010 series, the return to form (and to the series) of Mitchell Johnson is something that will have the England batsmen worrying about how they can fight off a bowler who ripped them to shreds during their first innings.

However, whilst they will certainly be worrying about just how good Mitchell Johnson can be, they will also be aware that the Ashes odds on him improving are just as likely as the ones that suggest he will go on and do a Peter Siddle and have a moment of magic and then flop back to looking like a bowler who cannot seem to get a wicket for love nor money and, in the process, become a man who cannot stop himself from giving away runs to England’s batsmen.

Whilst Johnson is perhaps slightly less likely to do this than England would like in an ideal world, the fact is that whether he returns to form or not will be a decisive factor in deciding if England are going to end this series still in possession of the Ashes. Should Johnson show that he is back in the game, then the momentum that had been in England’s favour will rapidly starting heading back to an Australian side which is desperately seeking to avoid the ignominy of being the first Australian side to lose possession of the Ashes on home soil for the first time since the 1980s.

Whatever the outcome, the fact is that this is turning out to be one of the most exciting Ashes series on Australian soil for a long, long time.

Magic fatality casts cloud over re-routed Peterborough Chase

Racing lost one its most talented performers at Newbury on Wednesday when the high-class chaser Twist Magic took a fatal fall whilst leading at the second last fence of the re-routed Grade 2 Peterborough Chase, bringing to a sudden end a career that had seen the popular eight-year-old scale the heights of the winter game, writes Elliot Slater.

One of the highest rated horses currently in training, with an official BHA mark of 175, Twist Magic had been a shade mulish in the parade ring and also gave trouble at the start before being led in, but he consented to jump off with the rest of the field. This was not the first time the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding had shown himself to be a shade quirky (he refused to race at Punchestown in April), but the 10-time winner of very nearly £580,000 in career prize money travelled sweetly throughout the race and appeared to be going best under Sam Thomas, when coming down at the second last while holding a length lead over stable companion Breedsbreeze and Tom George’s Tartak (the eventual winner of the contest).

It was very quickly assessed by Horse race betting pundits that Twist Magic had sustained a shattered fetlock and the veterinary team on hand had no option than to humanely destroy the popular chaser.

A winner of five Grade 1 races during his career, Twist Magic will probably be best remembered by those studying the Horse racing betting odds for his two victories in Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase, in 2007 beating the high-class Voy Por Ustedes by three lengths and then, in 2009, slamming the smart Forpadydeplasterer by a massive 15 lengths. His last victory came in the Grade 1 Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January where he again slammed the opposition, Petit Robin finishing a distant second, beaten 12 lengths.

Sarries ready for Metro revenge

Saracens coach Brendan Venter has promised to get things right on and off the pitch in their return game with Racing Metro this weekend.

Venter found himself in the news for all the wrong reasons last week when, after his side’s 21-24 defeat at Vicarage Road, he gave a bizarre post match interview in protest at perceived mis-treatment by European rugby officials.

The interview, now a YouTube hit, was said by those looking at live scores to have been inspired by a character in the film Mike Bassett:England Manager, who simply agreed and repeated what the interviewer asked.

Needless to say the ERC was not impressed and have warned him regarding his future conduct, with Venter later trying to make light of the incident.

On the field things aren't quite as amusing - he pretty much needs a miracle if his side are to qualify from Pool two. They have lost all three matches, sitting six points adrift at the foot of a group containing Leinster, Clermont and Racing Metro.

Those studying the Live rugby scores believe that he will make five changes to the side that lost last week with Michael Tagicakibau, Hayden Smith, Hugh Vyvyan, Kelly Brown and Justin Melck all coming in as they at least attempt to go down fighting.

You get the impression though that, with Sarries virtually eliminated, most people’s attention will be on what Venter says after the game, rather than what he and his side does on it.

Australian Open players warned not to make trouble

The organisers of the Australian Open have issued a warning to players as they look to ensure the media talk about the great tennis being played and not any more controversial incidents.

It comes days after an ugly incident occurred at a junior tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, the infamous home of the Australian Open. In this particular incident a brawl erupted in which one man was arrested for assault and the police needed to be called to separate a fist-fight between two men.

The incident was fuelled by an argument between two teenage tennis players over a point during their match.

This is a shocking example of behaviour by players and parents, and has been deemed serous enough for Tennis Australia to issue a warning to all players intending to perform at the Australian Open that problematic behaviour will not be tolerated when the tournament gets underway, although it is likely people will be able to concentrate on the Australian Open tennis tips as on-court behaviour is usually pretty restrained in the majors.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has said the organisers of the tournament want to send a "clear message" to all players, families and fans that such extreme behaviour is not acceptable.

He stated he was very disappointed about the incident and stated clearly those behind the Australian Open "will not tolerate anti-social behaviour" in any way, shape or form.

The Australian Open betting predictions suggest it should be an exciting tournament, and fans will be hoping to concentrate on the tennis.

It remains highly unlikely that such an incident would occur again at such a prestigious tournament as the Australian Open. But tensions and emotions run his in professional tennis and incidents can flare up from time to time, but all the players know they need to set a good example to their fans.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Patriots look set for Super Bowl glory

It seems likely that all the hype and build-up around the play-offs are going to count for nothing as the New England Patriots look like they have their path to the Super Bowl sewn up already and the Super Bowl 2011 odds reflect this.

The side looked so impressive when they thrashed the New York Jets last week, and then they continued this on by building a 33-0 lead by half-time against the Chicago Bears in a game they eventually won in a second-half canter 36-7.

Tom Brady, surely looking a shoo-in for Super Bowl MVP already, has thrown 18 touchdown passes with no interceptions in his last eight games as the Patriots have now matched the Atlanta Falcons from the NFC for the best current record of 11-2.
Many NFL fans will be feeling sorry for the Green Bay Packers, who are next in line to be steamrollered by the Patriots and must do so without their quarterback Aaron Rodgers after he suffered a concussion at the weekend.

At this point in time the Patriots look virtually unstoppable and their rivals must hope and pray they are peaking too early in the season and could have blown themselves out by the time the playoffs start and anyone looking to bet on Superbowl action should remember this.

Brady admits conditions against the Bears were not ideal, but coping with adversity is something the Patriots have been working on to ensure they do not come a cropper at any stage.

The quarterback said: "We don't go in our (practice) bubble very often. If it's windy, we practise out there. If it's snowing, we practise in the snow. If it's raining, we practise in the rain."

The Patriots look set to have home-field advantage in the AFC play-off, but fans need to pray that nothing bad happens to Brady. He has been the key man for them all season and they would not be Super Bowl favourites if it was not for him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Melbourne Cup winner Americain only third in Hong Kong

Australia horse racing fans will be interested to know that in a race that wouldn’t have been ideally run to suit him, recent Emirates Melbourne Cup hero Americain put in a solid effort to finish a respectable third behind impressive winner Mastery in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Staying is very much the name of the game for the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained five-year-old, who became the first French horse to win Australia’s greatest race when finishing powerfully over two miles at Flemington in November to beat Mayluckyday and local hero So You Think in such memorable fashion.

A fast run mile-and-a-half would have played to the stamina strengths of the son of Dynaformer, but with the race developing into a crawl for the first five furlongs it was always going to turn into a speed test, and although he stayed on very well to snatch third, Americain never looked likely to beat the impressive Mastery, who was given a masterful ride by Italian ace Frankie Dettori.

Sensing that there was no pace in the race, Dettori dashed the Godolphin horse into the lead two furlongs out and stole a march on the field. Canadian International winner Redwood, trained by Barry Hills, stayed on strongly to take second, two-and-a-half lengths behind the winner and half-a-length in front of Americain, with Japanese star Jaguar Mall keeping-on for fourth.

The Saeed bin Suroor-trained winner was returning to the top of his game having won last year’s final British classic, the St Leger at Doncaster, before two more solid efforts in upsetting the best odds by finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita and then fifth to Gloria de Campeao in the Dubai World Cup in March. After a six month break, the son of Sulamani landed a small race at Kempton on the all-weather track, an outing which brought him cherry-ripe for this notable success in Hong Kong.

Ortensia runs with credit in Hong Kong Sprint

She might not have finished in the placings, but Tony Noonan’s mare Ortensia was far from disgraced in finishing an honourable fifth in the top class Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin on Sunday, less than two lengths behind surprise winner JJ The Jet Plane.

The only Australian representative at the high-profile international fixture, the five-year-old settled towards the rear of the field before delighting Australia horse racing fans by making headway two furlongs out under Craig Williams. Although never able to land a blow at the leaders, Ortensia, a 33/1 shot for the Group 1 contest, kept on bravely to grab fifth place in the 14-strong field and earn her connections around AUS$60,000, a sum that should cover the expenses and leave a bit to spare.

The six furlong (1200m) contest was run at breakneck speed and for much of the final furlong it looked as if star Singapore sprinter Rocket Man was going to score at the main expense of local hero Sacred Kingdom, who was going for his third successive victory in the event. The two main protagonists were caught out close home, however, by South African star JJ The Jet Plane (racing odds of 17/1), who came with a searing late burst of speed under Piere Strydom to get up and nab Rocket Man on the line, with Sacred Kingdom right behind in third.

Ortensia, a winner of three of her previous 14 starts in Australia, was last seen finishing third in the Grade 1 Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington last month, but this was a definite step forward and hints that the mare could be competitive in the top grade at international level, should Noonan decide to travel the Fraser family’s mare overseas again next season.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Warne coy over Aussie comeback

Maybe Shane Warne wanted to take some of the attention away from Australia’s embarrassing innings defeat to England in the second Ashes Test last week, or maybe he simply wanted his ego massaged for a while, but either way he was remarkably slow in quashing the rumours that he was in the frame for a shock recall for their next outing.

Despite being kept busy with both his work as a commentator for Sky Sports and with his new talk show for Channel 9 in Australia, the spin legend has been touted by some Cricket Betting as a replacement for both misfiring bowler Xavier Doherty and captain Ricky Ponting, with many sections of the media suggesting that the current captain would be better off were he to concentrate solely on his role as a batsman.

Peter Fitzsimons, a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, led the backlash against Ponting, and following his suggestion that Warne be instated as captain in a three-Test comeback, Cricket Odds of 6-1 were floated by some bookmakers that such a situation may arise, but it appears that Warney has now hushed any rumours of this nature.

Despite describing himself as being “flattered” at these suggestions, he has effectively ruled himself out of contention by suggesting Michael Beer be called up instead – and he duly has been.

Despite not being neither captain, nor selector, is seems that he still holds a great deal of sway in the future of Australian cricket, but it would appear that for now at least, he won’t be letting his fingers do the talking. Plus those Big Macs and hair implants aren’t going to sell themselves are they

Venter interview bizarre – but he has a point

We have seen on several occasions in the past sports coaches and managers offer very little to bemused journalists in post-match interviews in an attempt to make point or protest at perceived

In football for example Sir Alex Ferguson refuses to speak to the BBC at all following allegations made by Panorama a few years ago while Rafa Benitez once spoke in riddles and gave the same answer to different questions following a bust up with the board.

But the interview given by Brendan Venter, head coach of Saracens, this weekend was bizarre in the extreme and one that pushes this form of protest to new levels in the opinion of those often following the Live match score centre for the latest rugby news.

Speaking after his sides 24-21 defeat to Racing Metro at Vicarage Road the South African refused to entertain any of the interviewers questions, being deliberately difficult, dead pan and obstructive.

The journo did his best to tease out an opinion from Venter, they were your bog standard post-match questions after all. But he refused to budge, ensuring that the video would become a Youtube hit over night.

His stance is in response to the belief that both he and Saracens have been treated unfairly by referees generally and by European Rugby Cup particularly. His ERC fine on the eve of the autumn internationals following a fiery post-match outburst was for, in the ERC’s words, being “inappropriately critical of the ERC tournament.”

More than a hint of ‘Big Brother is watching you’ there I’m sure you will agree. And while Venter’s reaction had been condemned in some quarters, I feel his stance is a valid one.

After-all, do we want all post-match interviews to be the same, scripted, media trained nonsense? Or is someone who likes to speak his mind and keeps the authorities on their toes good for the game?

Some Livescore rugby pundits believe that Venter may go too far sometimes and I agree you can’t have managers publically slating the authorities every week.

But the moment the ERC start condemning and hushing up those with an opinion they don’t agree with, a dangerous line in being crossed and one that would leave rugby all the poorer.

Darts set for 3d debut

The latter stages of the 2011 World Darts Championships will be screened live into the home for the first time in 3D.

It has been confirmed that the semi-finals and final of the event – which are set to take place on January 2 and 3 respectively – will be broadcast on Sky’s new in-home 3D channel.

The new broadcasting format has become increasingly popular in pubs across the country and now Sky have developed 3D technology for the home environment too.

The semi-finals and final of the World Matchplay over the summer were screened in 3D in around 1,000 venues in the UK and Ireland but the forthcoming World Championship is set to break new ground by broadcasting 3D darts live into living rooms for the first time.

3D differs from standard High Definition broadcasts because it uses an extra 10 3D cameras to get the required coverage. This is in addition to the standard 22 cameras which are used.

The massive technical innovation is the two matchbox size cameras which are placed on top of the dartboard so viewers can observe darts travelling towards them.

Speaking about the innovation, Sky Sports commentator Sid Waddell said: "At the World Matchplay I was ducking and diving when those darts were coming at me in 3D.

"The players were transformed like character from the movie Avatar, and now everyone can see that at home."

It is hoped that 3D technology will increase the popularity of darts, which has enjoyed something of a renaissance of late.

Phil Taylor is 4/7 favourite with Ladbrokes to pick up his 16th World Championship by successfully defending the title he won last year.

He has dominated the sport in recent years, whilst 2010 has been one of his most successful periods ever. As well as winning the World darts Championship, he also won the World Matchplay and the Premier League of Darts.

This dominance has led Ladbrokes to quote a price of 50/1 for him to win the 2011 World Championship without dropping a single set.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

La Liga 2010-11 : Real Zaragoza - Real Madrid goals

Click here for the Live scores - Livescore

Real Zaragoza - Real Madrid

(Goals to be uploaded as and when they are scored)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nightingale worthy of King George consideration

The absence of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander from the line-up for the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day might well have left the way clear for the tremendous Kauto Star to claim a fifth straight victory in the race, but there are still two places up for the grabs and it is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that the progressive The Nightingale might make a big impression, writes Elliot Slater.

Trained, like Kauto Star, by Paul Nicholls, The Nightingale has been a significant improver over the last 12 months where in four starts over fences he has raised his official rating from 142 to 167, almost without catching the attention of those looking to place a king george kempton racing bet.

The seven-year-old made his seasonal return on the same card as Kauto Star at Down Royal in Northern Ireland on November 6, and not unlike his illustrious stable companion he completed a facile victory, slamming the useful Roberto Goldback by 11 lengths without apparently breaking sweat, in the Grade 2 Chase.

Already proven around Kempton Park, (where he won the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase by 18 lengths last season from the decent Othermix), The Nightingale is on a steep upward curve and could yet find himself being rated in the mid-170’s or even higher before the season is out, that’s a rating that would see him being worthy of a place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, if he stays.

Nicholls has been playing his cards unusually close to his chest with the Graeme Roach-owned gelding and it is my belief that the current 25/1 on offer with Ladbrokes for the horse racing boxing day 2010 event represents very good each-way value for a horse that might end the term a serious contender for top honours.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

England look to secure Ashes victory with third Test win in Perth

England, cock-a-hoop after their victory in the second test in Adelaide last week come into this third test at the WACA in Perth hoping to secure the win that will see them retain the Ashes. They will do so however having lost key bowler/all rounder, Stuart Broad, who has been forced out of the tour following a nasty looking stomach muscle injury.

His absence means a change in the England attack with either one of Tim Bresnan, Ajmal Shahzad or Chris Tremlett coming in to replace him. These three will have the advantage of playing in the warm up game against Melbourne this weekend, where it looks likely that a straight shoot-out between the three will be the means in which the selection will be made.

England however in their wisdom have also released new ball bowler, Jimmy Anderson to return home to England to be present at the birth of his baby, a decision that many construe as naive. Anderson therefore will have to take two 24 hour flights within days of the test which could have serious repercussions for the team. A jaded Anderson will be nothing like the force he usually is meaning that England will hope that the baby is born sooner rather than later and that his return will be made in plenty of time for him to recover before 15th December.

As it stands the only England change anticipated is the replacement for Broad, but it has been mooted that Bresnan, who is a genuine all rounder should come into the side as the automatic replacement for Broad. His presence will undoubtedly stiffen the England tail and that either Shahzad or Tremlett also come into the side at the expense of Paul Collingwood, who is probably the only England batsman who is not in obvious good form. Obviously, wicket-keeper, Matthew Prior would move up the order to number six, with Ian bell being given the much more responsible number five berth, with Bresnan coming in at seven.

The other batting alternative that has been suggested is that Collingwood is replaced by Eoin Morgan, who could come in at number six, with Bell once again being given the number five spot.

England have not won a test match at the WACA since 1978, when they were led by Mike Brearley, since then they have drawn twice but have lost on their last five visits to Perth. A record that does not auger well, particularly against an Australian side that will be looking to make a big comeback following the second test defeat.

Australia too will need to make a couple of changes due to an Achilles injury suffered by opener Simon Katich and the ineffectiveness of spinner, Xavier Doherty. It would appear that Katich, who, like Broad for England, will be out for the rest of the series will be replaced by Phillip Hughes of New South Wales. Hughes was dropped after playing two Ashes tests in England in 2009, due to his inability to deal with England attack. Prior to that series however, he was being hailed as the Virender Sehwag of Australian cricket due to his very attacking approach to the game.

Should Hughes be selected alongside Shane Watson, then it would mean that Australia will use two very attack minded players to open the innings – which could of course play right into England’s hands! It seems certain that spinner, Nathan Hauritz will be recalled to replace Doherty.

In the ashes correct score betting an England 2-1 victory is the favoured outcome with three tests remaining, followed by England 2-0 and 3-0 wins, a quite unusual circumstance the England team finds itself in and one in which fans are hoping the expectation levels won't get to the team.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thoughts on Monahgan move

Well it`s not too much of a surprise to see Joel Monaghan sign for Warrington Wolves. After the disgraced Australian star was evicted from the NRL following an horrific picture involving a dog that was posted on social networking site Twitter, he had to revive his career in England.

He had no other route and had to leave his homeland for a chance to restore his reputation amongst Rugby League fans. Some of who don’t think he should be wearing rugby boots or playing ever again!

When he was made available a host of clubs wanted to sign the powerful centre in order to add more quality to their side. Monaghan is a great talent and will live to regret his stupid behaviour unless he impresses in the new Super League season.

A lot of clubs tried and failed to sign the former Canberra Raiders player but rugby news sources reported that it was Warrington who finally secured his services. There were plenty of reasons why Monaghan wanted to sign for the Wolves and vice versa.

Chris Hicks retired on the same day to pave a way for Monaghan to fit into the squad. With so many talented players within Smith`s ranks, there will be plenty of competition for places during the 2011 season which is good for the club who are desperate to reach the grand final this time around. They should do as well after all the new talented players they have signed and all the money they have spent to attract the very best players to the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

There is also the fact that Warrington, out of all the clubs that were chasing him, are the best placed to compete for the grand final and win silverware during the next season. What better way to restore your pride by winning trophies and succeeding in a new league. The obvious reason for choosing Warrington has to be the fact his brother, Michael plies his trade with the Wolves. Michael must have earnt Joel the chance to train with the Wolves prior to his move after having a word in the ear of Smith.

No doubt about it, Monaghan has the talent and ability to cut it at Super League level after impressing in the NRL and is sure to give the Wolves more cutting edge and flair. He is due to get plenty of stick along the way and needs some tough mental strength and the support of his new team-mates to get him through what is going to be a rollercoaster season.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Punters beware Sanctuaire

On the day that National Hunt racing returned to the fray the biggest shock was not that the Paul Nicholls’-trained 8/11 favourite Sanctuaire finished well beaten in a field of four for the Class 2 Exeter Hurdle, but that most horse racing tips left his odds unchanged for the Ladbroke Hurdle at 14/1, writes Elliot Slater.

The valuable two-mile handicap event is scheduled for December 18, and I find it hard to believe that the four-year-old will turn over a new leaf in such a relatively short space of time after such a poor performance.

The winner of the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March, Sanctuaire went on to finish third at Aintree a few weeks later in the race won by Orsippus. He had a hard race that day. After a summer break the French bred gelding returned at Cheltenham last month and was travelling well when in contention and falling at the second last in the race won by live Champion Hurdle hope Menorah. That fall might well have shaken Nicholls’ horse more than had appeared on the surface, for at Exeter he was reluctant to line up and looked unhappy to be back in action so soon.

A horse who appears best in a decent sized field when able to settle at the back of the pack chasing a good gallop, the four-runner Exeter event was always likely to turn into something of a cat and mouse affair, and having consented to jump away Sanctuaire was soon pulling fiercely for his head under Daryl Jacob and eventually faded into third place behind the shock 22/1 winner Salontyre, who won from a remarkable 21lbs out of the handicap.

Whilst racing tips suggest that he will get his optimum conditions in the ‘Ladbroke’, the jury is very much out on whether or not Sanctuaire is quite the horse he was last spring when he looked such a progressive performer, and punters should tread carefully before parting with their cash in favour of him.

Ortensia survives freak training spill in Honk Kong

A freak accident very nearly changed the overall look of the fixed odds by ending the challenge of Australia’s sole representative in this Sunday’s valuable Group 1 Hong Kong International Sprint at Sha Tin, when a cat ran across the path of Ortensia during a training session on the track, startling the mare and causing her to lose her jockey and run loose before being caught.

The five-year-old daughter of Testa Rossa, trained by Tony Noonan and ridden at the exercise gallop by Noonan’s son Jake, spooked at the unexpected sight of the feline interloper, throwing her rider before careering away and jumping the rails before her stable lass managed to bring her under control.

A potential future career as a show jumper might not be completely out of the question for the Grade 1 winning sprinter, but after immediately placing ice on all four of Ortensia’s legs, Noonan reported that his charge appears to have been remarkably unscathed. She has subsequently returned to training and apparently shaped well over 1200 metres in her most recent spin on Sunday.

Generally on offer for the Hong Kong speed test at around 14/1, Ortensia was last seen in action at Flemington early last month when returning from a near five-month break to finish third to Black Caviar in the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic, under Craig Williams. The majority of the horse racing betting interest on the contest surrounds the latest clash between local star Sacred Kingdom, winner of the race 12 months ago, and Rocket Man, the Singapore-based flying machine who recently took his tally to 8 wins from 10 starts when winning the Group 2 Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint over Sunday’s course and distance.

The feature sprint is just one of a number of high class races taking place at the track on Sunday that has attracted star horses from around the world, including recent Melbourne Cup winner Americain, who is set to bid to follow up his famous Flemington success in the Hong Kong Vase, over a mile-and-a-half.

Commander will miss King George VI Chase

Fans of horse racing betting won't be pleased to hear that the eagerly anticipated clash at Kempton Park on Boxing Day between four-time King George VI Chase winner Kauto Star and the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander is off, after news broke that the ‘Commander’ has not recovered in time from a cut leg sustained in victory at Haydock Park last month.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Imperial Commander had appeared to be making good progress from the cut to a hind leg that he picked up when winning in grand style on his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase, but an infection has ruled him out of his head-to-head with Kauto Star as the course of antibiotics and the time in his box would leave him short of his best for the December 26th contest.

Whilst the majority of National Hunt racing fans had expected Kauto Star to win anyway on a course that has become a second home to the Paul Nicholls-trained superstar, the prospect of the two top class horses taking each other on would have been guaranteed to put thousands on the gate and create significant media interest, even though Imperial Commander has never run well on the right-handed track and was quoted as an 8/1 shot in the horse racing odds to beat the reigning ‘King of Kempton’.

Connections of Imperial Commander appeared far from despondent and reminded jumps fans that their charge’s main task is to return to Cheltenham to defend his crown in March. He is not expected to have a prep race as he has always been a horse who goes well fresh.

Bookmakers reacted to the news by making Kauto Star a best priced Evens chance to win his fifth straight ‘King George’, the up-and-coming Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run is offered at 5/1, and it’s 10/1 bar the pair.

Chelsea's decline is an inevitable part of their transition

Although some Chelsea fans have been left scratching their heads in confusion and frustration when considering the extentof their team's recent slump, the club's more astute fans have been expecting a it for quite some time now.

When Roman Abramovich bought the club back in 2003, he clearly intended to propel the club to the top of European football by initially investing in top class players before investing in training and youth facilities in order to help the Stamford Bridge outfit develop their own talent. What Chelsea fans are seeing now is the transitional phase of this project, with the Blues starting to play with a blend of youth and experience on the pitch, a fact that has left commentators bemoaning the squad's apparent lack of depth. Some people still make Chelsea betting tips for the title, but they will have to find something extra if they are to push on.

With UEFA's new financial rules about to take effect, Chelsea are going to have to become a sustainable proposition. However, with Chelsea still looking to sign players such as Ramires, who can hopefully yet develop into world-class players during their time at the club, Abramovich has shown that he is still prepared to dip into his pocket to support the team when needed and the Betfair Football rumour mill reflects this.

Despite this, the fact remains that Chelsea fans have been enjoying sustained success for so long now that they are not going to like seeing their side come back down to earth with a bump. As a result, Blues fans will want to see their club's billionaire owner show his love for, and loyalty to, the club by dipping his hand into his wallet and bringing another world class player or two into Carlo Ancelotti's squad in order to help bring back the side's belief in the short term.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Looking forward to the return of ‘Chocolate’ before Christmas

With all the doom and gloom surrounding British racing as the sport shudders to a frozen halt in the Arctic conditions, one excellent piece of news is the imminent return to the saddle of Robert ‘Chocolate’ Thornton, following a serious leg injury sustained in a fall in mid-summer, writes Elliot Slater.

Those at horse racing Ireland note that it was at Newton Abbot on July 5 that Thornton took a heavy fall from the appropriately named Hell’s Bay, when his mount ran out whilst leading at the second last in a beginners’ chase. The flamboyant jockey suffered serious damage to ligaments in his right knee and initial predictions suggested that he might be out of action for up to 9 months.

Alan King’s stable jockey got the all-clear earlier this week to return to race riding having undergone an extensive period of intense physiotherapy treatment, much of which took place at Oaksey House, an institution which is part-supported by the Injured Jockeys’ Fund. Thornton was quick to praise all the medical staff involved in helping him back after little more than four months on the sidelines, and is keener than anyone to see a rapid resumption to the jumps schedule to allow him to get back to work.

Thornton, who has such a great record at the Cheltenham Festival, is reported to be particularly looking forward to renewing his association with the talented, but quirky, Medermit, whilst exciting novice hurdler Habbie Simpson, unbeaten in both outings so far over timber, is also close to the top of his wish list.

All in irish racing will be looking forward to seeing the ‘blonde bombshell’ back in action and hope that his injury woes are now well behind him and that he enjoys a successful second half of the National Hunt season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Can France’s brilliance defeat the hopes of a nation?

This weekend, Serbia are hoping to secure their first Davis Cup victory, whilst France are looking to pick up their tenth title but, for a clash that appears so mismatched, it seems strange that the odds are now strongly tipped in the Serbs' favour, perhaps for the sole reason that the home support is bound to be of the highest order.

Tennis betting odds aside, with France displaying terrific form in the run-up to the final (losing only one rubber in total in their previous ties against defending champions Spain, as well as against Argentina and Germany), the French will be hoping that a strong start can silence what is likely to be a very enthusiastic crowd and provide the players with the opportunity to allow their tennis to do the talking.

Although quietening the crowd will certainly go some way towards giving the French a decent chance of victory, they will also need to make sure that they put up a good performance against the number three player in the world, Novak Djokovic, who has emerged as one of the leading symbols of hope for a Serbian nation that has endured a tough time bouncing back from the wars in the 1990s that left the country in ruins.

That said, a strong early performance from the French could mean that Djokovic is only able to perform in one meaningful match, something that once again would help swing those looking to bet on tennis this weekend to back a French victory.

Whatever the outcome, the fact remains that the French will be looking above all else to avoid a similar defeat to that which the Czech Republic endured in last year's final against Spain. If they can do that against a crowd which will be making life as difficult as possible for them, then they can go home with their heads held high.

Can anyone switch off the Power in the PDC World Championship?

It has to be said that Sky Sports have done a wonderful job promoting and developing a sport that has one man who dominates it so profoundly. The sport of course is darts and the man is the phenomenon known as Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor.

Taylor holds so many records that it will be almost impossible for any other player to equal or even come to close to equalling. With 15 world titles to his name and no sign of letting up, Taylor has become a living legend in a sport that grows continually and has become increasingly more lucrative for the top players. Taylor in fact has become the first darts millionaire and now commands plenty of extra revenue from TV appearances and media interest in general.

Taylor’s road to darts stardom began earnestly in 1988, when he selected to play for his County after initiating his interest in the sport at his local pub, the Crafty Cockney, owned by none other than Eric Bristow, who had by that time been crowned world darts champion five times.

Bristow, clearly spotting the potential of Taylor in those early years decided to sponsor him, while at the same time encouraging him to take the sport up professionally on a full time basis. Little did Bristow realise that it would be he that was on the receiving end of Taylor’s first world championship triumph in 1990, when the newcomer beat his mentor by six sets to one. Taylor showed even more of his potential by winning a host of tournaments in 1990, which included winning the prestigious Winmau Masters.

1991 however proved to be a much leaner year, where he lost his world championship to Dennis Priestley in the quarter final and failed to live up to past performances. He soon realised that with more dedicated practice he could soon be at the top again, proving this the following year when winning the world crown for a second time, this time defeating Mike Gregory in the final.

The well reported split in organised darts took place in 1993, which led to the creation of the World Darts Council (WDC) later becoming the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) which attracted many of the top players who had previously been, like Taylor with British Darts Organisation (BDO). However, the darts politics of that time ruled that the PDC were only able to set up their own version of the world championship in 1994, which, with much support from Sky Sports, has grown considerably more quickly and financially than the BDO.

It is during his time with the PDC that Taylor has established himself as the player he is today, his record is simply staggering. Although he lost the inaugural final to Priestley, he has gone on to win the PDC title 13 times, including eight consecutively between 1995-2002, he was also runner up in 2003, where he lost to John Part and in 2007 where he was beaten by Raymond Van Barneveld. In fact the only year that Taylor failed to make the PDC world final was in 2008, when Part won it for a second time beating the little known Kirk Shepherd in the final. Just to prove to the darts world that he was not finished, Taylor has bounced back winning the title for the last two years, with wins over Van Barneveld in 2009 and Simon Whitlock earlier this year.

In addition to his world crowns, Taylor has won the World Matchplay 11 times, the World Grand Prix, 9 times, the Grand Slam of darts , 3 times. The Darts Premier League, 5 times, the Desert Classic, 5 times, European Championship, 3 times, UK Open, 4 times, US Open, 4 times, as well as host of Players Championships up and down the country, plus a multitude of international events, which has seen him play his sport all over the world.

If all that is not enough, he holds the record of 9 for the largest amount of 9 dart finishes, which includes two in the 2010 Premier Darts League final against James Wade.

The worrying thing for the other players on the PDC circuit is the fact that Taylor seems to be getting better as each year goes by. He is now aged 50, which is considerably older than most of his leading rivals and unless he suffers from an abrupt loss in form, sometime very soon, then there is no chance that any younger players coming through the ranks will get anywhere near to his astonishing achievements.

The darts odds on Taylor winning a 16th world championship at Alexander Palace over Christmas see the Power as the 8/15 favourite with Paddy Power to win, suggesting just how big a task is at hand for all on comers, the best of which according to the odds is James wade at 8/1 and the remaining players are all 16/1 or bigger to cause what would be a big upset!

Wenger wants focus from Gunners

Arsene Wenger reckons the spirit among his Arsenal squad is in perfect shape for going on a good run and winning the Premier League title this season.

The Gunners manager is looking to end a six-season wait for a trophy and knows his side are lucky to still be in the Premier League title race after their indifferent start to the season.

Arsenal have lost four out of their opening 15 games, and three out of seven at home, yet still sit third in the table. Wenger knows this is not the typical Arsenal form, but he has been struggling with a host of injuries to key players so far. The Premier League best odds suggest they can push on from here.

They still have a tough run in the Premier League and Champions League in the coming weeks, but Wenger is confident if the squad keep focus they can be successful this season.

"We are in a strong position in every single competition - that means overall the attitude is right, the spirit of the squad is right," he said.

"I am confident we have the needed quality, so let's continue to improve."

One key component of Arsenal's successes this season, and a key addition to the squad, is striker Marouane Chamakh. The Moroccan has scored ten goals since arriving during the summer and the Premier League betting predictions indicate he will be able to net some more.

He has added a new dimension to Arsenal's attacking and has set himself a target of between 15-20 goals, which would be a great aid to the club's ambitions of winning the Premier League title.

Could coaching errors cost Serbia?

The French may well be missing the services of their top two players, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau, who have both been forced to miss out on the Davis Cup final as a result of injury problems, but their chances of winning their tenth Davis Cup may have been handed a boost by the decisions of the Serbian coach, who has opted to leave Novak Djokovic’s second game until the Sunday of the final, by which time the destination of the trophy could well have been decided.

Although davis cup betting pundits believe it is understandable that the Serbian coach was always going to have a tough time choosing when he was going to use the man who represents his trump card, the fact remains that by the time Djokovic gets the chance to play his second game, the tie could be dead and buried if he has endured a slip-up of any kind in his first match.

However, the thinking behind the Serb coach's decision seems to be focusing upon using Djokovic as the man to help bring the trophy home on Sunday in front of a hugely partisan crowd. If this does happen, then instead of talking about the mistake of risking his best player missing out on playing a competitive game, Serbian fans could be talking about the tactical masterstroke that saw their nation pick up the Davis Cup for the first time.

With tennis still very much floundering in the shadow of football in Serbia, it may just be the case that a Djokovic-inspired victory could be the spark that sees tennis start to take off well and truly in the country.

If this does happen, then davis cup tennis betting pundits may suggest that this wont be Serbia’s only chance to contest a Davis Cup final.

Betting points towards a competitive ICC World Cup in 2011

Looming large on the 2011 international cricket calendar is the ICC ODI Cricket World Cup, which will take place on the Asian continent between 19th February and 2nd April. The host nations this year will be India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, with Bangladesh hosting the opening ceremony and India the final. Pakistan, who was also elected to be a host, lost that right following the terrorist attacks that took place in Lahore during the 2009 Sri Lankan tour.

This will be the tenth time that the tournament has taken place, but it will be the first time that it will be hosted in Asia. The defending champions are Australia, who has won the tournament on the last three occasions and on four occasions since the tournament came into being in 1975. Other tournament winners have been the West Indies twice with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all winning once.

The Australians should, in theory at least, come into the tournament well prepared as they will arrive in the wake of their ODI series against England, which has followed the Ashes series played between the two countries. England too will be well set and looking to add the crown to their Twenty20 World Cup victory which they achieved earlier this year. The nearest England has come to winning the ODI World Cup was finishing runners up three times, in 1979, 1987 and 1992.

The format for the 2011 tournament has change from that of 2007; The 2011 ODI World Cup will see 14 competing teams, divided into two groups of seven, who will play each other on a ‘round robin’ basis. The top four teams from each group will go through to the quarter finals from which time the tournament will be decided on a straight knock out basis. The two groups of seven have been drawn as follows:

Group A




New Zealand


Sri Lanka


Group B






South Africa

West Indies

The World Cup has many startling records and record holders, none more so than that of Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian master batsman, is the highest run scorer of the tournament, with 1796 runs scored between 1992-2007. He also holds the record for the total number of runs scored in an individual tournament with 673 runs scored in 2003. The highest individual score however goes to South African, Gary Kirsten who scored a magnificent 188 in 1996 when playing against the UAE. The Highest average record however lies with Sir Vivian Richards of the West Indies, who averaged over 63 runs per match between 1975 and 1987.

As far as the bowling records are concerned it is Glenn McGrath, Glenn McGrath, Glenn McGrath and Glenn McGrath. The brilliant Australian seamer holds the record of most wickets taken with 71, he has the lowest average of 19.21 runs per wicket, he has the best bowling figures of 7/15, which he took against Namibia in 2003 and he also holds the record of taking most wickets in an individual tournament, which was 26 in 2007.

Adam Gilchrist, the former Australian wicket keeper, holds the record for the most dismissals with 39, while current Australian captain, Ricky Ponting holds the record of most catches with 24.

The highest team score in the World Cup was recorded by India in 2007, who smashed their way to 413 in 2007 against Bermuda, with Virender Sehwag top scoring with 114 of just 86 balls. The lowest score however was the embarrassing 36 that Canada scored in their match against Sri Lanka in 2003.

The cricket world cup odds ahead of the tournament have India as the clear favourites with Australia, Sri Lanka, England and South Africa not far behind. Only two point in the betting separate the the top five with India a 4/1 chance and South Africa and England 6/1. Add Pakistan to the mix at 8/1 and this promises to be a competitive tournament, one of which any of those teams will fancy their chances.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

SIS and Turf TV to move closer together

The news that principle betting industry media content supplier SIS has approached arch rival TurfTV about the possibility of supplying the ’new kid on the block’ with a wide range of audio, video and data services, suggests that the current economic climate is beginning to hit home even amongst those that have long appeared to avoid all direct content with each other, writes Elliot Slater.

The two companies have been at daggers drawn ever since TurfTV emerged on the scene in 2007 and managed to prise a significant number of SIS’s clients and business away from the long established horse racing content provider. Both firms now have teams of people transmitting betting shows from the track, and both firms have separate sets of data presentation to customers that means in many cases betting shops have to pay two sets of bills.

With racing tips betting shop owners squealing about the rising costs allied to the falling number of people actually coming through the door, and the very difficult trading conditions that have been impacted by the general economic downturn, it looks as though common sense may well be about to prevail and that the two rivals may undergo some degree of merger to reduce overheads and keep costs down to a minimum.

Whilst stressing to horse racing Ireland that both firms would remain independent entities, David Holgate, SIS chief executive, explained that the offer to TurfTV was more by way of wishing to protect the interests of customers than to be a money making ruse for his firm. It should be remembered that much of the stock in SIS is owned by major high street firms who have been squeezed by the additional costs resulting from the emergence of TurfTV.

‘Rationalisation’ would seem to be the core of this suggestion, a reducing of costs and doubtless manpower that will help balance the books of both firms. It will be very interesting to see if TurfTV choose to accept the hand of friendship that has been offered them.

Balotelli continues to stand out off the field rather than on it

Mario Balotelli has to date shown Manchester City fans a few glimpses of just why the Eastlands outfit decided to spend £24 million on him, but he has so far been in the headlines for rumours surrounding him off the pitch, rather than for his performances on it.

With speculation refusing to die down that Balotelli is only using Manchester City as a learning curve before he returns to Italy, with the best odds suggesting he might be lined up to play for AC Milan, the player has done little to quash these rumours. As City currently appear to need unity and devotion to the cause more than anything else, this kind of attitude is hardly likely to endear Balotelli to either his team mates or trophy-hungry fans of the club.

This situation has been made worse by the fact that Balotelli was seen shivering and giving a half-hearted performance against a Stoke side which embody all the characteristics that Manchester City are trying to develop. Even though Manchester City may have failed to walk away from that encounter with all three points, they can be hopeful that these dropped points can be compensated for in the long term if players such as Balotelli learn from the experience of playing against a side which contains players clearly prepared to do anything for the team's cause.

With the season starting to reach that crucial festive period, and City just about in the hunt for the title, now is the time for Manchester City and Balotelli in particular to start making the headlines for their performances on the pitch, rather than what may or may not be going on away from the field of play.

If Manchester City are to pull off a shock and win the title this season (and you can get some decent prices on that happening if you compare odds carefully), then they are going to need to start showing a sense of mature team unity sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World Championships ready to go

The final two competitors for the world darts championship were decided on Monday (November 29) when Alex Roy and Matt Padgett came through their qualifiers.

The duo will join 70 other players for the prestigious event, which takes place from December 16 to January 3 at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Roy defeated Wayne Mardle 5-1 in their pivotal game during Monday's PDPA Qualifier in Derby. His success means he will make his 13th successive appearance at the World Championship.

Speaking after his success, a delighted Roy said: "It took a while to sink in at first but I'm absolutely delighted. This is the first time I've had to come through the qualifiers for the World Championship and it was really tough.

"I've known Wayne for a lot of years and it's a shame one of us had to go out. He gave me a good game but my doubles were great."

Padgett will be making his debut at the World Darts Championship after beating Mark Cox 5-3 in their key clash. The 28-year-old bowling alley mechanic is ranked 127th on the PDC Order of Merit and he admitted to being stunned with his achievement.

"It's the greatest moment of my life. I'm thrilled to bits with this, completed overwhelmed," he said.

"I wasn't really expecting to do so well in the qualifier because I'm still fairly new to the circuit and gaining experience on the PDC ProTour, but I can't wait to get on stage now."

Roy beat Padgett 5-1 in the final of the PDPA Qualifier, meaning he will go straight into the first round of the competition at Ally Pally. Padgett, meanwhile, will enter at the preliminary round stage.

Both players will have their sights set on progressing as far as possible in the tournament, which is expected to be dominated by the likes of Phil Taylor, James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld and Simon Whitlock.