Wednesday, February 29, 2012

JCB Triumph Hurdle preview

The Triumph Hurdle of old used to be considered a bit of a lottery, large fields and unpredictable results appeared to be the order of the day, the introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle appears to have made a change to that dynamic.

For a start, all of the last seven winners could be found in the first four in the betting and as Zarkandar proved last year it’s now possible to win off a very limited preparation – he had just one run over hurdles prior to his Cheltenham victory and became the first horse in 47 years to achieve that feat. What has always paid to take heed of is the horses that have won their last start and we would give them an extra tick in the selection box. Last season’s 1-2-3 all won on their most recent start (unlike the favourite, Sam Winner, who finished fourth) thus extending the record of last-time-out winners to 13 of the last 14. Those placing Cheltenham 2012 bets need to remember this.

Pace as well as stamina is an important asset in a Triumph Hurdle candidate so perhaps it’s no surprise to see that of the last 17 winners, 16 of them have very much a Flat pedigree and it is also very much a point of note that seven of the last eight winners did not have their hurdling debut until at least December, but the last 20 winners have all run after January 17th of that year. Fans of Cheltenham betting should bear this in mind.

Although the race is run at level weights it can pay to take a look at the relative BHA marks for each horse and we would be willing to rule out anything with a mark of 138 or less, along with any horse that ran in a handicap last time out – all 28 horses that tried to do that failed.

There are plenty of trial races for the Triumph Hurdle and the one that stands out is the Adonis Hurdle from Kempton, won this year by Babymix - as many as five of the last 12 winners going on to double up in the Triumph and that would probably have been six had Binocular not been re-routed at the last moment to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

A look back at the 2012 Derby

Workforce's victory in the 2010 Derby at Epsom broke the track record for the race as Sir Michael Stoute picked up his fifth success in the Classic.

Jockey Ryan Moore rode the three-year old clear of the field in the final furlong to finish seven lengths ahead of At First Sight and Rewilding.

The three-year-old's run at Epsom was then followed up with a disappointing fifth place in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot a month later. The son of King's Best went off 8/11 favourite in the Derby betting but was overshadowed by stablemate Harbinger who took the Group One with an 11 length margin.

Workforce did make up for that disappointing though, later in the year at the Qatar Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe when winning the leading European middle distance race at Longchamp. Stoute's runner was involved in a scrap to the line with Japanese contender Nakayama Festa who has to settle for second place, a neck behind Workforce in the official distance.

At the age of four, Workforce couldn't repeat the heights he achieved a year earlier. Just one win came in 2011, that was on his opening run of his campaign at Sandown in the Group Stakes Brigadier Gerard Stakes. His next run of the year was in the Coral Eclipse where he made the running before being chased down by former Australian superstar So You Think. A month later it was Nathanial who edged him out to his first Group One success of the year.

His final run of the campaign was a bid to defend his crown at the Arc in Paris, Unlike 12 months earlier, it was a disappointing effort as he came home with just three rivals behind in the 16 runner field.

Champion Hurdle History

Alongside the Cheltenham Gold Cup this is one of the most prestigious races of the entire National Hunt season and the jewel in the crown of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. First run in 1927 just three years after the initial running of what we would now know as the Gold Cup it attracts the very best 2m hurdlers from Britain and Ireland to compete for the title of Champion Hurdler.

The roll of honour for the race reads like a who's who of hurdling history and you would have been happy to have owned or even just seen in action the five horses who have taken the crown on a record three occasions, the first of those was Hatton's Grace (1949-51) and the most recent was Istabraq (1998-2000). Istabraq would have more than likely completed the four-timer as he was favourite for the race and with it at his mercy when the 2001 Festival was abandoned due to foot and mouth disease, his bid for that record a year later ended with him being pulled up after only jumping a couple of hurdles and he was immediately retired. Those placing Cheltenham 2012 bets should remember this.

The "Golden Age" of the race came without doubt came during the 1970's and early 80's, when there were several dual winners and plenty of famous names on the hurdling circuit such as Monksfield, Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse, all of whom had many exciting battles up the Cheltenham hill. People following the Cheltenham betting need to bear this in mind.

Dawn Run remains the only horse to have won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup, in the year she won the Champion Hurdle (1984), she was also triumphant in the Irish and French equivalents in the same year, she is also one of 17 Irish trained winners and their Hurricane Fly looks well placed to make that 18 this year.

The Champion Hurdle is usually run at a flat-out gallop and all combatants need to possess a blend of speed to carry them into the race and stamina to see them up the stiff Cheltenham Hill.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy tips

This promises to be one of the highlights of the whole week and is just the first chase of the four day Festival. A whole host of former top-class hurdlers line-up over the larger obstacles this year and nearly all of them pass the major statistic that has sorted out 11 of the last 12 winners. That stat is the fact that you really need to be rated 142+ over hurdles to have a chance in the Arkle.

This year for the leading protagonists at least that should not be a problem as Peddlers Cross, Menorah, Al Ferof, Cue Card and current favourite Sprinter Sacre all qualify. What may worry backers of the impressive last time out winner Sprinter Sacre is the fact that despite the lack of big priced winners in the Arkle, there have only been two favourites in the last 20 years that have proved successful. The fancied horses have therefore held sway but not those right at the pinnacle of the market. Those looking for a horse betting how to should remember this.

Of the leading contenders plenty of them come from yards with very solid records in the race, Sprinter Sacre (Henderson) has won three Arkles, Al Ferof (Nicholls) has scored twice and Menorah (Hobbs) won the event last year and has had placed horses in the two previous years. People placing Cheltenham 2012 bets need to remember this.

If you are an aficionado of the way that horses run then it may well pay to steer clear of those out and out front runners in the race – only once since 19080 has the winner been able to make all the running in the Arkle. Attempt to do and you are probably a sitting duck for this classy field.

As for races which have produced the Arkle winner it may be a good idea to keep these particular contests in mind when you are studying the form for the Arkle, the November Novices’ Chase, Irish Arkle, Henry VIII Chase Chase or Kingmaker Chase, all of these have proved a good guide for the novices’ two-mile Championship.

Coral Cup tips

A tricky handicap hurdle, but then that’s no surprise as it is sponsored by a bookmaking firm and tends to be one of the most hotly contested handicap hurdles at the entire Festival. However, like the handicap chase on the first day it can once again pay to keep last-time-out winners on your side. That statistic alone would have found you the last four winners and six of the last seven winners of the Coral Cup and there are a few other trends and patterns that can be really helpful in deconstructing this fiendish handicap.

First of all the age group statistics can really help with those aged 5-6-7 the group to concentrate on, horses above that threshold have really struggled in this event over the past 11 years returning a record that reads 1-93. Those placing Cheltenham 2012 bets should remember this.

The Irish have to be respected and when Carlito Brigante won very easily last season he was recording a seventh win for the raiders, which is terrific given that they have supplied less than one-fifth of the total runners since 1993. The home challenge has held their own in this race though but unlike the Irish raiders who seem to be able to come into the race off one race, no GB-trained horse has won this race having had just the one run and they also have a very poor record when they are absent for seven weeks or more. So in a nutshell the Irish horse can come into the race off a break and being lightly raced but we wouldn’t want to see that preparation repeated by a British challenger. People following the Cheltenham betting should remember this.

One of the stranger and more quirky facts about the Coral Cup is that horses that were second last time out have a terrible record in the race and they are 0-72 in the contest.

This being a tough handicap it usually pays to have had a reasonable amount of hurdling experience although ideally that should have come in handicap company and not as a novice hurdler, these handicaps at the Festival will be run at a much quicker pace than most novice hurdles and experience of that genre is important.

Race to sign Nash intensifies

NHL Betting tips:

Rick Nash’s agent has confirmed that he hopes his client completes his move away from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the trade deadline.
"We're hopeful a deal can get done prior to the trade deadline that is fair and equitable for the Blue Jackets," said Joe Resnick. "However, if a deal is not reached, then the list of acceptable teams will not change at a later date."
Nash has a no-movement clause in his contract, but is believed to be interesting the Rangers, Canucks, Bruins, Kings, Sharks and Maple Leafs.
Nash is contracted with the Blue Jackets until the end of the 2017-18 season and comes with a cap hit of $7.8million.
The Rangers have room for Nash after allowing Wojtek Wolski to join Florida in exchange for a third-round pick in 2013 and minor-league defenseman Mike Vernace. It has been reported that they have already held talks about a possible trade for Nash.
The Vancouver Canucks have also freed up some cap space after putting Keith Ballard on long-term injured reserve. The defenseman is suffering from concussion.
Boston could do the same with Nathan Horton who has a similar ailment, although the Bruins already have almost $11.9million in acquisition space.
Nash has scored 20 goals and 42 points in 61 games for the Blue Jackets this season. He has spent the whole of his career with Columbus, scoring 279 goals and 530 points in 653 games.
The Blue Jackets are having a difficult season and have won just 18 of their 61 matches so far; these stats are of note particularly to those who are looking to bet on hockey.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Coventry Stakes set for another classic renewal

The Coventry Stakes is one of the first big races of the season for two year-olds at the Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

Last year, Power proved what an exciting colt he was for Aidan O'Brien by winning the contest in what the Irish trainer's fifth success in the race. The son of Oasis Dream did step up 7f later in the season where he won the Group One Goffs National Stakes at the Curragh. He then finished second in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in October after going off 15/8 favourite in the Ascot odds.

Power is likely to start this season in either the Tattersalls Millions Sprint or the Tattersalls Millions Trophy in April. He then could run in the 2000 Guineas – the opening Classic of the year for three-year olds. If he does start at Newmarket on Guineas weekend, he could be the second string in the race if the unbeaten Camelot lines up for Ballydoyle. The son of Montjeu won the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October on only his second racecourse start and is the ante-post favourite for the 2000 Guineas on May 5. Connections have yet to decide their path for the talented colt who is also favourite for the Derby at Epsom a month later.

Past winners of the Coventry Stakes include Canford Cliffs in 2009. Richard Hannon's runner enjoyed running at Royal Ascot with further success in 2010 in the St James's Palace Stakes and a year later in the Queen Anne Stakes as a four-year old.

Henrythenavigator is also another notable name on the honours list after scooping the race for O'Brien in 2007.

Hills set to retire

Richard Hills has announced he will retire from the saddle at the end of the Dubai World Cup Carnival this year.

His final race could be in the Dubai World Cup on March 31 in the race he won for the only time in 1999 on board Almutawakel for trainer Saeed Bin Suroor and Godolphin.

The 49-year old has been the first jockey to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktour for the last 15 years in which he has ridden six Classic winners including Eswarah, Mutafaweq and more recently Ghanati in the 1000 Guineas in 2009. People following the latest online horse racing betting odds will know how good he is.

Hills took over from Willie Carson as the number one rider for Sheikh Hamdan in1997 after spending two years as his second jockey.

Three years ago Hills recorded his highest total of his career in one season when he rode 98 winners in the 2009 campaign, five of which were Group One races including the Coronation Stakes with Ghanati. His total wins in Britain stands at 1892 which spans across 33 different seasons.

The only English Classic that Hills wasn’t fortune to win was the Derby at Epsom, he did finish second in the race though in 2000 on board Sakhee who was denied by a length to John Oxx’s Sinndar. His first success in a Classic was in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarkert in 1995 when he rode Harayir to victory in the one mile contest for fillies.

It is thought that Hills will continue in some working capacity with Sheikh Hamdan with his breeding operations but the son of trainer Barry Hills has to confirm how he will spend his future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Camelot on track for Derby success

Connections of Derby ante-post favourite Camelot have reported that their colt is looking fresh and ready for a shot at some of the biggest races in the country in 2012 following his winter break.

Camelot heads both the 2000 Guineas and Derby market on the back of winning the Racing Post Trophy in impressive style at Doncaster at the back end of last season. Those looking at the 2012 Epsom Derby betting will have been keeping a close eye on him.

The son of Montjeu has only had two starts so far in career but he has done enough to impress punters and bookmakers on both of those runs.

The 2000 Guineas at Newmarket could be his first big race target in May. The three-year old is set for his seasonal reappearance in April after which a decision will be made about the opening Classic of the season in May.

If connections decide that the mile trip is too short for Camelot, they are likely to have the Derby in their mind at Epsom in June over the longer trip of 1m4f.

The last time trainer Aidan O'Brien won the 2000 Guineas was in 2008 when Henrythenavigator picked up the race for the fifth time for the Irishman. He does have to go as far back as 2002 though, for when he last won the Derby. That was with High Chaparral, who followed up the success the Ballydoyle trainer had with Galileo a year earlier.

O'Brien will be concerned about the failure of St Nicholas Abbey in the 2000 Guineas two years ago. His colt when off short priced favourite for the contest at Newmarket but struggled with the trip which ultimately ruined his season. He did make it up for it a year later though, with success in the Coronation Cup at Epsom and at the Breeders Cup meeting in November.

England, France & Ireland Tipped To Win In Round 3 Of 2012 Six Nations

Round three of the Six Nations should provide a clear indication of the teams most likely to win the 2012 tournament. The current betting has Wales and France almost neck-and-neck as the likely champions but both face difficult games on the road this weekend with Wales travelling to Twickenham to take on England whilst France head to Edinburgh to face Scotland at Murrayfield. The third game will see Ireland take on Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

With both England and Wales winning their opening two matches the pair sit joint top of the Six Nations standings, England won against Scotland and Italy and Wales beat Ireland and Scotland, as a result, this match is poised to be a cracker.

Add to the mix that a Wales win would give them a 20th Triple Crown and leave them needing to win their remaining two home games against Italy and France to claim the Grand Slam, then it is easy to see why this Twickenham clash is so crucial. Moreover, England also harbour Triple Crown and Grand Slam aspirations of their own and with a growing belief in the England squad that they can do it, we could all witness a game between an irresistible force against the immoveable object. Wales have been installed as the 4/6 favourites to win this game in the 6 nations odds with an England victory rated as a 6/4 chance.

Both teams will field exciting line-ups, particularly in the backs with England looking to combat Wales’s free running rugby with a robust defence that can quickly turn into attack. The key battles will lie in the centre three-quarter areas where the Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies Welsh partnership will try to outgun the English pair of the recalled Manu Tuilagi and tough tackling Brad Barritt. While in the vital breakdown area, the outcome of the anticipated head-to-head battle between the two skippers, Sam Warburton of Wales and Chris Robshaw of England could also prove decisive. The prediction for this game is a narrow England Win.

In the Scotland v France game, Scotland's record against their opponents in the Six Nations hardly inspires confidence with only one win in twelve meetings between the two, that came in 2006 when the Scots triumphed 20-16 over an under par French outfit.

There is nothing under par however about the current French team who come to Murrayfield after finishing runners up in the 2011 World Cup. They also come with a new coach, Philippe Saint-Andre, who, while adopting a more pragmatic approach to rugby, knows how to win games as he proved in his time in club management in the Aviva Premiership.

France of course has only the benefit of one game played so far in the tournament this year with their last game against Ireland being called off due to bad weather. They did however defeat Italy 30-12 in their opener scoring four tries and looking like a team who mean business.

Saint-Andre will know that a win at Murrayfield and a win in the re-arranged match against Ireland in Paris next week, they will have two games against England and Wales remaining to decide their Six Nations destiny this year and dependent on the outcome of the England v Wales match this weekend, the final game in Cardiff on 17th March could also be a Grand Slam decider.

Scotland however will be no easy pickings for the French and potentially they have a very decent team with a number of match winning players. They play to a sound tactical plan but if they have a problem, it is their ability to sustain the good periods that they have often created and as such, France should prove too strong and pick up the win.

In the final game, Ireland Head Coach, Declan Kidney, has kept with the same XV that he named for the aborted France game a couple of weeks ago with Keith Earls finally getting his chance after missing out of their opening game against Wales. Ireland will be looking to maintain their 100% winning record against Italy in the Six Nations, which has seen them win all 12 of their previous encounters since the expansion from five to six nations in 2000.

There is no doubt that the Irish are still smarting over their opening game defeat at the hands of Wales in Dublin where they lost to a controversially awarded last minute penalty. It was a defeat that was hard to stomach but in the cold light of day, Kidney knows that the Welsh momentum that got them the penalty award was the result of poor Irish defending which lacked aggression at crucial times.

Italy, looked a very decent team in their 15-19 defeat by England a fortnight ago. In that game, they outplayed England for long periods and were deservedly ahead after scoring two tries just before half time. Head Coach Jacques Brunel is unquestionably getting a tune out of the ‘Azzurri’ but whether it is a good enough one to beat Ireland in Dublin is doubtful and Ireland should win this one.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pompey on the brink

Portsmouth could go out of business before the end of the season, administrator Trevor Birch revealed.

The Championship club made 33 staff members redundant on Wednesday, including chief executive David Lampitt.
Birch outlined the seriousness of the club’s plight when he addressed fans at Fratton Park.
"It was a purely economic decision that we had to make," Birch said.
"We have a very small amount of money that we have to stretch out for the rest of the season and David and his fellow directors have joined with other redundancies that we have had to make."
2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth entered administration for the second time in three years last week and fell into the Championship relegation zone after they were docked ten points. Indeed many punters are looking to bet on the Championship suffering a second relegation in three years at the end of the campaign.
Players and staff have not been paid since December and the squad will be asked to defer some of their wages until the end of the season.
Injuries and suspensions have crippled Michael Appleton’s already depleted squad and a transfer embargo has made Appleton’s task all the more difficult.
"The Football League will not let us bring any players in and they don't want us to have a competitive advantage when we still owe clubs money," Birch added.
"If we have less than 14 fit players then they will allow us to bring someone in."
Portsmouth’s troubles have given hope to the likes of Nottingham Forest, Coventry City and Doncaster Rovers at the bottom of the Championship. Pompey face a real fight to stay in the second tier and I would bet on relegation overcoming the south coast club at the end of the season.
The biggest fight of all, though, is to keep the club afloat financially. Portsmouth have come back from the brink before – football fans everywhere will be hoping they can do it again.

Cue Card one to remember

Trainer Colin Tizzard picked up his first winner in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010 when Cue Card won in impressive fashion by eight lengths.

This year he has a strong chance of doubling that tally with Royal Guardsman who is fancied for the national hunt flat race. The five-year old won a competitive contest at Ascot last month which included runners from all the top trainers including Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Alan King. The win pushed him up the market for the Champion Bumper where he joins Moscow Mannon and Champagne Fever at the top end of the betting.

Cue Card disappointed connections at last year's Festival when he finished fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle after going off favourite for the opening race on day one. Those following the best horse racing odds should remember this.

The five-year old was a lot of people's banker of the meeting but struggled to come home up the famous hill at Prestbury Park in a race won by Al Ferof for Champion Trainer Nicholls.
Cue Card is set to run in a very competitive renewal of the Arkle Trophy this year. He has made a solid start to his chase campaign with two wins and a second under his belt this campaign.

The favourite for the Arkle is Sprinter Sacre who has not put a foot wrong this season on the flat tracks of Kempton and Newbury. Both Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty have gone down as saying they rate this chaser as one of the best they have come across in the sport.

Peddlers Cross has a good record at the Cheltenham Festival having won the Neptune Investement Management Novices' Hurdle in 2010 and then finishing second to the superstar Hurricane Fly last year in the Champion Hurdle. He has been well supported for the Arkle, although trainer Donald McCain has confessed this week that they are still thinking about the Jewson Novices' Chase.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bruce favourite for Wolves job as Curbs says no

It appears Wolves’ search for a new manager is a lot more complicated than first imagined given they had hoped to have someone in place by now.

The 12 day gap between their 5-1 humiliation at the hands of West Brom and their next clash at Newcastle was supposed to not only give the board time to canvass potential applicants but also give their choice a few days to bed-in and prepare for the clash in the north-east.

However, their search so far has proved fruitless, with the initial favourite in the premier league betting, Alan Curbishley, turning down the job twice.

Wolves owner Steve Morgan then looked to find an up-and-coming manager to take over the reins but Reading’s Brian McDermott turned them down while the £2million compensation fee for Brighton boss Gus Poyet proved too costly.

Birmingham’s Chris Hughton and Blackpool’s Ian Holloway were also rumoured to be considered but would take some tempting to move from their club’s while in the midst of a promotion campaign.

It now appears Steve Bruce is the front runner to replace Mick McCarthy, whose five-and-a-half year spell at Molineux was ended barely 24 hours after the West Brom defeat.

But Bruce is not a popular choice among the fans, perhaps due to the way he was sacked as Sunderland boss with the side struggling.

Bruce is also reportedly frustrated at the apparent lack of contact since his initial interview last week, suggesting the club were looking for other options ahead of the former Birmingham and Wigan boss.

The pressing need to get a new man in grows more urgent by the day. The club are third from bottom in the Premier League table, with the Relegation betting suggesting that the bottom five – QPR, Blackburn, Wolves, Bolton and Wigan - looking likely to scrap it out to avoid finishing in the bottom three.

Woods Shrugs off Castano Challenge

Madrid-born golfer, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, has issued a challenge (of sorts) to former world number one, Tiger Woods. Fernandez-Castano intimated that he was more than capable of besting Woods at the WGC Match Play Championship in Arizona, a PGA Tour event that begins today.

"He's probably not at his best", Fernandez-Castano said, of Woods. "Maybe I can beat him. He's won this tournament three times [but] I think he's beatable."

Woods, who, once upon a time, would have reacted strongly to such comments, was unfazed by the Spaniard's boasting. "I feel exactly the same way as he does", Woods said. "I feel he's beatable too." The American's comments were a marked turnaround in temperament for the famously competitive golfer. Those who bet on golf should remember this.

The Californian made Canadian veteran, Stephen Ames, eat his own words at the Match Play in 2006. Ames criticised Woods' driving in the first round of the tournament, a comment that galvanised Woods to a 9 and 8 win over his opponent. The score is widely recognised as the largest victory margin in the competition's history.

Fernandez-Castano and Woods will compete with Rory McIlroy, Australia's Jason Day, and Charl Schwartzel, of South Africa, at the Ritz-Carlton golf club this week. The knock-out contest is made up of the world's top 64 golfers, each arranged into one of four 'brackets'. Competitors play an opponent over 18 holes, with the loser being eliminated. People placing golf major bets should bear this in mind.

Also making an appearance in Arizona is England's Lee Westwood, German golfer, Martin Kaymer, and world number one, Luke Donald, who is defending his title at the Match Play Championship. The field is playing for a combined prize kitty of $8.5m (£5.4m), with $1.4m (£893k) reserved for the overall winner.

Kupchack: "Mind your own business"

Mind your own business, was the message from general manager Mitch Kupchak is response to Kobe Bryant's criticism of the franchise's handling of Pau Gasol's contract (NBA betting tips: LA Lakers 11/2 - NBA Western Conference win only bet365).

Bryant suggested that Lakers management should "come out and either trade [Gasol] or not trade him" before the March 15 trade deadline and that the uncertainty was affecting his team-mate's game.

Gasol has two years and $38.3 million left on his contract after this season and Lakers have never wavered in their stance that they will not trade unless they get back a young star.

The four-time All-Star had 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Lakers improved to 14-2 at home by beating Portland Trail Blazers, 103-92, on Monday at Staples Center. He is now 531 points so far this season.

"As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player," Kupchak said in a statement released by the team.

"Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come."

Kupchak has been down this road before – in 2003-04 he was cast at the centre of the Shaquille O'Neal contract dispute.

He insisted the franchise would conduct their business without interference from players, and added: "To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans."

The Lakers are next in regular season Western Conference action at Dallas Mavericks on February 22 (Bet on basketball: LA Lakers 11/1 - NBA Championship outright winner bet365). 

Raya Star states clear County Hurdle case

Alan King's progressive two-mile handicap hurdler Raya Star has enjoyed a very fruitful campaign and once again showed that he continues on the upgrade with a fine third place finish in the prestige Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Friday, writes Elliot Slater.

A winner at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance in October off a mark of 120, the six-year-old then ran a rock solid race off a 12lb higher mark to finish third to the smart Rock On Ruby in the listed Gerry Fielden Hurdle the following month before bravely seeing off Rigidity and a host of challengers to win the extremely valuable Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot off a rating of 134. Anyone looking at the best 2012 Cheltenham betting odds will have been impressed.

Off a 5lb higher mark Raya Star was partnered by Robert Thornton at Newbury (in the race formerly known as the Totesport Trophy), on his first day back in the saddle after a long absence through injury. Putting up another great effort in holding every chance at the last, King's charge  kept on really well to finish a close third to Champion Hurdle  hope Zarkandar and Get Me Out Of Here in the showcase Newbury contest.

The lack of early pace at Newbury almost certainly counted against the gelded son of Milan who is ideally served by a strong end-to-end gallop over the minimum trip, something that should be all but guaranteed at Cheltenham on March 16 when he is expected to take his chance in the cavalry charge that is the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle. Clearly improving  and able to show his form on most ground from good to heavy, Raya Star was trimmed by most firms in their ante-post list for the Cheltenham contest and is now on general offer at 14/1 co-favourite alongside old rival Rock On Ruby, former group-winning Flat racer Ted Spread, and the classy Prospect Wells.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Riverside Theatre brings the house down at Ascot

The Nicky Henderson-trained Riverside Theatre put up a tremendous performance on his first start for 364 days when accounting for the smart Medermit by three-lengths in winning the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase for the second successive year, and racing betting tips expect him to take his chance in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next month, writes Elliot Slater.

Absent for a year having sustained a hairline fracture of his pelvis on the way to beating Gauvain by 10-lengths in the Ascot Chase twelve months ago, the gelded son of King’s Theatre had been reportedly working well in recent weeks ahead of his return to the fray and in the hours leading up to his reappearance was the subject of sustained market support that saw punters who bet on racing back him down to a strong 13/8 favourite.

Ridden by regular pilot Barry Geraghty, Riverside Theatre, (second to stable companion Long Run in last season’s King George VI Chase at Kempton), put in an impressive round of jumping and showed no signs of ring-rustiness as he moved sweetly in behind main market rival Kauto Stone (who eventually faded to finish well down the field), before taking up the running at the fifth fence from home. From then on his rivals always looked to be fighting a losing battle as Geraghty oozed confidence having matters well under control from the second last fence.

Henderson, clearly delighted with his winner, expressed complete satisfaction with the performance and hopes that the horse owned partly by television star Jimmy Nesbitt will be back for more in the Ryanair Chase, the race that had been his target last term before sustaining his injury. Generally on offer at 10/1 prior to his Ascot triumph, Riverside Theatre has divided bookmaker opinion with odds now ranging from 4/1 to 7/1 being available.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beau runs solid trial for Festival Handicap Chase

Although he still holds an entry in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, northern chaser Knockara Beau ran a very solid trial for the three-mile Festival Handicap Chase at the showcase fixture on March 13 when chasing home the smart performer Simonsig in the coveted Morebatle Hurdle at Kelso, writes Elliot Slater.

A great servant to his Northumberland-based trainer George Charlton, Knockara Beau barely ever seems to run a bad race over hurdles or fences, and although clearly no match for the very speedy Supreme Novices Hurdle favourite, he came out a clear second best over an inadequate trip at the Borders track having forced the pace from the front in an effort to draw the sting out of his five rivals. Those following the latest online 2012 Cheltenham odds will have been impressed.

Fourth of 23 to the course specialist Buena Vista in last season’s Pertemps Handicap Hurdle over three-miles at the Cheltenham Festival, Knockara Beau then went on to run with credit when fifth to Big Buck’s in Grade 1 company at Aintree. After a pipe-opener over timber at Haydock in November, the gelded son of Leading Counsel ran a fine race to finish runner-up to Grand National hope Shakalakaboomboom at Cheltenham a month later, before putting in his only below-par effort this term when in mid-division behind According To Pete at Wetherby on Boxing Day in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Chase.

The three-and-a-quarter-miles of Cheltenham’s Grade 2 Argento Chase brought out the best in Knockara Beau on his next outing when he came home strongly to finish third behind Gold Cup hope Midnight Chase, and his latest Kelso effort only serves to prove that the nine-year-old is in fine shape ahead of next month’s big meeting. The Festival Handicap Chase might well prove the best option for Charlton’s standard bearer, and at odds of up to 20/1 in the ante-post list he appeals as solid each-way value.

Manning set for Colts talks

Doubts remain as to whether the legendary quarterback Peyton Manning will still be with Indianapolis Colts next season; something sure to affect how punters will spend their money on NFL bets.
Team owner Jim Irsay plans to meet with Manning in the next seven days and insists he wants the 35-year-old to stay, but only if his contract is restructured.
Isray wants Manning to accept an incentive-laden deal that will reward him if he is able to make a complete recovery from the spinal fusion procedure he endured five months ago.
"We can make it work if he wants to be here,'' Irsay said. "We'd be excited to have him back and finish his career with us.
"I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the healing process with the regeneration of the nerve.''
Manning has been with the Colts since they selected him with the first overall pick in the 1998 draft. He led them into the playoffs 11 times in 13 years and to the Super Bowl twice, including a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI - something which marks him out as a favourite for punters looking to bet on NFL.
He is also the NFL's only four-time MVP but his future has been uncertain ever since he had the surgery in September, his third neck procedure in 19 months, which forced him to miss the 2011 season.
Manning signed a five-year $90million contract in July. He received $26million in the contract's first year even though he never stepped on to the field and has earned more than $170million in his 14 seasons with the Colts.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Predators complete Gill coup

The Nashville Predators have strengthened their squad with the acquisition of the veteran defenseman Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadians.
The 36-year-old has a wealth of experience having spent the last 14 seasons in the NHL; many watching NHL online over the years will relate to Gill as being almost omnipresent in the Montreal team.
He has scored 36 goals and had 143 assists in 1,047 regular-season games with the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Canadians, as well as making 105 appearances in the playoffs.
Gill featured in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins in 2008 and 2009 and was part of the Pens' top shut-down pairing in 2009 when Pittsburgh won the competition.
The Predators’ President of Hockey Operations/General Manager, David Poile, said of the high-profile signing: “Hal Gill brings our team a number of elements - size, penalty-killing ability, depth on defense and playoff experience.
“He has won a Stanley Cup and played a combined 69 playoff games over the last four years, experience that significantly benefits our team.”
Gill was drafted 207th overall (eighth round) by Boston in the 1993 Entry Draft, and played for eight seasons with the Bruins (1997-2006) before going on to star for Toronto (2006-08), Pittsburgh (2007-09) and Montreal.
The Predators are enjoying a successful season and have won 33 of their 57 games so far, the sixth best record in the NHL. They are a team on the up having signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a seven-year $49million deal in November. It is the largest contract awarded by the Predators in their history and made Rinne the highest-paid goaltender in the league.
Last season they reached the playoffs, only to be beaten 4-2 by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round after earlier knocking out the Anaheim Ducks; these stats make them a good pick for those wanting to bet on hockey.

Europe lights up Punchestown

Sizing Europe’s performance in the Tied Cottage Chase on Sunday was the highlight of a welcomed card on the turf from Punchestown on Sunday.

With the cold freeze adding so many racecourses to its victim list over the past seven days, it was a pleasant surprise that Punchestown passed its morning inspection on a card that featured an heavyweight clash between two leading Queen Mother Champion Chase contenders in Sizing Europe and Big Zeb.

The reigning Champion Chase winner repeated his result at Cheltenham by finishing ahead of Big Zeb, but this time it was more convincing as he came home 15 lengths in front of his old rival in his final run before the Festival next month. People looking at the best Punchestown betting will have been impressed.

The odds on Sizing Europe retaining his crown at the Festival were cut follow the success in a performance that pleased trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Andrew Lynch.

In the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle earlier in the card, Trifolium cruised to success to put himself in the running for the Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham. Davy Russell asked his mount to quicken in the closing stages as he stretched clear of his rivals to finish nine lengths ahead of Simeon, who was staying on late in the race.

It was Trifolium’s first attempt at graded company at the weekend as he responded well to his defeat to Go Native at Gowran Park on his previous start. He will now head to the Festival in what is one of the most open contests across the four days in the race that begins the four days of top class national hunt racing. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Binocular to take the high road for Cheltenham prep race

The 2010 Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Binocular looks set to make the long journey north to Scotland for the Victor Chandler Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on February 15 as the cold weather forces his trainer Nicky Henderson to look far and wide in search of opportunities to give his various Cheltenham Festival candidates a final outing before the showcase meeting that begins on March 13, writes Elliot Slater.

Binocular had been expected to have his final outing before attempting to regain his hurdling crown in his traditional warm-up race at Sandown in early February, where the Contenders Hurdle has proved a happy hunting ground for the gelded son of Enrique who has landed the contest for the previous two seasons. The wintry weather scuppered that fixture though, and with stable companion Grandouet set to take his chance at Wincanton in the Kingwell Hurdle, Binocular will very likely head up to Kelso in a race that is often used as a key Champion Hurdle trial. Those looking at a Victor Chandler review need to bear this in mind.

Henderson has had runners in the race before and famously came unstuck when his Zaynar, (who went on to finish third to Binocular at Cheltenham three weeks later), was sensationally beaten at odd of 1/14 by Nicky Richards' Quwetwo. The Seven Barrows handler will be hoping that lightening doesn't strike twice and reports Binocular to be in good shape as he prepares the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old to take on the awesome Hurricane Fly in what is building up to be a fine renewal of the two-mile hurdling championship event. Fans of Bwin should pay close attention.

Bookmakers rate Binocular a top priced 10/1 chance to repeat his 2010 Cheltenham success where he got the better of Khyber Kim in a thrilling finish, but Hurricane Fly continues to dominate the ante-post market for the race following his imperious win in Ireland recently and is no bigger than 5/6 to retain his title.

Mickelson back in the groove

Phil Mickelson overcame an erratic start to the 2012 season to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and claim his first tournament victory since last April.
The four-time major winner overhauled overnight leader Charlie Wi with a stunning eight-under-par 64 to win by two shots and put a slow start to the year behind him.

The 41-year-old began his season at the Humana Challenge and finished a disappointing 49th place. He followed that with rounds of 77 and 68 at the Farmers Insurance Open and appeared to be struggling with his game. Those looking at the latest online US Open golf betting should remember this.

Despite his early struggles, the former world number one wasn’t concerned with his form and was delighted to win his 40th tour title at a "special place".

Mickelson said: "I felt like my game was so close heading into the season, and yet my scores didn't reflect how I felt I was playing.

"To put it together this week, especially the final round, just feels terrific. It gives me a lot of confidence but also inspires me because I believe what I'm doing is correct and that I'm able to play some of my best golf."

Mickelson will no doubt have his sights set on another major title this year. For a man of his talent and experience, four victories is a modest return.

He clearly enjoys playing at the Masters – having claimed the Green Jacket three times, most recently at the event two years ago at Augusta. His only other success came at the PGA Championship in 2005.

Mickelson finished joint second at last year’s Open Championship and has come up just short at the US Open five times in his career. He will no doubt be targeting a maiden victory at those tournaments in 2012.

Is this going to be the Bruins' year again?

This season, the Boston Bruins have certainly not been playing at the sublime level they managed to achieve last year, despite the fact that they are sitting pretty at the top of the North-East division, holding off a recently resurgent Ottawa Senators side in the process, but they are nonetheless proving themselves to be a team not to be messed with on the ice when it comes to the crucial play-off period. During this period it is hard to look past them as one of the better NHL betting tips.
The Bruins may not have made it to the play-offs just yet, but they have plenty on their side to suggest it'll become a reality; the Bruins not only have the experience of winning the tournament last year, but also know that the fans remain faithful in their confidence in the players, even if some sections of the Canadian press have their doubts.

With the regular season now entering its crucial phase, and fans of all the NHL franchises knowing they have at least a small chance of taking in some play-off action, and all the excitement that brings to hockey cities across the nation, there's no doubting the fact that the NHL needs last season's Champions to up their game by proving they can dominate for years, rather than the single season, perhaps in the style of the once majestic and unbeatable Red Wings; formerly one of the better NHL picks.  

However, if Boston upset the odds and crash and burn before they hit the top gear we all know they're capable of hitting, we'll all just be left scratching our heads wondering where, and why, they went so badly wrong this season, and how they'll begin the rebuilding process from there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

EPL relegation fight the toughest in a long time

The fight for the EPL crown this season looks like it's going to continue to be a complex, unpredictable, and tight affair, but compared to the lower section of the EPL table, the fight for league supremacy is a walk in the park to predict. There are no obvious soccer betting tips.

Indeed, predicting which teams are going to face EPL oblivion come May is turning into something of a nightmare, with Wigan and Blackburn coming back from the dead against all the odds, and teams such as Aston Villa somehow allowing themselves to be sucked into a battle that they never wanted to be a part of.
Despite the fact that there isn't too much difference in terms of quality between the usual suspects for relegation this season, the situation has been complicated by the fact that the promoted teams (with the exception of QPR) have failed to be pulled into the scrap to go straight back down. 

Should the likes of Villa find themselves caught up in the relegation battle, it may well become a battle between some of the league's biggest names to stay in touch with the riches of the EPL and still in possession of players happy to remain with the club.
Possibly the club at most danger in the current scenario is Wigan, who have tried to pay decent wages to their players but have found it almost impossible to compete with the mid-table sides. With a near total lack of home support hindering their chances of ever being regarded as a top club, it seems likely that their EPL relegation would be a permanent one. The race is so tight that live soccer betting is likely to continue right up until the final whistle. With a few months of league action left this year, watch this space!

Petersen joins up with Essex

South Africa's Alviro Petersen will join Essex for the first half of the upcoming county season. The experienced batsman made the announcement this week on, as has become typical in the world of sport over the last few years, popular social networking site Twitter. This is the latest example of how social media has become a great place to track live cricket online.

The 31-year-old revealed that he is "delighted" at signing the short-term contract with Essex, which will run until the middle of June and involve eight County Championship fixtures along with four Clydesdale Bank fixtures. 

The news will come as something of a blow to those who were keen to see the batsman reunited with Glamorgan, a club at which he formed a positive relationship with the locals and the fans. As the club's overseas player last season, Petersen captained Glamorgan, scoring 2,039 runs in all competitions in the process, a remarkable stat and a potentially prosperous one for those indulging in cricket bets

With the player's agent making an offer, which was later rejected, to the club intended to persuade them to take him back in any possible capacity after Aussie Marcus North joined up with the Cardiff club, it seems clear that the challenge for Petersen now revolves around making a name for himself in Essex. 

Those involved with the Essex set-up seem enthused about the move, with head coach Paul Grayson stating that the club will revel in bringing in an experienced county cricketer who has proved his talent in the past against the club for Glamorgan, Petersen hitting 100 last season at the SWALEC Stadium against the club. Whether or not the batsman can use his time with the club as the sort of preparation he needs for his country's summer tour of England does, however, depend upon his commitment and fitness over the coming months. Watch this space! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bleiberg – Perth ready for Glory

Gold Coast head coach Miron Bleiberg was in no doubt that Perth are capable of going on to win this year’s A-League title after watching his side demolished 4-0 by a scintillating Glory team.

The result, coming courtesy of goals from Steven McGarry, Liam Miller, Travis Dodd and an Adama Traore own goal, now means Ian Ferguson’s in-form Perth side are just two points behind second placed Wellington Phoenix and building the sort of form that will have leaders Central Coast looking over their shoulders.

After seeing his side torn apart by the Glory, Bleiberg admitted he wouldn’t be surprised to see Perth go on and mount a real challenge for this season’s title, highlighting the strength in depth available to Ferguson and offering their challenge as one of the season's best soccer betting tips.

“The way Glory played today, they are probably championship material.”

“The Mariners have proved they are very stable and very consistent and the Roar, at their best, are the best team and we saw that a few days ago. But ... with a bit of luck of the draw, Perth can go all the way,” added Ferguson.

“Any of these players on the bench today for Perth Glory could walk into our team with red carpet, so even if you have one or two injuries you've got the depth and I'm not sure the Roar have the depth or that the Mariners do.”

A fifth win from six matches has turned the club’s disappointing start to the season right around and given their league campaign a very different look about it. With six games left in the season, it’s going to take a massive effort for the club to be able to claw back Central Coast, however, on this sort of form then it’s definitely possible. For onlookers the end of the season is set to be highly tense with live soccer betting scheduled to go right up until the final whistle of the season.

Fury dodges Price

Unbeaten heavyweight Tyson Fury has vacated his British and Commonwealth titles in a bid to step up to world-title level, in a move that has had some claiming the 23-year old was dodging David Price.

Fury, unbeaten in his 17 professional fights, had won the titles after his victory against Dereck Chisora in 2010, defending his Commonwealth belt in a comprehensive knockout of Canada's Neven Pajkic last year.

It had been thought, and hoped, that Fury would go on to fight Price in his next defence following the Liverpudlian's sensational first round knockout of John McDermott, however, the 23-year-old will instead seek a crack at the big time, despite previously insisting he would continue to defend his titles.  Fans of in-play boxing betting should bear this in mind.

Price will now take on Sam Sexton for Fury's vacated belts, but that hasn't gone down well with the Olympic bronze medallist, who believes Fury has ducked a fight which he felt was too risky, instead choosing to keep his unbeaten record rather than give the fans the bout they want. 

"I can't believe Fury has shown himself to be what he truly is, which is a coward."

"After my last fight against John McDermott I came out and said that Tyson Fury is a fighting man. Well, he's proved me wrong," added Price.

"He's embarrassed himself and the sport of boxing, but he's let the fans down the most. The fans deserved to see the fight."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bog Cheltenham target rests on Naas performance

The exciting Bog Warrior looks set to return to racecourse duty at Naas on February 11 when tackling the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Novice Chase in preference to the more prestigious Grade 1 Moriarty Novice Chase at Leopardstown the following day, writes Elliot Slater.

Te main object of the Naas exercise is to reassure connections of the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding that he is none the worse mentally or physically for his crunching fall sustained at Leopardstown at the end of December when coming to grief in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase in which he took a heavy fall at the fourth fence having been sent off the odds-on 4/5 market leader. Not only did the son of Strategic Choice take a nasty tumble, but he also brought down his Tony Martin-trained stable companion Gift of Dgab who in turn gave him a hefty kick in the head as he came down.

Not surprisingly after such an unpleasant experience Martin gave his star performer a few weeks complete rest and has gradually brought him back to something close to concert pitch, Bog Warrior having proved prior to his last outing that he is one of the best novice chasers in Ireland in rattling up a tremendously impressive hattrick that culminated in a stunning 31-length defeat of Shinrock Paddy in the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in November. People following the best ante-post Cheltenham race odds will have been very impressed.

Martin has gone on record as stating that Bog Warrior is undoubtedly the best horse he has ever trained and hopes will be high that the eight-year-old can resume winning ways and gain a confidence boosting success ahead of his likely bid for honours at the Cheltenham Festival in March where options are still open as to which of the RSA Chase, the Arkle Chase, or the Jewson Novices Chase, he will contest. That decision will finally be made in the aftermath of Bog Warrior’s Naas performance.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trifolium enters Supreme Novice Hurdle calculations

Charles Byrnes produced a likely sort for serious consideration in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 13 when his Trifolium destroyed a good field at Punchestown to thrust himself firmly into the reckoning for the opening race of the showcase international jumps racing fixture, writes Elliot Slater.

Sent off the 7/4 favourite for the Grade 2 Racing UK Moscow Flyer Novices Hurdle, the five-year-old glided through the heavy ground and was always travelling strongest in the hands of Davy Russell. Sent on into the lead at the third from home, the son of Goldneyev proved way too good for his main market rival, the Willie Mullins-trained Simenon, (formerly a very decent peformer on the Flat with Andrew Balding), who eventually had to settle for second place nine-lengths behind the very impressive winner and a further nine-lengths in front of the third horse home, Fairyhouse winner Caolaneoin. Fans of a Stan James review need to remember this.

Byrnes observed that although Trifolium took a grip in the early stages of the Punchestown contest he settled much better than when second to So Young at Navan on his previous outing and that the youngster is certainly improving with experience. That’s a point that doesn’t seem to have been lost on the layers who were seriously impressed by the winner, cutting him from as big as 50/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle prior to his this victory to as short as 10/1 with some firms, although 16/1 can still be found in places. Those search for BetVictor free bets will have to bear this in mind.

Expected to prove to be even more effective on a decent surface, it is looking increasingly likely that Byrnes will let Trifolium take his chance at Cheltenham in what appears to be one of the most open contests of the whole four-day fixture with bookmakers currently making Steps To Freedom a 10/1 ante-post favourite just ahead of Darlan, Cinders And Ashes and Simonsig.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Home gallop to decide Synchronised next target

Synchronised, strongly fancied for the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 12 and a lively each-way hope for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup just over a month later, will have a crucial gallop at trainer Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle gallops to decide whether or not he is ready to take in the big Irish Grade 1 event, writes Elliot Slater.

O'Neill has made no secret of his concern that the surprise Lexus Chase winner has not fully recovered from his exertions in the Leopardstown contest on December 28, and will not allow him to travel back to Ireland if he feels the horse is anywhere short of his best. The gallop should clarify O'Neill's mind one way or the other, with the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old also having a date in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in mid-April pencilled in on his calendar. Anyone following the latest Cheltenham Festival odds will be keeping a close eye on which path he decides to take.

Prior to his impressive eight-length defeat of Rubi Light last time out over three miles, most people had viewed the gelded son of Sadler's Wells as no more than a classy staying handicapper, but in making the jump to Grade 1 winner he is now being taken far more seriously having shown he has the cruising speed to mix it with top three-mile performers when the ground is riding soft or heavy.

It's fair to say that on a better surface Synchronised would almost certainly be lacking the necessary gears to lay up with the likes of Long Run and Kauto Star, but should the ground come up soft at Cheltenham he is more likely than most to be putting in his best work at the finish, up the hill over the testing three-and-a-quarter-mile track. A 3/1 shot should he take his chance in the Irish Hennessey, Synchronised is a top price 12/1 fourth-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, behind last year's winner Long Run (9/4).

Buddle under no illusion

Football betting:

EDSON BUDDLE is under no illusion he faces a much harder task breaking back into the LA Galaxy attack now that he is back at the Home Depot Center.

The 30-year-old has returned to the MLS from a spell in Germany with FC Ingolstadt desperate to beef up a strikeforce boasting the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane.

The New Rochelle native left his homeland at the end of the 2010 season when his contract with Galaxy was up and the club in turn decided to sign Juan Pablo Angel.

He admitted he always kept one eye on his former employers during his brief spell in Bundesliga 2.

"There was not a day in Germany that I didn’t think about the Galaxy," Buddle said in a press conference on Monday.

A change of manager at Audi-Sportpark meant a change of direction for Buddle, who scored 17 goals in his last full season in MLS, and the chance to move back to the MLS Cup winners.

"We both agreed to go our separate ways and it was in my best interest to find a better club," he added.

Buddle revealed he was anxious to resurrect his career at such an important age and accepted it was vital he hit the ground running.

"I'm hard on myself," he said. "I always want to do well and want to do better than I did last time I was here anyway. That's just a goal of mine. No one can put any more pressure on myself than I do."

For those looking to bet on soccer games these constitute interesting developments.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New York Giants "Couldn't be in better shape"

Tom Coughlin beamed with satisfaction at the end of a second straight day of practice and said his New York Giants players could not be in better shape to face New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) came through what the franchise described as a limited 88-minute session on the University of Indianapolis' FieldTurf indoor practice field.

Perhaps most encouraging for Coughlin was confirmation that cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring), wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (shoulder) and special-teamer/linebacker Jacquian Williams (foot), who were all restricted on Wednesday, came through the latest itinerary. All of these updates will prove of interest to those engaging in NFL bets.

In the final two first-unit offensive possessions of the day, quarterback Eli Manning also completed 10 of 11 throws and looked sharp; an good sign for those partaking in football betting.

The 31-year-old, now in his eighth season and winner of the MVP award in 2008 when New York recorded a shock Super Bowl XLII victory over the previously-unbeaten Patriots, completed 4,933 yards during the regular season.

New York head coach Coughlin said: "We did fine. The energy level, the enthusiasm, the excitement is all there, as it should be, as it was yesterday."

He added: "They're really excited to practice for the game. I think they've done very well. This was a good day of preparation."

Coughlin also revealed the Giants would not be switching hotels to avoid the Super Bowl XLVI frenzy on the eve of the showpiece in Indianapolis.

New York, who were located away from downtown Phoenix four years ago, are only a short walk from Lucas Oil Stadium and Coughlin revealed the franchise had no desire to switch venues.

United fightback to stun Chelsea

Manchester United staged a typically spirited fightback to stun Chelsea and earn a point at Stamford Bridge.

United looked dead and buried when David Luiz made it 3-0, but two Wayne Rooney penalties and a Javier Hernandez header six minutes from time ensured they closed the gap on Manchester City to two points.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have a disappointing record at Chelsea over the past decade and were under pressure following City’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Fulham. The Blues meanwhile were under plenty of pressure themselves, with their premier league odds slipping in recent weeks after some damaging defeats. They knew a win against the Red Devils would go a long way to getting them back on track.

Despite their recent struggles at Stamford Bridge, United started brightly and felt the home side should have been reduced to ten men when last man Gary Cahill brought Danny Welbeck down on the edge of the area.

The visitors were enraged but continued to dominate play, which made the opening goal just before half-time all the more surprising. Daniel Sturridge showed enterprise to evade Patrice Evra in the box before seeing his cross diverted home by Jonny Evans.

Things went from bad to worse for United within a minute of the restart. Fernando Torres delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right and Juan Mata volleyed the ball past David de Gea in emphatic fashion.

Chelsea looked to have made the game safe four minutes later when Luiz’s header deflected past De Gea, only for United to storm back.

They needed more than a slice of fortune along the way. Rooney converted from the spot after Sturridge fouled Evra and repeated the feat ten minutes later when Branislav Ivanovic was adjudged to have brought down Welbeck.

Chelsea were on the back foot and Hernandez completed the comeback for United with a firm header.

The home side pressed for a winner but found an inspired De Gea in their way and had to settle for a point from a seemingly unassailable position. They may have left disappointed, but it can’t be denied that the fans who Watch Football Live at Stamford Bridge were treated to a fantastic 90 minutes of football.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Buck's looks top dollar after latest imperious victory

The sensational Big Buck's is reported to be in fine shape after his latest success in the Grade 2 Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of January and is bang on target to attempt a fourth successive victory in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 15, writes Elliot Slater.

Landing a remarkable 15th successive victory over hurdles the Andy Stewart-owned nine--year-old was, (as usual), sent off at prohibitive odds for the three-mile contest and, as usual jockey Ruby Walsh was more than happy to bide his time on the great horse. The pace began to noticeably quicken at the third from home where David Pipe's Dynaste began his move, injecting a further burst of speed at the penultimate flight that for a few strides gave the slightest hope for those opposing the favourite that he might just be in trouble. Fans of Stan James should remember this.

As always though when push comes to shove Big Buck's just seems to find an extra gear, and as he lengthened his stride on the home turn it soon became obvious that he was certain to reel in the brave front-runner who he duly joined and passed at the final obstacle before storming clear up the famous hill to score by a comfortable seven-lengths, prompting Nicholls to suggest that this latest effort might very well have been one of the best of the Cadoudal gelding's glittering career. Those placing a VC bet should bear this in mind.

Already the hottest ante-post favourite of the whole four-day Cheltenham Festival extravaganza prior to this latest effort, Big Buck's was duly cut from a best price of 8/13 to as short as 4/9 now with some leading layers, although bits and pieces of 4/7 and 8/15 can still be found for looking. It would take a very brave man indeed to bet against the star staying hurdler of this generation not winning again and claim a fourth World Hurdle on his next outing.

Featherbed set to face step up in class

The rapidly improving handicap hurdler Featherbed Lane looks set to take his chance in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock in mid-February on his way to a tilt at either the Coral Cup or County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival a month later, writes Elliot Slater.

Terry Warner, owner of the exciting seven-year-old, suggested that trainer Philip Hobs has earmarked the Haydock event (set to be run this term under the banner of the Betfred Goals Galore Trial Hurdle), after seeing his charge fail by the narrowest of margins to complete a hattrick of wins this term when beaten a nose by the progressive mare Swincombe Flame in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton in January. Those following the best Cheltenham festival betting will have been impressed.

Having shown promise in his two previous seasons without having made any great impression, Featherbed Lane has improved significantly this term, starting out off a mark of 120 and winning on his seasonal bow at Ascot in November, beating the decent Decoy by two-and-a-half-lengths. A 9lb rise in the weights failed to prevent the gelded son of Saddler’s Hall following up at Aintree three weeks later when slamming Donald McCain’s Reindeer Dippin by 14-lengths to earn a further 15lb rise in his official mark to 144.

At Kempton everything looked set for a third successive win as the James Best-ridden market fancy stormed to the front before the last, but after going a length clear on the run-in he began to idle and opened the door for the relentless Swincombe Flame to come and nab him on the post in the very last stride. Now a 16/1 co-second favourite for the Coral Cup and a 20/1 shot for the Vincent O’Brien Handicap hurdle back at the minimum trip, Hobbs is keen to see just how far his inmate has improved and clearly believes that the Rendlesham Hurdle, set to be run on Featherbed Lane’s preferred testing ground, will provide him with all the answers he needs.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Brady is a marked man

Ahead of Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s directive is clear – stop New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Pierre-Paul has enjoyed a whirlwind start to his professional career since being drafted by the Giants 18 months ago. The Florida-born rookie has 16.5 sacks so far in his sophomore season.

Pierre-Paul realises the Giants must disrupt the flow of the Patriots three-time Super Bowl winner if they are to repeat their shock victory over the same opponents in 2008. The best Super Bowl betting odds reflect this.

That victory came before Pierre-Paul’s time, but the plan hasn’t changed in four years. The defensive end knows closing Brady down will go some way to deciding which team lifts the Lombardi trophy at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Pierre-Paul said: "We have to get after him (Brady), and that's what we have to do.

"He can pick our defence. He can throw the ball even if our coverage is very good. That's scary, but as defensive linemen, we just have to get to him fast enough. Our secondary can cover the guys real quick, and hopefully that will help us out."

The 23-year-old originally had his sights set on a career in basketball. A twist of fate redirected his career path. He broke his leg in high school and was convinced by his coaches that his physical attributes would make him a star in the NFL.

"I never thought of playing football. They dragged me onto the field. I didn't know what I was doing. All they said was rush the quarterback, basically, and that's what I did from there on out," Pierre-Paul added.

If Pierre-Paul and his team-mates can stop Brady, he could well be celebrating a first Super Bowl victory in just his second season on Sunday evening.

Soccer debate on tackling causes confusion

The English Premier League is often regarded in a superior light to all other soccer leagues in world soccer, and one of the primary factors behind this is the fast, furious, and unrelenting nature of the game, with no teams holding back from giving each fixture their all, and players all too happy to put their bodies on the line for the sake of their team.

However, despite that, there is currently a fierce debate raging in the EPL regarding the art of tackling, and in particular the manner in which referees should respond to players throwing themselves wholeheartedly into tackles, with the lunging two footed tackle currently the biggest bone of contention by quite some distance.

With the two footed tackle normally a challenge that involves players jumping in the air, lifting their feet off the ground, and risking a serious injury to their opponent. The punishment, of course, is a red card, which can dramatically alter live soccer betting  markets and punters’ soccer betting tips.

More importantly though you have to consider the risk of serious injury, this particular debate perhaps isn't even worth having, with a number of players in recent years almost seeing their careers brought to an untimely end after such dangerous tackles.

However, perhaps one manager who should be philosophically opposed to this sort of tackling more than any other in England is Arsene Wenger, who has seen a number of his players pick up sickening injuries on the pitch, but the Frenchman seems happy to let these challenges stay in the game, suggesting that the argument isn't quite as cut and dry as you may assume.

With nobody wanting to see players injured on the field of play, there is another side to the argument that suggests the level of interest in the EPL might drastically lessen if the more physical side of the game was eradicated. Unfortunately for English soccer fans, unlike the more technical soccer on display in La Liga, the EPL wouldn't be able to make up for this reduction in excitement for neutrals with a variety of skills and neat footwork, meaning that the future of the league itself could be placed firmly on the line with the banning of physical play.

Mowbray insistent over Williams

Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray has once again insisted Rhys Williams will not be allowed to leave the club despite the young Aussie being linked with a move to the Premiership.

Williams, along with the likes of Matthew Bates and Marvin Emnes, has been heavily courted by a number of top-flight clubs according to live soccer betting markets. However, Mowbray has made it clear none of his squad’s key players will be allowed to leave the club, who are looking to secure a return to the Premier League.

“I'm pretty sure that anyone we don't want to lose won't be leaving,” said Mowbray.

“Rhys Williams is not out of contract and talking to him the boy's pretty comfortable here so I don't see that being an issue.”

“He wants to try and help us get back to the Premier League.”

The versatile Williams has been an ever-present in the Boro side this season, helping the club to fourth in the Championship. The club are now in a great position to mount a genuine bid for promotion this season and will need their star players such as Williams if they are going to have any chance of getting out of this league.

If Middlesbrough fail to secure promotion back to the Premier League, then soccer betting tips suggest they would struggle to hang onto the talented 23-year old. Bolton, West Brom and QPR are among a host of top-flight clubs that have reportedly been tracking the Perth-born midfielder, and will all still be interested come the end of the season.

Promotion will be important for Middlesbrough for a number of reasons; hanging onto their star players will be just one of those.