Monday, October 31, 2011

Coyle looks for Bolton positives

A tough opening set of fixtures was always going to afford Owen Coyle some leeway in this early stage of the season, but after defeats to two of the newly promoted sides as well as struggling Sunderland, their poor start is threatening to turn into something terminal.

Eight defeats from ten games has left the Trotters second from bottom, mercilessly kept off the foot by Lancashire neighbours Wigan.

But what is worrying Trotters fans the most is the manner of their performances so far. They knew anything they took from games against the Man Utds and Chelseas of this World would be a bonus. But they were swept away with worrying ease, justifying their status among the favourites in the relegation betting.

Their 24 goals conceded is comfortably the worst in the division and an alarming trend Coyle is desperate to halt if he is to get his side’s season back on track.

The Scot was certainly fighting after Bolton’s latest loss, this time away at Swansea, calling on his players to stand up and be counted.

"People forget that when I came into the job we were second from bottom," said Coyle after watching his 10 men slip to a 2-1 defeat at the Liberty Stadium. "We addressed that with plenty in hand. Without looking for excuses, we have some top players out with injury, but we have players who are good enough to win games. You take your medicine and go from there, show your character.

"We need players who when they cross that white line believe in themselves and show their ability," Coyle added. "I have to be fair to them, I think in the most part they did that, but when the sending-off comes about you still have to retain that organisation, that belief."

Despite Coyle’s words, those who bet on relegation are still backing his side to struggle this season and to find themselves in the Championship next term.

Hurricane Fly targets second Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle is many people’s favourite race at the Cheltenham Festival and last year it didn’t disappoint with a star being born in Hurricane Fly.
The Irish-trained horse answered any critics by winning on his first ever run in the UK, after missing his one other scheduled Cheltenham run through injury two years ago.

Before the race, it was difficult to judge the form of the seven-year old who had always looked impressive when beating Solwhit on three occasions last season, including the win the Irish Champion Hurdle. However, all three runs were in small field races and the ability to handling the hill at Cheltenham was also brought into question. Even those looking at the date of Cheltenham Gold Cup 2012 will have been impressed.

After his victory at the festival, there was no doubt that Willie Mullins-runner was a star hurdler who had an exceptional turn of foot in the closing stages of a race. The George Creighton-owned horse has now won six consecutive races over the hurdles.

This season’s renewal of the feature race on day one of the festival will see Hurricane Fly go off a lot shorter than his starting price of 11/4 earlier this year. He is a currently a 7/4 shot in the Cheltenham Festival betting with most firms in the early ante-post market for the race.

It is likely that Binocular will return for another shot at the race he won in 2010. The Nicky Henderson-trained runner surprised all when landing the contest two seasons ago. He was ruled out of the race by connections leading up the running, but made a remarkable comeback to make it to Prestbury Park and then go on to win in by over three lengths.

Big Bucks set for comeback

Three-time Cheltenham World Hurdle winner Big Bucks is likely to return to action this season in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, on the same came as the Hennessy Gold Cup from the Berkshire racecourse.

The Paul Nicholls-trained runner has been many people’s banker of the Cheltenham festival in recent seasons, and it is the World Hurdle once again that connections are aiming for this time around with their star eight-year old. People looking for Cheltenham betting tips should remember this.

Last season Grand Crus established himself as a serious rival to the French-bred horse, but Big Bucks relished the challenged and defeated the younger rival twice, first at Cheltenham and then at Aintree a month later in April.

For the past two campaigns, the Stewart family-owned horse has ran just four times. Following the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, he is kept until near the end of the year for Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at the same track. We would be unlikely to then see the great staying hurdler until the Cheltenham festival 2012.

The feature race of the meeting on the Thursday of the Cheltenham festival is expected to see Grand Crus try to take on Big Bucks once again. However, there is likely to be the inclusion of Oscar Whisky this year. The six-year old ran in the Champion Hurdle last season but support has come for the Nicky Henderson-trained runner for the World Hurdle, suggesting the longer distance route is going to be tried this season with the horse.

Thousand Stars could follow suit with Oscar Whisky by joining him in the race in 2012. Willie Mullins- runner was a surprise fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier in March. He proved he is capable of winning at the World Hurdle trip when scoring at Auteil on his latest run under Ruby Walsh.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Aiden O'Brien plans Breeders Cup challenge

Aiden O'Brien has announced his team for the Breeders Cup meeting at Churchill Downs next month.

The Irish trainer will be looking to win the Breeders' Cup Classic for the very first time with So You Think confirmed as an entry for the feature race at the meeting.

The former Australian superstar has had a long season that has included wins in the Coral-Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes, a fourth place finish in the Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe and more recently finishing second in the British Champion Stakes. People looking at the Grand National betting online should remember this.

O'Brien does have to make a decision closer to the meeting on the participation of Await The Dawn, who has entries in the Classic over the dirt and in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

One runner who will definitely be running in the turf race over 1m4f is St Nicholas Abbey. He was favourite for the Epsom Derby two years ago after an impressive performance in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. However, since then his career hasn't lived up to the early promise. He did though win the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom earlier this season. Those looking for Aintree tips should bear this in mind.

The Ballydoyle team will have just one entry in the mile in Zoffany.  He finished second to Frankel in the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot in June, coming home less than one length behind the unbeaten superstar.

Again, in the marathon it is just one sole entry for O'Brien, with Harrison's Cave looking to win the race over the extended trip.

However, in the Juvenile Turf, Daddy Long Legs, Learn and Wrote are all expected to run for the team.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Buono confident of turning things around

Despite the well documented injury problems that he has to deal with, B.C. Lions coach Wally Buono says his experience will see him through despite his side's indifferent start to the season.

The Lions are yet to win a match this season and are currently without 11 of their players while a number of others are thought to be playing through injuries but if there's one coach who can deal with it, it's the experienced Buono.

Tailback Andrew Harris was the latest to be added to the injury list after being forced from the field with a back injury in the 42-10 defeat against Hamilton on Saturday and the franchise are currently awaiting the results of an MRI scan. Those looking at the CFL online betting should remember this.

Although club doctor Bob McCormack has not yet delivered his verdict, rumour was abound that the 24-year-old may be forced to sit out the rest of the season in what we be another massive blow to the Vancouver franchise.

Harris tried to return to the field but couldn't continue after the initial pain killers had worn off and believes if anything it may have made the injury worse saying that he 'couldn't even push back to block'.

After his departure, Harris was joined on the sidelines by Rolly Lumbala, Akeem Foster, Dan McCullough and Travis Lulay leaving the Lions with very little pushback options. Those following the Latest CFL tips need to bear this in mind.

This is sure to test the resilience of the squad and Buono is confident that his side can come through this difficult patch having himself gone through a similar spell in 2005."The locker-room of '05 is totally different than it is today, but the mindset of everybody has to be the same" said Buono.

"But just because we lost doesn't mean we can turn around and flip a switch".

NBA lockout shows no sign of ending

After 118 days of the NBA lockout it now appears as if the league is now further away from commencing than when the talks started in June.

Many are now calling for the NBA to cut its losses and just cancel the 2011-2012 season rather than continue to disappoint the fans who still remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

According to the New York Daily News, the NBPA and NBA owners have scheduled their latest meeting for Wednesday in Manhattan and remain hopeful of solving some of the issues that are currently stopping the season from getting underway. Fans of NBA online will be disappointed.

The two parties are thought to be still at loggerheads over the 'Basketball Related Income' (BRI) clause which previously saw the players previously picking up 57% of the BRI in the old deal. However, the owners are looking for a 50/50 split and say they will settle for nothing less than 52.5%.

The owners are also looking to stop a new luxury tax being introduced that would enable smaller teams to compete for star free agents and are also looking to find a way to avoid having to sign players on expensive long-term contracts in case they fail to perform. Those looking for NBA betting tips should bear this in mind.

In contrast, the players feel these terms are unfair and feel that in conceding both would give the owners too much power and would make them weaker in future negotiations.

NBA commission David Stern has already threatened to cancel more games if a deal want made by Tuesday but has delayed his decision due to the ongoing talks.

"The resumption of talks is the reason the league held off on the cancellation of at least two more weeks of the regular season," he told the New York Daily News.

Redskins hit by blow

The Washington Redskins have been hit with a massive blow with the news that running back Tim Hightower has been ruled out of for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in his left knee.

The 25 year old picked up the injury in the third quarter of the 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and is the latest player to be added to the ever growing Redskins injury list.

Head Mike Shanahan has already lost Santana Moss for between five and seven weeks after receiver broke a bone in his left arm in the first quarter in the same game on Sunday. People placing NFL bets should remember this.

The Redskins are currently three and three for the season and Hightower has been one of their standout players this season and looked in fine form at the weekend, carrying 88 yards in 17 carries before suffering the injury. The former Arizona Cardinals man is understandably distraught about his injury but feels his team are good enough to be successful without him."Being on the sidelines and not being able to be in there with the guys who are putting it out on the line, it's frustrating," said Hightower, 25.

"We're going to come back. I don't think it's time for anyone to get discouraged."

 Shanahan was also disappointed to lose one of his key players but says he’s been impressed by how the Virginian has coped with the news."Tim has handled himself extremely well," Washington head coach Mike Shanahan told the team's official website. Those who bet on NFL should bear this in mind.

"He played very well in this (Sunday's) game coming back from the shoulder injury.

"He was ready to play and he was playing well, so it's always tough to lose a player that leads both on and off the football field."

Eskimos faces strike action

The Edmonton Eskimos say they will go ahead with plans to travel to Vancouver to face the B.C. Lions this weekend for their Canadian Football clash, despite the threat of a labour strike in British Columbia.

The employees at the Lions home stadium, the B.C. Place are on the verge of going on strike following an 89% vote in favour of protesting after talks between the union and the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, who own the stadium broke down over contract renewals.
The employees have the legal right to go on strike at any time during the next 90 days, as long as they give 72 hours notice. Those looking for NHL betting tips should remember this.

This means Saturday's West Division top of the table battle between the Eskimos and the Lions could be cancelled. It's been suggested that the fixture should be switched back to Edmonton but Eskimos vice-president Dave Jamieson says no contingency plans had been put in place and that he hoped the game would go ahead.

"We're planning as if we're flying on Friday at noon and then flying to Vancouver to play a game on Saturday night. That's the only thing we know right now" he told reporters. "We're staying in touch with the Lions and the CFL and we're proceeding as if we're playing'.

The Eskimos go into the game knowing they have to win by at least 29 points if they're to topple their opponents at the top of the standings. Head coach Kavis Reed says whatever happens; his side will be fully focused on the match and won't be getting distracted by the possibility of a strike. People looking at the NHL picks need to bear this in mind.

"It shouldn't be a distraction because we have no control over it" he said. "we have to make certain we're focussed on the football game".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Emma Lavelle – Profile

The Emma Lavelle stable always looks to have a very solid profile surrounding it, and that has been backed up by the numbers over the past few seasons with her stable consistently delivering 28-30 winners per season at a 15 per cent strike rate. Those sorts of numbers have cemented Lavelle in the upper echelons of the countries jumping trainers.

The yard now boasts a stable strength of 66 for the season with the emphasis very much on youth – the average age of the horses is just five. Lavelle has plenty of ambition this year to improve on those seasonal totals and despite missing stable stars like Court In Motion and Bouggler through injury she remains optimistic. The horse racing betting tips reflect this.

The class horse within the stable is without doubt Tocca Ferro, he’s likely to be sidelined until the New Year and the plan is to have him ready for the Totesport Trophy in February. The trainer thinks he is well handicapped off a mark of 141 and doesn’t want to run him before that target in order not to damage that mark. If he were to win easily in that race then the Champion Hurdle would very much become the aim for this season. One thing is for sure he won’t be going chasing until next year and those more immediate targets have been taken on. Those who bet on racing should bear this in mind.

With there being so many young horses in the stable there is plenty of potential and it’s hard to single out any one or two horses bit Penny Max and Camas Bridge both look full of promise for the future. Penny max has done well over the summer and he looks a good prospect to go novice chasing and Lavelle has a novice handicap chase for him at Stratford mapped out. Camas Bridge was certainly an eye-catcher on his only run so far in a bumper and he came back from that run a sick horse. Since then he’s schooled really well at home and is very much one to look out for when he runs in novice hurdles over 2M4F.The stable profile has been consistent over the past few years, with this amount of talent at her disposal it’s easy to see Emma Lavelle improving on those numbers this National Hunt season.

McCarthy pulls no punches

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has never been one to mince his words, the Yorkshireman tells it like it is and I imagine his team-talks – in the confines of the dressing room – are even more forthright.

Sat in front of the media this week McCarthy was true to form once more, launching a scathing attack on a section of the club’s support.

Those fans in question booed the Wolves boss with the side 2-0 down to Swansea on Saturday, chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ rang round the ground as he made a double substitution in the second  half – he would be vindicated when his side grabbed two late goals to secure a point. 

That said, the club still remain just two points above the drop zone and among the favourites in the relegation betting.

Speaking a few days after the game McCarthy wasn’t holding back, labelling some fans "mindless idiots" for booing the team at every opportunity.

"Let me clear something up, it doesn't help. Let's not give any of the dissenting voices, the mindless idiots that do it, any credit," he said.

"I almost think some turn up hoping it is going to be that way so they can have their whinge and get shot of the manager. They are not going to get shot of the chairman or the players, so it's a case of, 'Let's give it to the gaffer'.

"I've done a great job here. I came five years ago, there were only 10 players here and just a million quid to spend.

"Five years on, we are in our third year in the Premier League and building the new stadium - but we are having a tough time.

"Come on, give the lads a bit of support. Don't be giving us aggravation. I think they have short memories.

"But I've also had unbelievable support this week, from the players, everyone at the club, and from fans writing and emailing in. There is solidarity there."

I have to agree with McCarthy here, the natives at Molineux do seem to be a bit impatient – they booed their former captain Karl Henry a few weeks ago, with current skipper Roger Johnson then labelling them a disgrace. If you bet on relegation Wolves are never far from people’s thoughts, so what do the supporters expect? 

Their attempts to earn promotion to the Premier League were consistently hampered by a toxic home atmosphere that often put undue pressure on the players. It is never nice to see your team lose, but maybe Wanderers fans need to remember where they were a few years ago and try and gain some sense of perspective.

McCain eyes Grand National double

Donald McCain is hoping to follow his father's footsteps by winning the Grand National more than once this season with Ballabriggs.

The Trevor Hemmings-owned horse will look to repeat his success at Aintree in 2012 when he takes on the huge obstacles once again.

The last horse to win back-to-back Grand National was Red Rum – trained by Donald's father Ginger. The horse rose to fame and many people's heart by winning the race three times, a record still to this day. People looking at the Grand National free betting should remember this.

If Ballabriggs is to score again in the people's race in April, he will have to carry more weight on his back this time around, a penalty that has made it so difficult for horses to win the contest more than once in the past.

McCain is also training Wymott, Fabalu and Weird Al for the race in 2012 to give himself the best chance of success once again.

Ballabriggs has been installed as the bookies favourite at this early stage of the season, with Oscar Time, Beshabar and Junior all prominent in the market. He could be the Grand National winner again.

McCain may take a different route with his 10-year old this season, and has hinted at more chase races than the hurdle events he used for the preparation runs 12 months ago.

"The whole year for Ballabriggs is geared around going back to Aintree," he added. "These days the handicappers hike their hurdles mark up so there is no great benefit running over hurdles,"

Those waiting for Ballabriggs seasonal reappearance may have to wait into the New Year, as the horse has not had his opening run before January in his last two campaigns.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Irish hopefuls ready for Grand Slam of Golf

The Grand Slam of Golf brings together the winners of the four majors throughout the year, so that means Northern Ireland have twice as much chance of being able to celebrate a winner than anyone else.

Roll back the months, and Rory McIlroy stunned the golf world by completely dominating the US Open competition, while compatriot Darren Clarke secured an emotional victory when he lifted the British Open title. People who bet on golf will be keeping a close eye on things.

That means the two Northern Irishmen will be up against South African Charl Schwartzel and American Keegan Bradley at the Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda.

It has been 20 years since a European golfer won the Grand Slam of Golf – it was Ian Woosnam who secured the prestigious title in 1991 – so the two compatriots and friends will be battling to complete a great year for European golf.

With Europe holding the top three positions in the world rankings, Luke Donald at one, Lee Westwood two and McIlroy at three, 2011 has been an incredible year for the continent and having either one of their combatants at the Grand Slam lift the title would be a fitting end. Those placing golf major bets would no doubt agree.

It would also continue Northern Ireland’s resurgence in golfing terms – Graeme McDowell won the US Open in 2010 – so the two are likely to be striving hard as the Grand Slam is very financially rewarding.

Even the fourth-placed finisher after the 36 holes takes home over £125,000, with the winner getting £380,000, so all-in-all it is a lot of money for two days of play. But it would be fitting for a European to lift the title given the story of 2011 so far.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Strurridge eyes England spot

The controversial three-game suspension for Wayne Rooney at next year’s European Championships is an undoubted blow to England’s hopes in Poland and the Ukraine.

However, is has now opened an eight month audition process for hopefuls to push them forward into contention for his starting spot.

One of those players is Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge. It has been quite a year for the former Manchester City forward.

After failing to break into the first-team under Carlo Ancelotti, those who Watch Football Live at Stamford Bridge began to wonder whether he actually had the talent they all thought he did when he moved there two years previously.

He was sent out on-loan to Bolton for the second half of last season in order to kick-start his career. It proved an inspired move as he hit eight goals in 12 appearances for the Trotters, establishing himself as a Premier League striker of true pedigree.  He even managed to emerge from the European Under-21 Championships with some credit, when many of his team-mates didn’t.

Bolton tried to take him on-loan against for the start of this season, but new Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas resisted, and is now reaping the rewards.

The 22-year-old opened the scoring for the Blues against Everton on Saturday, taking his tally to four in four games – if you like to bet on the top scorer, Sturridge is a definite contender.

Speaking after the Everton game he immediately set his sights on Euro 2012:

"I want to go to the Euros and it would be great to get selected.
"But I'm not worried about the pressure being put on me because I've been working hard doing my thing.
"Everyone would love to get on the plane, I'm no different.
"Hopefully, in the future, it does happen because it would be great for me - it would be a dream come true."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moonlight set to shine in Ascot sprint

Freddie Head’s high-class three-year-old filly Moonlight Cloud has been confirmed an intended runner on Champions Day at Ascot on October 15 and will target the six furlong Group 2 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes, writes Elliot Slater.

There had been plenty of speculation in Horse racing betting circles that the daughter of Invincible Spirit might take on her legendary stable companion Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp on Arc day, but in the end Head decided to keep the two apart and will run Moonlight Cloud over six furlongs for the first time in her career having seen the recent Prix Maurice de Gheest winner show a devastating turn of foot at Deauville to beat Golden Jubilee Stakes winner Society Rock by an easy four-lengths in the Group 1 event.

Clearly believing that his filly is getting faster and will act well on the stiff six furlong track at Ascot, Head is confident that Thierry Jarnet’s mount will run a very big race indeed, and her presence in the contest will add another dimension to the puzzle in which Wokingham Handicap winner Deacon Blues, (a very impressive winner recently a Newbury in much higher grade), heads the market with best racing odds of 11/4, with Moonlight Cloud available at 4/1.

Prior to her success at Deauville over seven furlongs, Moonlight Cloud had won a Group 3 at Longchamp, whilst on her previous outing she found only Sahpresa to good in the Group 3 Prix du Palais Royal, also at the central Paris venue. That form received another massive boost when Sahpresa went on to easily land the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket for the third year in succession at the end of September, so assuming that Head is right and his filly has the necessary pace for the drop back in trip, she could very easily turn out to be a massive danger to the established six-furlong performers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Newmarket Future Champions Day

The racing calendar is much changed in the closing weeks of the season to accommodate the inaugural QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot, and for that reason we have what is now called Future Champions Day at Newmarket where some of the big two-year-old races of the season are now being held.

Therefore on Saturday we will across the Rowley Mile have four of the season's best two-year-old races headed by two Group 1s in the Middle Park Stakes for colts over 6F and the Dewhurst Stakes for colts and fillies over 7F.

The Middle Park Stakes generally tends to attract well-regarded maiden winners but invariably it falls to a colt with more exposed form in Group races, as highlighted by the following statistic, that nine of the last ten winners of this event had won a Group race and nearly all of them had won that race last time out. Winners have come from top-class two-year old races like the Coventry, Mill Reef, Gimcrack and Prix Mornay, although it must also be said that we would be wary of form from the July or Richmond Stakes which in the past have not provided such a good guide. Anyone looking at the racing betting should remember this.

Caspar Netscher is the one that is likely to set the standard in form terms and he has proven form at the trip which is another positive in his favour and he looks sure to have a good shot at becoming the fifth Gimcrack winner and sixth Mill Reef victor to come on and take this since 1970.Over a further furlong the Dewhurst is a tough examination for two-year-olds and it is the more experienced horses that have come to the fore in this event and Sharmadal is the only winner in the past decade that has not run at least three times. Fans of horse racing betting tips should bear this in mind.

Last year's winner Frankel needs no introduction and he came to this race via the Royal Lodge Stakes but winners of that race tend to head for the Racing Post Trophy and if you want a guide to where the Dewhurst winner is going to come from then the Champagne Stakes is the best Dewhurst guide. It's also worth remembering that no horse has won this on the back of a maiden success in the last 20 years and only three of the last ten winners had not won a Group race. Proven stamina is also important and eight of the last ten winners had already scored over 7F and it's very unusual to find a winner that has not raced beyond 7F, we have to back to 1998 (Mujahid) to find a horse who completed that feat.

This year's renewal looks wide-open and despite the fact that market leaders have done well in Dewhurst history, there has been the odd long-priced winner and Red Duke could be the one to spring a shock if there was to be one. The Quinn juvenile has enough experience (five runs) and that all-important Group win on his CV courtesy of his win in the Superlative Stakes. His outings after that have not quite gone to plan but he did turn in a very pleasing performance in the influential Champagne Stakes at Doncaster and he is capable of pushing the principals close here.Future Champions Day at Newmarket is a new innovation and the fields on the two-year-old front look sure to hold plenty of interest for this new venture in the racing calendar.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Weird Al the latest string to McCain’s bow

As if further proof were needed, the news that talented three-mile chaser Weird Al has left the Ian Williams yard and has arrived at Donald McCain’s Cheshire base confirms once again just how quickly the son of the late, great ‘Ginger’ has risen close to the very top of the National Hunt training tree, writes Elliot Slater.

Although the transfer of yards is reportedly on an amicable basis, McCain is clearly on a steep upward curve and is developing a more powerful team year on year. Weird Al did very well indeed for Ian Williams, beginning last term with a fifth consecutive victory when dead-heating with subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Little Josh in a pulsating intermediate chase at Carlisle at the end of October.  Stepped up markedly in class, the eight-year-old was then asked to take on the big guns in Horse racing betting in the Grade 3 Hennessey Gold Cup Chase at Newbury a few weeks later and found the task beyond him, coming home eighth of the 18 runners behind the impressive Diamond Harry.

Williams decided to give Weird Al a mid-season break after his Newbury exertions and the gelded son of Accordion wasn’t seen again until going for the big one when he took on Long Run, Denman, and Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. After racing prominently for the first circuit the second-season chaser dropped away quickly after a mistake and was tailed off when pulled up fully a mile from home. It later transpired he had burst a blood vessel, so it is hard to read too much into the performance.

Certainly the pick of the big races are likely to be on Weird Al’s agenda later on this season, but McCain’s new recruit (best racing odds of 50/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup), will probably begin with a couple of runs at a lower level to boost his confidence before returning to the big league.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Great Germans

Danedream may have been a surprise winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday but we are sure she won't be underestimated in her future races and she also looks sure to stay in training next year as a four-year-old.

Her victory set us thinking about other great German horses and here are some other which took a high rank in their time and might in future teach us not to underestimate horses from the German nation.

Pre WW2, the mare Nereide set a record time in her 1936 German Derby victory, a record which stood until 1993, among the horses that she defeated in an all-conquering and illustrious ten-victory career was the superstar French mare Corrida, who actually went on to win two Arcs after her defeat to Nereide. People who bet on racing will have been impressed.

Star Appeal, until last Sunday was the only German horse to win an Arc, doing so in 1975 at the odds of 119-1, the biggest price any Arc winner has ever returned. Despite his price, he won the race in a clear cut manner by three lengths and with no shortage of style putting a good field which included Allez France, Dahlia and Bruni to the sword. Those following the horse racing betting tips need to bear this in mind.

Acatenango was the force to be reckoned with In German racing in the mid-80s, his forays outside his native land included a win in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and his progeny have played leading roles in German racing since his retirement to stud. Speaking of which one of his sons – Lando – was the winner of six Group 1 races in Europe and one in Asia, where in 1995 he claimed the Japan Cup on the final start of his career.

Monsun didn't quite reach the same heights as the other German "greats" on the track, although he did win three Group 1s in his native land but he has been a very effective stallion. His best progeny have been Shirocco who won the 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf and Manduro – ranked best horse in the world in 2007 and a brilliant winner of the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

And we end where we began with Lomitas, who never really fulfilled his obvious promise, especially as he had an aversion to starting stalls but he did manage to sire Danedream the latest in a line-up of German greats.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The National Hunt Season

Lots of people will tell you that the National Hunt season has already started and they are right but few if any of the real stars of the sport have been out yet but come November and December the flood gates open and all jumps fans can get their fill of the action again.

The first major fixture in the calendar is the Open meeting at Cheltenham which runs from November 11-13 with the Paddy Power Gold Cup as the feature race. There aren't many races that Champion trainer Paul Nicholls hasn't won at Prestbury Park but this is one of them and he'll be trying to fend of his West Country rival, David Pipe in a bid to capture the race for the first time. The Pipe stable has dominated this race in recent times, winning it on 8 occasions via David's father Martin. We suspect that the Nicholls yard will be targeting both Tataniano and Mon Parrain at the contest in a bid to land it for the first time. People who bet on racing should remember this.

November provides plenty of Saturday top-class action and hard on the heels of the Cheltenham extravaganza comes Betfair Chase Day at Haydock Park, and with the race having a good record of producing Gold Cup winners it looks to be the ideal target for last season's Gold Cup victor – Long Run to make his seasonal reappearance in, before heading to Kempton to defend his King George crown. Rounding off the month is the three day Winter Festival at Newbury where one of the toughest and best loved handicaps of the entire year takes place in the shape of the Hennessy Gold Cup. Anyone following the racing betting should bear this in mind.

December doesn't start quietly either as the speedy top-class 2-milers take centre stage at Sandown's Tingle Creek meeting, and then the action returns to Cheltenham for what is known as their International meeting on December 9-10. That meeting sees the hurdlers come to the fore on the International Hurdle, formerly known as the Bula Hurdle, where Champion Hurdle aspirations start to form amongst the leading protagonists.

The year draws to a close with the Winter Festival at Kempton Park and the thrilling spectacle of the King George, Long Run looks to be in pole position to retain his crown and you never know he is young enough to challenge Kauto Star's four wins in the race. The two days at Kempton Park are a tremendous way to end the year, and just three months later it's time for the Cheltenham Festival again – a tremendous winter awaits jump fans.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Season Structure in the CFL

The Canadian Football League is often considered a poor relation of its bigger brother the NFL in America but it does have its own distinct flavour and here we'll explain how the season is structured and plays out towards the games ultimate prize the Grey Cup.

The season "starts" with a two week exhibition series of a couple of practice games to get the teams back sync after the off-season. From that point the serious business starts and the teams embark on an 18-game 19 week season where they are jostling for points and positions for the post-season.

During that regular season the eight teams are split into two divisions East and West, each team plays two games against each team in the opposite division, three games against two teams in its own division, and four games against one other team in its own division on a rotating basis. All teams have one bye week in the season in weeks nine or ten to give them a break from the grind of the season. Anyone looking at the latest CFL tips should bear this in mind.

Without doubt the most eagerly awaited week in the CFL season is the Labour Day Classic, played over the course of the Labour Day weekend, where the matchups feature the first half of home-and-home series between the traditional geographic rivalries of Toronto–Hamilton (a rivalry which began in 1873, Edmonton–Calgary, and Winnipeg–Saskatchewan. BC—Montreal, while not considered a "traditional" rivalry, rounds out the week's games. People who bet on CFL need to remember this.

Once the regular season is complete the league standings determine who the teams will face in the play-offs with the side topping each division given the first week of the post-season off and home advantage throughout the series of games which eventually produce one "winner" from each division who compete for the Grey Cup – the Canadian version of the Super Bowl.

The current Champions of the CFL are the Montreal Alouettes who have won the last two Grey Cups beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders on each occasion.

Grey Cup

The Grey Cup is the trophy and the name of the championships that the eight teams that make up the Canadian Football League (CFL) are chasing at the start of each season. After the Stanley Cup which is awarded to the winners of the National Hockey League (NHL) the Grey Cup is the second oldest trophy that is competed for in North American professional sports.

Like the earlier mentioned Stanley Cup the Grey Cup is awarded every year with the winning team having to hand back the trophy. Similarly, the Grey Cup also has the name of the winning players, coaches, and management staff (President and General Manager) engraved on its chalice. First awarded in 1909 the cup is named after the Governor General of Canada the Earl Grey. Those who bet on CFL should remember this.

The venue for the game is decided some two years in advance as much like the NFL Super Bowl the game has no permanent home instead it is moved around the grounds of the member clubs of the CFL. Although the Olympic Stadium in Montreal holds the top four records for attendance at the Grey Cup, the highest being 68,318 in 1977 it is Toronto who has hosted the most Grey Cup games, with 45, most recently at the Rogers Centre in 2007 when the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19. The CFL online betting suggests we should be in for another exciting contest.

There have now been 98 Grey Cup games, with no game taking place between 1916-1919 and it has now grown into a big sporting occasion. Two awards are given for play in the game, Most Valuable Player and the Dick Suderman Trophy as most valuable Canadian player.

The appearance record for the Grey Cup is held by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who have appeared in 23 finals; while it is the Toronto Argonauts who are the most successful side having lifted the trophy on 15 occasions. The 2010 champions are the Montreal Alouettes, who defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 21–18 in the 98th Grey Cup held November 28 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. This year's Grey Cup will be held on 27 November at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Basketball Positions

The positions and roles that are taken by the players in basketball are not specified in the laws of or rules of the game whatsoever and have just evolved as the game has evolved. During the early years the positions were less defined than today, but since the 1980s the positions on the court and the different abilities needed to play them have become more defined.

The point guard is usually the speediest player on the team and he needs organising ability as he is in charge of getting the offence in order and by controlling the ball and making sure it gets to the right player at the right time, basically he's the on-field general and could be compared the quarterback in American Football. At the NBA level, most point guards are 6 feet to 6 feet 4 inches tall. Those looking at the basketball betting odds should remember this.

The backcourt is completed by the number "2" or shooting guard he is generally the team's best shooter and is typically a top-class long from long range. Besides being able to shoot the ball, shooting guards tend to have good ball-handling skills and the ability to drive the ball to the net, often creating their own shots off the dribble. They also have the ability to be able to interchange with the point guard and direct traffic on occasions.

The frontcourt is where the forwards and center play; the forwards are split into a small forward and a power forward. The small forward position is considered to be perhaps the most versatile of the main five basketball positions, due to the nature of its role, which is sometimes similar to that of a power forward, and other times more resembles the role of a shooting guard. The power forward plays a lot of the time on offence with his back to the basket and on defence he will play under the basket in a zone defence or marking the opposing power forward in a man-to-man defence. People following the following the basketball betting odds need to bear this in mind.

The final position of the five men on the court at any one time is the center and is also known as the pivot and this position is usually the preserve of the tallest man on the team. Centers contribute to the team by using their physique and skill to score close to the basket, as well as gathering rebounds, contesting shots and setting screens on plays.

The positions described are the ones that are taken up in a standard formation but some teams will make those flexible and use a three guard defence replacing the center with a third guard.

NBA basketball

Of all the professional basketball leagues in the world the National Basketball Association or NBA as it is known sits at the top of the pyramid in terms of popularity, salaries, talent, and level of competition. The NBA is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues.

The NBA comprises 30 teams, 29 of which are based in the USA and 1 in Canada, as with all the major North American sports the teams are split into two Conferences in this case they are called Eastern and Western and each one of those Conferences contains three divisions. In the Western conference they are called Northwest, Pacific and Southwest while the Eastern Conference is divided into the Atlantic, Central and Southeast divisions. All the divisions are equally balanced in that they contain five teams in each. People who bet on basketball should remember this.

Training camps and pre-season take place in September and October and this gives the team’s time to get the players fit and evaluate new players that will be on their roster.  The regular season starts in the last week in October and teams play a season of 82 games – 41 at home and 41 away or on the road. A team faces opponents in its own division four times a year (16 games). Each team plays six of the teams from the other two divisions in its conference four times (24 games), and the remaining four teams three times (12 games). Finally, each team plays all the teams in the other conference twice apiece (30 games). This asymmetrical structure means the strength of schedule will vary between teams (but not as significantly as the NFL or MLB). By playing all the other teams in the league the NBA is the same as the National Hockey League which is the only other league of the big four in North America where this happens. Fans of live basketball betting should bear this in mind.

In February around the mid-point of the season the NBA takes a short break for the All-Star game. Fans can vote throughout the United States, Canada, and on the Internet, and the top vote-getters at each position in each conference are given a starting spot on their conference's All-Star team. Coaches vote to choose the remaining 14 All-Stars. Then, Eastern conference players face the Western conference players in the All-Star game.

The season ends in April when the top eight sides in each Conference qualify for the play-offs, their rankings within each Conference then determining who and where they play during the post-season. The final playoff round, a best-of-seven series between the victors of both conferences, is known as the NBA Finals, and is held annually in June. The victor in the NBA Finals wins the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. Each player and major contributor—including coaches and the general manager—on the winning team receive a championship ring.

The current NBA Champions are the Dallas Mavericks who triumphed 4-2 in the latest NBA Finals.

Monday, October 3, 2011

NFL – Hall Of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the place where all the greats of the National Football League are inducted, and it reads like a who's who of American Football.

Based in Canton Ohio, it was started in 1963 with 17 original inductees and that number continues to grow year on year. A question a lot of people ask is why it is based in Canton which has no current NFL links, well Canton was the original home of the NFL then known as the American Professional Football Association, and secondly the now-defunct Canton Bulldogs were a successful NFL team based in Canton during the first few years of the league.

The actual Hall of Fame has undergone many changes and expansions in its life and its total area covering five rooms now totals more than 82,000 square feet, including the latest addition the Game Day Stadium, which shows  NFL Films productions on a 20-foot by 42-foot Cinemascope screen. Those who bet on NFL will love that sort of thing.

So how do you get elected into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame? – That is decided by the Board of Selectors who are mainly journalists from the cities which house NFL teams, these are augmented by other delegates and the Board in total numbers 44.

To be eligible for the nominating process, a player or coach must have been retired at least five years. Any other contributor such as a team owner or executive can be voted in at any time. Fans may nominate any player, coach or contributor by simply writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame via letter or email. The Selection Committee is then polled three times by mail to eventually narrow the list to 25 semi-finalists: once in March, one in September, and one in October. In November, the committee then selects 15 finalists by mail balloting. Fans of football betting keep a close eye on proceedings.

Finally the class of that year is selected on the eve of that year's Super Bowl, to qualify the nominee must gain at least 80 per cent support from the Board.

Inductions are them made in August the night before the annual Hall Of Fame game between two existing NFL teams as part of their pre-season schedule.

Inductees do not go into the Hall Of Fame as a member of any particular team, they are treated as individuals and are depicted in the Hall by a bust of themselves and they are presented with a distinctive gold jackets to wear at all future Hall Of Fame events.

NFL – Uniform Numbers

In the NFL the numbers that are worn on the shirts dictate what designated position that particular player can play and what his role is within the team and where he is allowed to go on the field. The current system was instituted into the league on April 5, 1973, as a means for fans and officials (referees, linesmen) to more easily identify players on the field by their position.

At the time of that change there were players who were out of sync with the numbering system based on their names but so as not to cause mass confusion they were allowed to continue with their numbers. Obviously as time rolled on those players retired and now all players have to conform to the numbering protocol detailed here. Fans of football betting should remember this.

Quarterbacks, Placekickers and Punters: 1–19

 Wide Receivers: 10–19 and 80–89

 Running Backs and Defensive Backs: 20–49

 Offensive Linemen: 50–79

 Linebackers: 50–59 and 90–99, or 40–49 if all are taken

 Defensive Linemen: 50–79 and 90–99

 Tight Ends: 80–89, or 40–49

There are some exceptions to these rules though,  such as prior to 2004, wide receivers only wore numbers 10-19, but with the explosion in the NFL of a more offensively based game and more wide receivers in the game, they had to expand the number selection to include numbers 80-89. Prior to that, players were allowed to wear non-standard numbers only if their team had run out of numbers within the prescribed number range. People placing NFL bets need to bear this in mind.

One of the biggest advantages in the standardisation of numbers is that it can aid officials in spotting certain penalties, such as "illegal formation" or "ineligible receiver", usually only offensive players with numbers 1–49 and 80–89 are allowed to play at the end or back positions or handle the ball in normal game situations.

It should be remembered that the NFL numbering system is based on the player’s principal position in the team even though they may on occasions if reporting the fact to the referee play in other positions should the game situation demand it.