Follow Don Poli On Grand National Trail

After another emotional weekend at Cheltenham, the dust has begun to settle. Nicky Henderson’s stable star Sprinter Sacre was retired after a glistening caterer before Simonsig’a resurgence was tragically cut short after a fall on Sunday. It shows the lows of the game and my thoughts are with all at Seven Barrows.

Looking to the future, Nicky will have a number of big runners to try and have some small silver lining, with My Tent Or Yours and Vyta Du Roc looking to hold major claims shortly.

However today I’m looking slightly further ahead, bypassing even the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand National is a race for the nation, that the purists aren’t too keen on overly investing it.

With 30 fences and four and a half miles to travel, there is plenty that can go wrong but with recent moderation, fallers are rarer than ever.

So, it may be worth taking a small punt on a horse that looks tailor made for the race, given his class and scope to enjoy a stamina sapping trip.

That horse, is last years Cheltenham Gold Cup third, Don Poli. Having won twice at the Cheltenham Festival precious to that, including a staying-on effort in the RSA Chase, he’s proven he has tons of ability, though it’s always been fairly obvious that he’s not a horse blessed with raw speed.

Often referred to a ‘boat’, Don Poli stays on gamely in nearly all of his races, shown to full effect in last years Gold Cup, when he was woefully outpaced before rattling up the hill to take third.

A true test looks ideal for him and connections gave him a spin at Aintree last year, where he looked a sitting duck for the strong travelling Many Clouds (that years Grand National winner), before out battling him despite saddle problems.

It may have been a run to test out suitability for the track with a future Grand National run in mind and given Gigginstown often have a strong hand in the race (won it last year with Rule The World), it looks likely that Don Poli will have his season plotted around Aintree in April.

He has moved to Gordon Elliot’s yard after Michae O’Leary moved his horses from Willie Mullins and this may not be a bad thing with Aintree in mind.

Elliot sprung on to the scene as an exuberant young trainer as Silver Birch won the Grand National back in 2007, in a campaign that showed he could get one ready for its big day.

Mullins had struggled with Iuck and finding the ‘right horse’ at Aintree, so a move to Elliot could be a blessing for his National chances.

His last run is a slight concern, given he failed to show any remnants of last seasons quality but he was hampered and he is sure to strip fitter for that effort.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him revert to hurdles for a spell and maybe try his hand in a couple of big chases, which could see his mark slip for a crack at the big one in April.

Don Poli is currently available at 25/1, which seems fair at this point in time and bet365 are already offering five places.

Selection: Grand National – Don Poli @ 25/1 (Various)

Lancaster Bomber Can Land Breeders’ Cup Success

For two days every year, European eyes are cast across the Atlantic as the US of A put on two fantastic cards of racing.

Ok, ok, Friday’s action may well be an amuse bouche for Saturday’s super-size main course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it just as much.

Despite a rather underwhelming European challenge to this year’s Breeders’ Cup party, Friday sees a couple of major chances, including Lancaster Bomber in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Aidan O’Brien’s number one participant in the race appears to be Intelligence Cross, who has twice finished credibly behind the impressive Mehmas, before being rather tentatively handled when running on well in the Middle Park Stakes last time out.

He has the added bonus of Ryan Moore in the plate and it is obvious to see why he will undoubtedly prove popular. However the performance of his stablemate, Lancaster Bomber, last time out, mean it is hard to ignore his glaring chances from stall one.

After underperforming on softer surfaces he was given what looked to be a ‘pacemaking’ role on his last two starts. On a quick surface, he has battled on well after coming under pressure finishing nine-lengths behind Classic favourite, Churchill, before closing the gap to just one-and-a-quarter lengths at Newmarket.

He was sent off at 66/1 in the Dewhurst, after being expected to ensure a fair pace before falling back through the field. As expected, he came under pressure a fair way out as the strong-travelling Churchill moved past him. However, as he looked set to trickle back tamely, he changed gears and stayed on well to retake second and close on the eventual impressive winner, finishing eye-catchingly well.

Rivet, who was back in fifth, has since come out and franked the form by winning the Racing Post Trophy and it may well turn out to be a very strong race.

Lancaster Bomber steps up to a mile at Santa Anita and this should be perfect. Stall one could be a blessing as it now gives Seamie Heffernan added emphasis to pop him out and make the running. He will be a hard horse to pass if he can kick off the bend and at 7/1, he looks fair value to even make the frame.

Elsewhere on the opening evening, La Coronel could be worth a second look in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf. The European raiders are to the fore in the market but the manner in with the American filly picked up to win on her last two starts was very impressive.

If she hadn’t have underwhelmed during her first two starts (still not terrible runs) she could be shorter. A draw of 14 is far from ideal however, but it’s not impossible to overcome as Hit It A Bomb showed last year. Expect her to strike late and at 9/1, she could go well.


1.5pt win – Lancaster Bomber (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) @ 7/1 (Various)

0.5pt win – La Coronel (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf) @ 9/1 (Various)

Prince Of Scars Could Land RSA Crown

We’re only just entering the very early stages of the National Hunt season but there’s already whispers of the Cheltenham Festival after a very enjoyable Cheltenham Showcase meeting.

One of the most enjoyable betting feelings (although it nearly always ends in tears) is taking fancy prices about a horse early in the season and then sitting smugly as it continues to shorten until the day of the race, should it actually make it unscathed, at Cheltenham.

It carries obvious risks and isn’t always the greatest money-making scheme, though there are definite reasons to suggest singles and perhaps doubles, could be worth pursuing if you think the price is right.

One horse in particular who could be worth following en route to The Festival is Gordon Elliot’s Prince Of Scars. The former classy hurdler looks set to embark on a Novices’ Chase campaign this season and after showing plenty of ability last year, he looks interesting in the big races at Cheltenham.

However, if you are contemplating a punt on the horse, be prepared for the fact he will only run, should the ground be sufficiently soft. Cheltenham in March is a question mark, as we have seen extremely heavy or rattling quick, so that has to be something to bear in mind.

Still, if you are committed to the cause, then the current 33/1 for the RSA Chase could prove to be very tempting. Those towards the head of the market have plenty of question marks about potential engagements over hurdles/fences, 2m4f & 3m, so it could be a race to steer clear of, if you’re not overly fond of taking a risk.

Prince Of Scars made a rather inauspicious start to maiden hurdling, though his runner-up effort in a Listed Hurdle on his second start over the obstacles suggested he had some ability. He was put away for a decent break after switching to the Gordon Elliott yard and that seemed to do the trick, as he has since won three of his four races.

He won a handicap hurdle a shade cosily on his first start for the yard before showing battling qualities, to follow up soon after in a thrilling finish at Navan. His home work must have suggested he was worth a go in better company as he was seemingly tossed in the deep end in the Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown in late December.

The Heavy ground seemed to work in his favour as he travelled beautifully before pulling clear of genuine top quality animals, Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Arctic Fire.

He swerved Cheltenham and waited for the subsequent softer ground at Aintree where he ran on well without ever threatening Thistlecrack and Shaneshill. 0pair are real Grade One animals, so finishing as close as he did was a solid effort.

The scope he possesses and his action over hurdles, suggest he may be suited to fences and in a recent interview, Gordon Elliot suggested he is looking forward to the soft ground so he can get Prince Of Scars back out.

Elliott is usually brilliant at finding an opportunity for a horse early on and if he can show he get round in style, the 33/1 for the RSA may well shorten. All things being well, we will be treated to a wetter Cheltenham this season and this lad may well turn up as a real contended in the RSA.


1pt e.w – RSA Chase – Prince Of Scars @ 33/1 (bet365)


Five To Follow – National Hunt 16/17

It’s that time of the season, when the horses to follow lists come out and horses are jotted into trackers and notebooks across the land.

The National Hunt sphere sees old favourite come back year on year, so my particular five to follow are fairly young (majority are novices’), so that there may be value in following them progress.

Hopefully the sextet can see us build up to the big days with plenty of profit already banked!

EDWULF (7-y-o gelding – Joseph O’Brien – JP McManus)

Another to keep an eye on as the season progresses is the potentially useful Edwulf. He’s in the capable hands of fledgling trainer Joseph O’Brien after moving from father Aidan’s yard after his switch from Ben Pauling.

He ran three times for Aidan last season and there was three promising, yet very frustrating runs. Despite being sent off a big price on his chasing debut, he looked to have the race in the bag as he powered clear before the last only to come to grief at the final obstacle.

A drop down to hurdles followed after being purchased by JP McManus and despite sketchy jumping as the tempo increased, he battled on well to hold the very useful Haymount at bay. A Grade 2 beckoned next and again, he was running a big race before coming down at the third last.

Of course, jumping is clearly an issue but having spent a summer schooling with Joseph and his team, he is sure to have learned a lot. It looks as though the plan is to return to Novices’ Chases and he could progress into a very useful horse, should his jumping hold up.


BATTLE OF SHILOH (7-y-o gelding – Tom George – Paul and Clare Rooney)

Tom George and Paddy Brennan have enjoyed a superb partnership over the years, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see the pair part ways, as Adrian Heskin arrives from Ireland to become retained rider for George.

They have started well and surprisingly and they look to have plenty of solid horses to go to war with this season, with one of the most interesting, the still unbeaten Battle Of Shiloh.

Having won twice in the P2P sphere, he scored gamely on both hurdles starts last season. He rallied strongly on both occasions and it appears he has tremendous courage to go with his eye-catching ability.

It looked as though his unbeaten run was going to come to an abrupt end after some shoddy jumping on his chasing debut earlier this season and after a mistake at the last seen him a fair few lengths behind Jimmy The Jetplane, it looked as though he was to succumb to defeat.

However after a couple of reminders he picked up smartly and in the end, went past Jimmy The Jetplane to win smartly going away in the shadows of the post.

He is sure to have learned plenty from that run and with many sure to take the run on its bare form, the manner of the win suggests he could be a fair few pounds ahead of the handicapper. He has improvement to come and he is one who could be worth keeping on side as the season progresses.

WESTEND STORY (5-y-o gelding – Phillip Hobbs – Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club)

Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson often team up with great success and one of their more likely types this season looks to be the exciting Westend Story.

He made a fairly innocuous start to racing life, falling twice in P2P’s, before a switch to bumpers – and the Phillip Hobbs stable – seemed to work some magic. He made his debut on Boxing Day at Huntingdon, in what looked a decent enough bumper, before being backed into odds-on, winning by a cosy six-lengths.

It was a very pleasing performance for connections and they wouldn’t have to wait too long before tasting success again, as he broke the heart of his rivals on Valentine’s Day (I’m sorry), winning a race at Exeter by 18l.

They didn’t turn out to be the strongest of races, which allowed him to be sent off at 20/1 in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He travelled nicely into the race before looking set to be outpaced over three furlongs out, as the tempo increased.

He was slightly tapped for toe but he responded well to his rider’s urgings, staying on well without ever having the pace to threaten the leaders. He picked up the pieces to finish fifth and over a longer trip this season, he could be a force to be reckoned with, if schooling at the Hobbs stable has worked.

Of course, that is a slight concern given his P2P efforts but Hobbs is often reliable at readying one for their novice hurdling campaign. He’s currently 33/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and it will be interesting to see where he aimed.










MARRACUDJA (5-y-o gelding – Paul Nicholls – Ditcheat Racing Club Marracudja)

It wouldn’t be a five (or ten) to follow over the jumps without a Paul Nicholls runner and this year, that coveted nod goes towards Marracudja. He made a rather disappointing start to live over hurdles, flopping behind the very impressive Peace And Co.

He was put away for the rest of the season and when returning fresh, he won two novices’ hurdles at Wincanton in fine style, suggesting he had plenty of ability. He contested a really competitive race at Kempton on Boxing Day, where he ran a fine race to be third behind subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Altior.

He returned for a Grade 2 at Kempton at the end of February and he battled on well, only just failing to get the better of the well-regarded Winter Escape. He was a no-show in a Grade 1 at Aintree but he showed no ill-effects of that race, as he embarked on a chasing career earlier this month.

It always looked as though he would develop into a chaser and if he progresses from his hurdles form, he will be a force to be a reckoned with in the novice division. He could hardly have been more impressive on debut, defying a drift, jumping boldly out in front before moving readily clear of subsequent winner Ballyboley.

He ticked all the boxes as an impressive novice and given his trainer is already nominating targets at Aintree and Punchestown (likely to skip Cheltenham), it suggests he rates him highly. He could be a very nice horse.

CONSUL DE THAIX (4-y-o gelding – Nicky Henderson – JP McManus)

The final member of the five to follow comes from the Nicky Henderson yard, in Consul De Thaix. The JP McManus-owned gelding ran twice in Britain last season for Henderson and it was evident they rated him highly, as he was thrown in at the deep end with a Grade 2 engagement at Cheltenham.

He travelled with enthusiasm for Barry Geraghty and looked to have every chance coming over the last. He battled bravely but couldn’t find what was required to get past the highly-rated Protek De Flos and Clan Des Obeaux.

Subsequently, he was put away until being aimed at the Triumph Hurdle, for which he was sent off at 33/1. He was kept towards the rear of the field and was outpaced when push came to shove but he stayed on once beaten to run a nice enough race.

Considering it was only his second start under rules in this country, it was a fair effort and it would be no surprise to see him aimed at graded races or maybe a top end handicap later in the season.

He has plenty of scope to improve under the handling of Nicky Henderson and he rates as an exciting prospect that perhaps may slip under the radar.

Enjoy A Sweet Selection In The Cesarewitch

Friday sends us into the weekend in buoyant mood, after Rhododendron scored impressively at HQ. She showed real class and is an exciting prospect to follow, if she heads over to the Breeders’s Cup.

Hopefully her performance will bode well for the weekend, where Sweet Selection is selection in the Cesarewitch. Hughie Morrison’s charge is well and truly on an upward curve this season, rattling up a hat-trick of wins before following up a decent effort at York, with a career-best fifth place in the Doncaster Cup.

She gets in the Cesarewitch off a mark of 87 and that is set to significantly rise in the coming weeks. Champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa is riding well and he is a solid booking. The four-year-old will relish the trip, should have no issues with the ground and looks sure to go close off a generous weight. The current 9/1 is fair value and given most firms are offering five places (six at Sky Bet), then she deserves another look.

Elsewhere on a fantastic day of racing, Churchill looks set to cement his Classic status with a big performance in the Dewhurst. He should take all the beating but from a betting perspective, it may be worth taking a trip to York to sample some more value.

The Rockingham Stakes (3.10 York) looks a fair renewal but Sir Dancealot is a horse who could prove a cut above his rivals. He made a fairly inauspicious start to racing life in a hot Windsor maiden but that run was left well in the past, as he came out next time and hacked up at Kempton, landing a fairly serious gamble in the process.

He followed up in a decent Conditions race at the same track next (subsequent winner Fly At Dawn was back in third) and his final start to date confirmed all promise. It looked a solid Group 3 (though favourite Escobar clearly wasn’t right) and he looked a potential winner a furlong out.

He travelled nicely for Jim Crowley (has ridden him on all four occasions) and battled on well behind Larchmont Lad and Whitecliffsofdover, getting within a length at the line.

The form could prove to be very strong and given he wasn’t overly well placed during the race last time, it would be no surprise him improve on that performance.

The drop back to 6f is a slight concern given he has pulled hard on occasions but he settled well last time and if that is the case on Saturday, he can pounce off a strong pace from a favourable high draw. Shane Kelly is an able deputy to Crowley and the current 4/1 seems a very fair bet in what looks a winnable Listed race.


1pt e/w: Sweet Selection (Cesarewitch) @ 9/1 Various

1.5pts win: Sir Dancealot (15.10 York) @ 4/1 Various




Side With Rhododendron At Newmarket

Racing returns to terrestrial TV this Friday, as the Channel 4 cameras pan to Newmarket and York.

The fillies take centre stage in the Fillies’ Mile, with plenty hoping the leading protagonists can follow last year’s winner Minding in taking a leading role in next year’s Classics.

Godolphin won the race on three consecutive occasions from 2010-2012, so it’s no surprise to see sufficient interest in current market leader Sobetsu. The filly showed plenty of promise when running behind the reappearing Spatial, before going on to a wide-margin victory at HQ.

She could potentially be anything and although there is a fair level of excitement surrounding her, it may be worth taking a chance with Rhododendron. Aidan O’Brien’s filly is already a Group 2 winner, after scoring in battling fashion, edging out her repappearing stablemate, Hydrangea.

O’Brien’s got his string in fine form, as shown by his 1-2-3 in the Arc last weekend, and the fact his filly Found fared best gives an extra, albeit small, boost of confidence ahead of the Fillies’ Mile.

Rhododenron landed a mini-gamble when winning her maiden at Glorious Goodwood and after back-to-back wins, she ran a nice enough race in defeat last time in the Moyglare. This looks a logical step and given her breeding suggests she will relish the step up to a mile, the current 4/1 looks more than fair.

Ryan Moore gets back on board (he is 1/1 on her) and she can announce herself as a possible Classic type and make it three in a row for Aidan O’Brien.

Elsewhere on the card, it is a shame Mark Johnston appears to be in poor form. His runners have struggled to reach the expected heights over the past week and there may well be some small issues plaguing his animals. However, this appears to have been factored into the price of three of his runners on Friday.

He saddles Yalta in the opener and the colt looks extremely interesting. After scoring twice in fine fashion, he disappointed in hot company. He slammed rivals with ease in the Molecomb and given The Last Lion – subsequent Middle Park winner – was back in second, the form looks solid.

Two disappoint efforts have ensued, though one of these was when sent off well-fancied for the Nunthorpe, and he has now acquired something of an all-or-nothing reputation. This may be the case tomorrow, though the 8/1 could prove to be a silly price now back in Group 3 company.

Another pair of Johnston runners are Lumiere and New Caledonia. Lumiere put a poor Guineas display behind her when bolting up over 6f at Newmarket next time out. A flat effort at Deauvile was followed with a nice enough third at Doncaster and if she has her own way of things in front, she could be hard to stop on a going day in the 14.05. The 11/1 is fair, though there has to be slight reservations given MJ’s form.

The same can be applied to New Caledonia, who benefited from the step up to 10f, when winning at Ascot last month. He was a credible third to Southdown Lad on softer than ideal ground last time and could be ahead of his current mark of 95, now returning to a strongly ran 10f on better ground in the 15.45.

He’s been notably strong in the market since the prices opened, which has to be taken as a positive given the MJ factor and he is of interest at a current 9/1. Yalta, Lumiere & New Caledonia could ensure Johnston returns to form in some style, all at nice prices.


2pts win: Rhododendron (Fillies’ Mile) @ 4/1 (Various)




Erik The Red Can Answer Cambridgeshire Conundrum

The Cambridgeshire is often one of the most intriguing betting heats to take place on the Rowley Mile, as a large field spans right across the track.

As always, we’re in for a big price favourite, with last year’s winner Third Time Lucky heading the betting at 8/1. This appears to have been his aim for some time, so he should be readied to perfection but at a bigger price, it is Erik The Red that looks worth a second look.

Kevin Ryan is in fair form himself and after Erik The Red rattled up a quickfire hat-trick around this time last year, it could be argued the Cambridgeshire will have been suggested as a long-term goal.

He has hit the frame in four of his six handicap bows this season, including a fine third at York off this mark last time. He was given plenty to do that day and stayed on well, so now with Paul Mulrennan on board, it would be no surprise to see the rider make more use of him.

He’s drawn high, so should get a nice toe into the race and if he can improve, which isn’t out of the realms of possibility for the 4-y-o gelding, then he should go very close at a rather large 25/1. Sky Bet are currently joint-top price and are paying SIX PLACES, so it looks worth a small investment at this stage.

Elsewhere on Saturday’s Newmarket card, Best Of Days can make up for his close runner-up effort at York by getting his head in front in the Royal Lodge Stakes before Lady Aurelia shows her dazzling speed in the Cheveley Park Stakes.

The Middle Park Stakes looks fairly disappointing without the star turn of Caravaggio, yet Mehmas could be the answer against Blue Point. Richard Hannon JR’s colt got the better of the favourite when the pair met at Goodwood before his stamina was slightly stretched when runner-up to the classy Churchill in Ireland.

Back over his favoured six furlongs, Mehmas, who will be retired to stud at the end of his 2-y-o career, can confirm form with the favourite and he certainly looks value at the prices.


1pt ew – Erik The Red – Cambridgeshire – 25/1 (Sky Bet – 6 places)

1.5pt win – Mehmas – Middle Park – 5/1 (Various)

Forge Clear At Newmarket

Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting takes centre stage tomorrow and there looks to be plenty of interesting sorts taking to the Rowley Mile.

We begin with a Listed contest at 1.50 and although wide-open, it isn’t the strongest renewal in terms of class. However there are a number of interesting runners, including Wilamina, who looks potentially useful before a disappointing effort last time out. If you’re willing to line through that performance, then she should be bang there at a nice double figure price. However, the nod goes towards Kevin Ryan’s charge, Ashadihan.

The filly burst onto the scene with a blistering turn of foot during a Haydock maiden victory, before running a huge race to finish second in the Albany. Something was clearly amiss as she flopped in the Albany but she bounced back in style, with a smooth success in a Lingfield Group 3 on her first start of the season.

She ran solid enough raves behind Alice Springs and Qemah on her last two starts at Group 1 level and now a return to tomorrow’s level should allow to go mightily close again. At 6/1, she looks a solid proposition.

It would be a surprise to see Journey turned over in the 2.30, as a reproduction of last year’s form puts her clear of rivals and her efforts this season have suggested she’s retained plenty of ability. She won this race by eight lengths last season and should take the beating yet again.

It’s hard to back against Fair Eva in the Rockfel Stakes, as she is sure to relish the step up to 7f for the first time. Her pedigree (daughter of the mighty Frankel) suggests she will enjoy further in time and although she was turned over by the very smart Queen Kindly at York, the winner had conditions perfect and may turn out to be more suited to a sharp six at this stage.

Her odds aren’t fantastic but it could be a performance to put forward her 1000 Guineas credentials. Exmouth has the potential to be extremely useful but the more experience Fair Eva should have enough to keep her at bay in what looks a safe enough forecast.

Nathra is a worthy favourite in the Shadwell Joel Stakes but it may be worth taking a chance on Forge. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge has ran well in defeat behind Nemoralia, Thikriyaat, Ribchester and Zonderland before he managed to get his head in front at Haydock last time out. He has a similar profile to Confront, who won this race for connections back in 2009. At 5/1, he should give the favourite plenty to think about.

For the rest of the card, Alfarris is an interesting and expensive purchase, who should go well for the in form William Haggas yard. Century Dream holds a Group 1 entry and should progress plenty from his nice Ascot sixth on debut. He looks value against a favourite that was rather flat last time out and could be worth a second glance at a nice enough price, with Simon Crisford’s horses in decent order.

The strong-travelling Dal Harraild is sure to have plenty of supporters in the penultimate race but the consistent Furia Cruzada could be one to stay on best from a gentle pace and with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, an extremely fine judge of pace, a chance can be taken at 5/1.

The ‘lucky last’ just to happens to be the Silver Cambridgeshire, so those who sample the ‘luck’ will be rewarded at a a healthy price. Dawn Mirage has come in for early support for Messrs Haggas and Moore but Freight Train catches the eye for Mark Johnston and Jamie Spencer.

Johnston’s charges are renowned for being extremely tough and this front-running sort could prove hard to pass if coming on for his run at Pontefract last time out. He had flirted with another big performance as he streaked clear before being collared late on, yet with Spencer now on board, he could of interest now fit from that effort.


1pt win: 1:50 – Ashadihan @ 6/1 (Various)

1pt win: 3:40 – Forge @ 5/1 (Various)

1pt ew: 5:55 – Freight Train @ 20/1 (Various)

Best Premier League Bets 16/17

The Premier League returns in just over a week and having finally settled down in the aftermath of France’s disappointing Euro defeat (see last post); we’re back and ready to look forward at domestic football once again.

Antoine Griezmann’s heroic effort has ensured we should be heading into the new season with a bit of extra cash to use, so why not make the most of the ante-post markets and try and snaffle some season-long value?

There are a whole host of markets, more than we’ve ever had to enjoy before, yet it may pay to stick down the traditional route and cover Premier League title winner and Top Goalscorer markets to begin with, before moving on to special markets at a later date.

Cup competitions can often be a huge question mark, which each individual manager having their own opinion on how to set-up their sides in-terms of strength, so it may be best left until we see how the new managers bed in during the early rounds.

So, without further ado, onto the Premier League 2016/17 season!

Premier League Outright – Chelsea @ 13/2 (Various)

Firstly, we’ll start with the Premier League outright market in what looks the most competitive season in possibly the history of the league. Usually, there will be a short-price favourite with perhaps one or maybe two sides that could realistically challenge them.

(Excluding last season, which was just an anomaly for so many reasons…)

However this season we have Manchester City, worthy favourites with the addition of Pep Guardiola and recent strong signings in Gundogan and Sane.

Then, ‘The Special One’ returns with the unenviable task of returning Manchester United to their perch, yet the signings of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Bailly with the potential for further (cough *Pogba* cough), as well as the emerging talents of Rashford and Martial.

They have to be serious contenders for the title, while Arsenal and Spurs are always there or thereabouts and both Chelsea and Liverpool can concentrate on solely the Premier League, with no European football as a distraction. Oh, and Leicester could retain the title? Though, not for me.

For me, the prices reflect the Manchester side’s chances fairly well at the head of the market but the value may lie with Chelsea.

Liverpool’s tremendous title challenge when they last had European football showed the benefit of having a week to prepare for games and this is what they and Chelsea will get to enjoy this year. Klopp’s Reds are a work-in-progress and he may need another year until he fully beds in his philosophy.

However Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte, is walking in to a solid unit, who began to realise their roles towards the back-end of last season. They lacked discipline at times and their key players struggled to make an impact early on, however with time to prepare for their big weekend games and the new regimented approach from Conte, Chelsea have to be real challengers,

Michy Batshuayi adds an extra dimension to the side, as does N’Golo Kante, while the potential move for Kalidou Koulibaly and Romelu Lukaku would further add to the strength of the side. There is less emphasis on depth this year, without Europe to focus on, and as we seen with Conte’s Italy side during the Euros, he can form a side that are extremely hard to break down and very hard to contain on the counter.

Nemanja Matic was rather underwhelming in the system used by Chelsea last season but given Conte’s love for a holding midfielder, it would be no surprise to see him build on his earlier promise in a Chelsea shirt.

He is fantastic at breaking up play and provides the stability for the creative midfielders, such as Fabregas and also box-to-box midfielders, such as Kante, to go about and complete their roles to the best of their ability.

Diego Costa is a solid enough striking option, those it would be no surprise to see him used in the same way Pelle was for Italy, creating for the likes of Eden Hazard who will be coming from midfield/out wide.

Last season’s transitional phase will have been a real wake-up call and now with a solid base to start from and no European football to take precedence, Chelsea look value to win the Premier League  at 13/2.

Premier League Top Goalscorer – Daniel Sturridge @ 25/1 (Various)

Next up is the Top Goalscorer market and as usual, it’s headed by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. If the awesome Argentinian stays fit for the entire season he is sure to be there or thereabout come the end of the year, yet with his fitness issues, is it worth taking a rather short price?

It is often worth taking a gamble on fitness, given injury can strike at any stage, yet with our selection, that eventuality appears to have been factored into the price.

The man, of course, is Daniel Sturridge.

Liverpool’s main man has a record of injuries and fitness issues but given when fit, he will almost certainly be Liverpool’s lone striker (supported by two wide men) he looks outstanding value at 25.1,

There is no doubting his superb finishing and natural goalscoring ability and now that Liverpool can focus solely on the league, Jurgen Klopp wont have to balance out his playing time between league and European games. He can manage his star striker, with only one game a week in-store and this may well be key to getting the best out of Sturridge,

There is no questioning his best season came back when Liverpool came within touching distance of winning the league (scoring 21 PL goals) and it was that season when he enjoyed his most consistent spell of playing time.

Liverpool weren’t in Europe and he had a nice break between games which seemed to bode well for his fitness. If Klopp can reproduce this again, now the Reds aren’t in Europe, then Sturridge could be the man to guide Liverpool bac into the Champions League.

Coutinho, Firmino and Origi, as well as the new signings, all offer a creative talent that is likely to ensure Sturridge receives plenty of service and as such, he should be able to make his presence felt towards the top of the goalscorer tables.

At 25/1 he looks big enough to take a chance on and if he stays fit for a large part of the season, it would be a surprise if he were not to at least go close to landing each-way money.


Chelsea to win the Premier League 16/17 @ 13/2 (Various)

Daniel Sturridge to be Premier League top goalscorer (each-way) in 16/17 @ 25/1 (Various)

Harzand Looks The Early Arc Value


The first weekend in October is often greeted with mixed emotions from fans of flat racing. A magnificent two days often lay in prosper just across the Channel, though of course, it also draws a curtain over the flat season itself.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triumph, or the Arc as it is more commonly referred to, is the late-season centre-piece for many, often bringing together Derby winners from across Europe, as well as plenty of Asian interest.

The Asian angle this year looked set to arrive with A Shin Hikari after his blistering success at Chantilly earlier in the season, yet a bid looks unlikely after his trainer suggested 12f would be a step too far and he has also subsequently flopped at Ascot.

So, at the time of writing, Classic winners and an exciting older horse currently take their place towards the head of the market in what looks an extremely open renewal.

Postponed swerved a crack at the Arc last year, after a late trainer switch, yet after success in Dubai and more recently Epsom he looks a major player this season.

Minding was an ultra-impressive Oaks winner, who quashed any stamina doubts as she managed to negate her way out of trouble to stay on strongly down the Epsom camber to mow down her rivals with minimum fuss. She ranks as an interesting entrant, as does French Oaks winner, La Cressonnierre.

French Derby winner Almanzor has been slightly supported since his Chantilly win, while Jack Hobbs and Zawraq hold major question marks given their absences.

So, arguably the strongest form on offer to date, is the Epsom Derby form.

Harzand ran out a game winner that day, despite splitting a plate earlier in the day, and the sustained market support proved telling as he repelled all challengers down the straight.

He is bred for a trip, meaning conditions at Chantilly should be ideal. Of course, a potential crack at the St Leger may beckon given his stamina, yet it looks as though that is factored into his price as the current 10/1 on offer for the Arc looks too big. He surely doesn’t start near that, if he goes?

Golden Horn landed the Derby last year en route to Arc success and the manner in which Harzand has continued his upward curve means he must be respected for the rest of the season.

He was given an educational ride on his only start as a two-year-old, keeping on nicely down the straight without ever getting involved in the finish. Since then, he hasn’t been beaten.

A wide-margin maiden success was followed up with a battling victory over subsequent Derby third Idaho in the Ballysax Stakes. The pair pulled clear of the field and this was a similar story at Epsom, only with the highly-rated US Army Ranger splitting the pair.

US Army Ranger had every chance to win that day but he couldn’t find the extra gear to pass the gutsy Harzand and this could well be the case at Chantilly, should the ground turn up in it’s usual soft(ish) state.

Harzand will relish the trip (and probably further in time) while any cut in the ground is a bonus. We’ll possibly be relying on the weather to ensure Dermot Weld decides to send him to Chantilly instead of Doncaster (what a choice) but if that is the case, the 10/1 could be large.

It looks as though the Irish Derby may be the next port of call for Harzand and if he can put in an authoritative performance at the Curragh, then expect him to shorten up for October’s main event.

He ticks plenty of boxes and looks as though he will have even more to offer in time. The Aga Khan hasn’t tasted Arc success since his star filly Zarkava won the race back in 2008, so he’ll love the chance to head into it with a live chance yet again.

The 10/1 for Harzand seems more than fair and come October, he could well be a whole lot shorter.

Selection: Harzand to win the Arc @ 10/1 (Various)