Monthly Archives: May 2015

Eurovision 2015

Eurovision 2015

It’s 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night. Vienna is the host city after a landslide win for Austria last year by Conchita Wurst.
It’s a bit of a deviation from horse racing for this blog but an event where I have some experience. I’ve spent every year this millennium compiling and trading odds for 2 major bookmakers firms. This year I won’t be such a slave to the computer screen and so can put pen to paper for a few thoughts from the other side of the fence – and share some betting angles.

The show is in its current format since 2008 with most having to qualify through two semi finals held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Last year’s winner is already booked a place – as are the ‘Big 5’ (UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, France) who are the biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union who pay for the event. There’s an added twist this year with the automatic inclusion of Australia to the final too – part of the 60th anniversary celebrations. The event has a huge following down under.

Half of the voting is done by televoting and half by professional jury. At least that is the plan – occasionally it’s 100% of one. Probably most famously Monaco competed in the event recently and not one person bothered to pick up the phone and vote in the semi-final!
I’ll run through each of the entries later but let’s first look at some of the key factors involved in trying to find a winner (with a few vintage clips thrown in to make the experience all the more pleasant !)


The Song
Well this is a ‘song contest’ after all but blindly backing what you think is the best song you have heard is a way to the poorhouse here! Having a good song will help but there are other facets to this competition which bear just if not more as much influence and which must be factored in. The shows history is littered with some very good songs which didn’t come close to winning as they just couldn’t get the votes.
France’s ‘Je N’Ais Que Mon Ame’ remains one of the best songs never to win in my view finishing only 4th in 2001. It just shows what a struggle it will be for the French to ever win this

There’s a long running ‘love-in’ when it comes to voting with certain countries. Professional juries have been reintroduced in recent years to try to reduce this bias – but it doesn’t seem to work properly in some cases.
The mutual admiration of 12 pts between Greece and Cyprus is well-known; Scandinavian countries, Balkan countries, Baltic States and former Russian countries can all be expected to favour one another with friendly (‘diaspora’) voting. It’s the countries that are outside these blocs – predominantly the Western/Southern Europeans that suffer as they just don’t have these allies to rely on. Their only hope is to come up with something totally different that just grabs the attention more than the opposition. If they don’t they have very little chance to make an impact on the competition
There have been two winners recently which have done the latter – Austria last year and Finland in 2006. Both won easily and were the focus of press attention in the run-up to the final as they were so different. And both were from countries who would struggle to make an impact under normal circumstances

It’s a huge factor what position a country gets to sing from.
Too early often spells doom and songs could likely be forgotten by the time voting starts.
To highlight this here is the draw of the first four songs in the competition going back to 2005

2014  11-22-13-7
2013  18-20-22-24
2012  17-6-24-13
2011  19-12-7-23
2010  22-14-19-25
2009  20-7-11-18
2008  24-18-21-5
2007  17-18-15-22
2006  17-10-13-12
2005  19-3-4-11

It should become quickly apparent there is a distinct lack of single figure numbers present here.
Given that 100 songs have been drawn from 1-10 in these years from 249 total songs we would expect 40% of them to appear in this list if this were a level playing field
The fact is that 8 of them appear which is 3.2% – illustrating just how bad this affects their chances
Being drawn last is also a big no. I would think the news that is the last song sends many to switch the kettle on while this is being sung since we have to go back to Denmark’s 2nd place in 2001 from being drawn last to see a song in the top 4 (* I cannot include the same country’s 4th from draw 25 in 2010 as Spain got to sing after them after a ‘pitch invasion’ on their first performance)
Austria won from 11 last year but it’s from 17 onwards that the golden numbers appear with 17,18 and 19 winning 6 out of the 10 times.

Who wants to win it?

The ‘Song for Europe’ episode of Father Ted isn’t far off the mark in some cases. In that Ireland tried to come up with the worst entry they could (the fabulous ‘My Lovely Horse’ ) so they couldn’t win and didn’t have to pay for the competition. It’s a hark back to the days when Ireland were winning the event too many times for their own comfort.
Nowadays, with financial crisis in some countries, it might be considered a bit of a disaster for some to win and have to fund the hosting next year.

Odds of the winning song.
Denmark’s ‘Fly on the Wings of Love’ was as high as 80/1 before the competition started in 2000. That was in the days before social media and betting exchanges came to the fore so the chances of such big prices winning again are virtually nil.
In those days it was a job and a half to get to hear much of any of the songs before the contest – and a preview programme the week before might have been the only chance to see the entry.
Nowadays, there is a constant market on Betfair as soon as country’s make their selections odds start to move. The venue will have many excellent bloggers reviewing performance through all of the rehearsals – and the better ones of these will influence the markets accordingly. Youtube and The Semi Finals themselves also provide many televisual clues
Last year’s 1-2, Austria and Netherlands were both possible to back on Betfair at over 100/1 in the weeks running up to the competition. However, their cover had been well and truly blown by the day of the Final and they were single figure odds.
In the last 10 years as Social Media has evolved it has meant that there are no real big shocks when it comes to odds anymore. I can only recall Finland being around the 10/1 mark in 2006 on the day before the event. The rest have all been single figure prices.
Finland’s win was a bit of a triumph for me at the time so I have no shame in giving it a reprise

Each way betting.

This isn’t a factor in picking the song but it certainly can be in placing a bet. I’m a big advocate of using each way betting to get more value on horse racing and I really can’t stress enough the edge that can be had by using each way to your advantage on this event.

In the belief that this is a wide open event with 27 runners, some firms will be offering 1/4 odds 1234. It’s here where most value can be had

To put this in horse racing terms you would get this in a handicap with 16 or more runners – the type of race that would be very competitive and most if not all of the runners would have some chance to win.

Here, although there are plenty of ‘runners’ the actual number that have a realistic chance of doing well is normally somewhat less than 10 and  – a scenario in horse racing that would lend itself more to a race where only 3 places would be paid and at 1/5th of the win odds

A prime example currently available on Thursday lunchtime is Russia. Bet 365 offer 4/1 with 1/4 odds 1234. That means the place part for them to finish in the first 4 is Evens. The win part of this at 4/1 is perfectly fine but a quick look at Betfair’s exchange reveals the true price of them finishing in the first 4 isn’t far above 1/2 right now. There will be other such examples for sure.

Current odds can be found here:


And what a strange draw it is making the situation no clearer!

The overall standard of the semi finals is lower for me this year and consequently some quite uninspiring songs have managed to qualify.

Most catchy up tempo numbers have found themselves in the first half of the draw while the slow burning ones are more in the bottom half. The ‘Golden’ Draw numbers I previously alluded to have been filled by big outsiders so we don’t have an entrant that is standing out on the stats so much. The winner is quite likely to be one that isn’t quite in line with previous draw trends.

The second half of the competition does have some danger of turning into a snoozefest and I can see myself having quite a long ‘tea break’ between 17 and 25. If others feel the same it could have a detrimental effect on the two late contenders who do have some chance

And so onto the contenders (in draw order) :


Not a country with a great record. Nusa Derenda’s Energy was one of the favourites in 2001 and remains their best result at 7th. They seldom reach top 10 if they qualify at all. I’m not much taken by the singer wearing headphones throughout and it all sounds a bit tinny. Struggling to reach top 10 again for me


As previously mentioned France will always have a mountain to climb to win this. They were last in 2014 and have finished in the bottom 5 six times in the last 10 years (they haven’t won since 1977) . There are good reports of the song in rehearsals so it may be able to climb out of the fight for the minor berths but a top 10 place would still be as much as they could hope for


The beat moves up a notch now with a fun, lively song that the crowd enjoyed in the semi. Nadav is particularly memorable for his golden trainers and the lyric ‘but before you leave let me show you Tel Aviv’! Israel won twice in the 1970s and then in 1998 with Dana International. They have had only one notable result since when the excellent Shiri Maimon managed 4th in 2005 (best song by far that year in my view). This is the first time they have even managed to qualify since 2010 and their struggle to get friendly votes should weigh them down again. Top 10 again about the best they can hope for.


One of the early favourites but price is gradually drifting on this one with a fairly poor draw not helping them. Estonia do benefit from friendly votes from the Baltic neighbours but it hasn’t been since 2001 when they achieved their only victory (two 6th place finishes in past 10 years). Stig and Elina’s song is quite pleasant but there isnt a lot of chemistry between the pair for me and at one point Elina did look a bit like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights. It may get a top 10 – but for me only just.


Katrina and the Waves were the UK’s last winners in 1997 but the inclusion of so many Eastern European countries since then has scuppered what hopes they have had. In the last 10 years it has only been the intervention of Andrew Lloyd Webber (5th in 2009) that has seen a top 10 finish and there have been 3 last place finishes since 2000. They don’t seem to have put much effort into a selection procedure again this year and judged on reports from rehearsals this one could be another contender for the wooden spoon ( I have heard the phrase ‘car crash’ mentioned ).

UK to get ‘nil ‘points as they did with Jemini in 2003 is not a complete no hoper but they can usually rely on Ireland to come to the rescue and give them some fruit for their labours. There is a potential booby trap as well. Scooch’s awful ‘Flying The Flag’ should have been last in 2007 but not only did Ireland give a crazy 7 – Malta gave it 12 as a protest at the amount of friendly voting!


Competing only since 2006 but a combination of good songs and diaspora voting has seen a couple of 4th places in that time. This time their song is much weaker for me and I think top 10 is unlikely


The beat of the song is good but that’s as good as it gets – Monika and Vaidas come across far too treacly about their love for one another for a sourpuss like me and the sickbucket should be kept nearby. It will get some votes from its neighbours no doubt. Lithuania have the weakest record of the Baltic states in this event with only one top 10 place in 16 attempts


Fairly unheralded coming into the contest but this entertaining and catchy performance by Bojana was like a breath of fresh air in quite a dull semi. It really cranks up a notch half way through when the dancers complete their metamorphosis. The Serbs have a decent record here, benefitting from neighbours votes in the past (they can’t rely on Bosnia or Croatia this time though), winning in 2007. Their semi performance may well have been enhanced by having less up tempo songs around it and an early half draw along with other such songs won’t be a help (Sweden and Australia shortly after).


Now I have to admit this duet is my favourite song this year – similar to Estonia but much classier and with chemistry this time. A later draw would have got me more excited but I can still see it doing well with the jury vote. I am concerned about its proximity to Sweden in the draw though and hope it doesnt miss out too much in the public vote as a result. Still good each way possibilities though to reach top 4. Norway can call on Scandinavian voting support – they won in 2009 with the strong favourite ‘Fairytale’ – but have also been in the top 10 on five other occasions since 2003.


Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is usually one of the strongest selection procedures in Europe and so its no surprise they often do well in this contest (friendly votes likely as well). They have won it 5 times and in the last 4 years there has been one win and two third places.

They have been favourite for this for some time since one of their top names, Mans Zelmerlow, qualified with ‘Heroes’. The price shortened again after the semis but increased slightly after the draw became known.

The song, while it has its merits, is the weakest part of the package for me. It’s the performance of Mans allied to holographic special effects that makes it stand out. In 2008, Ukraine exceeded all expectations for an 80/1 to be 4th and it was all largely down to a sand artist performing alongside the singer. It’s the biggest illustration for me of how something like this can really sell a song and Sweden is no 80/1 shot coming in here.

Hard to envisage Sweden finishing outside of the top 4. In most years I would think the song is beatable but in a substandard one it might just have enough to prevail despite the draw


A nice enough song well performed by Giannis but it has probably been swamped by those around it in the draw now. We have to go back to 2004 to fins a top 10 finish for Cyprus and unlikely they can match that now


This year’s wildcard who get to compete for the 60th anniversary. We have no voting patterns to relate to here but there should be plenty of votes coming in still as this has got so much coverage. It’s another up-tempo number and one of the better songs in the contest for sure from Guy Sebastian. I can’t see it winning but a top 10 is likely.


Something is afoot in the betting world today that has sent the price crashing on this one from around 25/1 at midnight last night to a high of 6/1 as I write. There are rumours that it did very well in the semis but while there have been other supposed leaks in the past there was only one that I recall proved 100% correct (Eurovision mistakenly advertised too early that Romania had won their semi in 2005 an hour before the show  on their own website).

If they have won their semi then it’s certainly worth getting involved as it would put them ahead of the much vaunted Russia – but until I see such a confirmation I find the current price excessively skinny.

While it’s not my type of song (epileptics beware with the flashing light display!) I have to respect it is trending well on Twitter and is very popular on iTunes.

Belgium has competed 57 times but only won once back in 1986. Nowadays, they usually don’t qualify from the semis but they did manage 6th in 2010 – their only top 10 finish since 2003.

Under normal circumstances I would be a layer of their current top 10 price on Betfair of 1.18 – but it’s hard to go out on a limb too much here with the suspicion that some people may know more than the rest of us on this one


This year’s hosts had a fairly poor record in the contest before last year’s runaway win and they should revert to type now. Being the host should secure some ‘thankyou for hosting’ votes though and that should keep them safe from last


Once a Eurovision powerhouse that could call on many diaspora votes, there’s been an obvious sense that Greece don’t really want the financial burden of hosting it in recent years. This song isn’t bad and has a reasonable enough draw that could well get it into the top 10. It will be shock if it gets top 4 though


Since splitting with Serbia in 2007 they have only qualified once before and finished 19th. A nice Balkan flavour to this song and could get enough friendly votes to get a slightly better result


Already qualified but I’m struggling to find anything too special in this one. Germany finished last in 2005 and have been worse than 20th or worse on 3 other occasions in the last 10 years. It’s only their draw that may prevent a similar fate


I am quite surprised that Poland qualified with quite a dull song and there is some belief it may have been down to a sympathy vote as the singer is in a wheelchair. Qualifiers have finished last on all but two occasions since the current format came in in 2007 (including a joint last for Poland in 2008). It’s a contender for the wooden spoon again for me despite the draw


Of the ‘golden draw numbers’ this one has perhaps the strongest claims though let’s not get too carried away with that. Latvia have won once since they first competed in 2000 but this is the first time they have managed to qualify since 2008.

Aminata looks like some kind of high priestess on stage and while its quite dramatic staging I find the techno moments a bit odd – and overall the song slightly annoying


One of the better songs for a fairly weak first semi but I did find myself struggling with understanding what was meant to be sung in English at times. Romania have never won but have two third places in the last 10 years – normally they are in the 10th and 20th range and that looks likely once more


Another prequalifier but while Edurne sounds good on the video her rehearsal performance haven’t been setting the world alight. Their strongest entry of recent years reached 10th in 2012 from a similarly high draw (though that position was aided by the jury vote). It shows they are another country that are really up against it to make any kind of impact these days and if the performance doesnt come across well then it’s another contender for the wooden spoon ( can rely on Portugal for friendly voting but no Andorra this year)


Lyrics not bad and set looks nice but the song is a bit of a washout for me and another that will be taking whatever scraps of points it can get


Nina goes for Evil Black Queen look , someone’s been watching Snow White and the Huntsman. I can’t even remember the song now which can’t be good!


They have only competed since 2008 and have won once and been in the top 5 on another 4 occasions in that time – a fairly impressive record. There has been some effort put in for sure to provide good songs (it is the most watched show on Azeri tv) and they can always rely on some votes.

This isn’t one of their best though and its the dancing that slightly takes over the song as a focal point. They should achieve top 10 with this draw but hard to see them challenging for top 4


Good draw – good song – good singer and a country with a proven record in this contest (won once and second three times since 2000). In normal years I would be picking this one to win but politics is a huge issue for this song now. Russia managed 7th last year and their act was booed. They didnt get any points from outside their usual cronies and the Ukrainian issue was squarely to blame. Things have hardly improved since and while booing might not be repeated, a voting boycott is still possible.

It all comes down to if the vote is for Polina – or the vote is against Putin. If it’s the former this is the likeliest winner – if it’s the latter it won’t happen and I feel that is the more likely scenario of the two.

I can’t imagine the EBU will relish having to have the contest in Moscow next year and their will be some sweating going on if the points start coming early


The fact I found myself nodding off when listening to this one in the semis sums up my view on it. I’m surprised it qualified but the semi was very weak. Its another contender for last place for me

27. ITALY 

After a 14 year absence Italy returned to Eurovision in 2011 and surprised all by finishing 2nd. Its worth noting though that they only finished 11th in the public vote that time and their success came down to a landslide jury win. Since then they have been 9th, 7th and 21st.

I suspect their fate here again revolves around jury voting as they can’t rely on the public to get them over the line. They have prequalified so this has only been heard in rehearsals and is a very well regarded entry by opera trio Il Volo.

The final place in the draw is a negative as well as I have previously mentioned. A stunning performance from a group that is very popular in the US would not be a surprise but that is what is needed to get them over the line first


Since the market has been such a good guide over recent years there would appear to be only 5 possible winners in the desired price range (prices added are highest available at time of writing)






The winner should come from these 5 but unless there is a real voting leak going on I think Belgium and Australia are both unlikely and far from certain to be top 4

Its not very exciting to pinpoint the first three in the betting as the likeliest winners but thats how it appears to me and I marginally favour Sweden to win with Russia and Italy finishing in the top 4. There isn’t any great value in the price of any of them currently though.

Outside of this pack there is only Serbia and Norway who I think can challenge and may have enough to get a top 4 place

So for an interest bet at a big price I would look to bet them both each way at around the 40/1 mark with firms who offer 1/4 odds 1234

(1pt ew on each would return 11 pts if either were in top 4)

TOP 10

A market largely available with best prices on Betfair – many other fixed odds firms are offering it now though

I think Greece have a decent enough draw to make 3.9 a decent price for them to achieve this (something they have only failed to do twice in the last 10 years)

Belgium is a small lay at around 1.2 for reasons discussed above


UK is the obvious one for me here and too big at around 7/2 or 4/1 (Ladbrokes 9/2 soon went and its as low as 7/4 with Corals currently). I dont see France as the biggest danger there as the early betting implies and would be favouring France in any match bets that appear with the two

I will add any more specials that look interesting as they appear later this evening


Tonight’s rehearsal will decide the jury vote so keep an eye out on Twitter for any notably good or bad performances which could sway prices!


Thanks for reading and putting up with such ‘anorakdom’ wherever it may appear!

Enjoy the show !


Some very good Eurovision websites giving their opinions and all the latest news from the arena can be found here:

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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Eurovision


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York – Dante meeting – Day 2

Day 2 of York’s Dante meeting has the Dante itself (a major Epsom Derby trial) as it’s showpiece at 3.10 and it’s there I look for one of my two picks on tomorrow’s card
8 runners should be going to post but I think we can discount Lord Ben Stack and Medrano who have a little to find on form. I’m hopeful that one of these two will at least make sure of a decent pace in the race though.
Aidan O’Brien’s pair of John F Kennedy and Ol Man River both look to bounce back from disappointing debut efforts. Ryan Moore has chosen the former who was Derby favourite over the Winter but he’s plenty short enough at no more than 7/2 given his last lack lustre effort.
John Gosden runs two very promising types in Jack Hobbs and Golden Horn. The former is current Derby favourite virtue of an impressive win at Sandown. That was a handicap though and he gain appears short here on what he has achieved. Golden Horn is maybe slightly better value at around 5/1 but he doesn’t seem to have Epsom as his aim – and the fact that he isn’t the choice of Dettori to ride is a slight negative.
So I am looking mainly at the other two– Elm Park and Nafaqa – who were separated by a length at Newmarket last year (as pictured below).

Elm Park is officially top rated in the race at 117 ( the other main 5 rated between 109 and 113) and missed the 2,000 Guineas because of the quick ground to wait for this. This is therefore his seasonal debut and there’s every chance he could need it a little.
That could level things out a little with Nafaqa who was 2nd in the Craven Stakes when Kool Kompany had first run on them all. He missed Chester last week because of the soft ground and this 10 furlong trip should be much more his liking than Newmarket’s mile.
He went into many notebooks after his debut at Royal Ascot last year when totally missing the break and has enough form in the book to make me think he has been forgotten a bit here with a quote of 16/1 from some.
It’s most beneficial to play here with firms who offer ¼ odds first 3 (as long as nothing drops out of the race and we have 8 runners)


Rather frustratingly Medrano has been declared a non runner becuase of the ground – which by all accounts was just about perfect yesterday. This kills the each way angle a bit on this race as it’s no longer a payout on the first three and will be just the first two. The only place where first three will be available (albeit 1/5th odds will be on the Betfair Exchange and their ‘each way’ market)
0.75 pts ew Nafaqa 16/1 (Boyles, Stan James)

The Hambleton Hcap at 345 is the other play and I’m with last year’s second Fort Bastion here.
This one looked Group class in his early days with Richard Hannon but had some issues until Ruth Carr got him back on track last year. He changed stables during the season and is now with the mercurial David O’Meara – and there’s every chance he can get a bit more out of this one still.
Last year he came here after winning the Thirsk Hunt Cup. This year he made his seasonal debut in that race – missed the break – and then continually found his path blocked.
Although only 11th, he finished with plenty left in the tank and didn’t have a hard race – it will have tuned him up nicely for this though and the stable is in form already here (Algar Lad won the sprint handicap on Wednesday)


1pt ew Fort Bastion 10/1 (general)

Thanks for reading once more and good luck


(recommended prices correct at 0710 BST 13/05)


A non-runner did mean the Dante became 1st 2 only but it didn’t ultimately effect the Nafaqa bet as he finished 4th – someway behind a high class looking top 3.

Fort Bastion travelled like a winner to me but didn’t find as much as looked likely and just out of the frame. He then ran the following week at Ayr off the same mark and sluiced in! Ho hum!

The Flat season is not proving as profitable as the jumps so far – hoping for a change of fortune in coming weeks.

RUNNING BALANCE 44.53 pts (from initial bank of 50pts)


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York – Dante meeting – Day 1

York’s Dante meeting kicks off on Wednesday and it’s the opening handicap on the card (2.10) that sees my first recommendation for Day 1.
With 20 runners due to line up this should be a competitive race but John Gosden’s unbeaten Mahsoob dominates early exchanges at 7/2.
He’s been priced as if he’s the proverbial ‘Group horse in a handicap’ and is certainly likely to be a good deal better than his narrow win at Newbury from a mark of 89 ( got up late from a bad draw and second has run well in defeat since).
He’s on an 8lb higher mark tomorrow which means he’s 4lb worse off with the similarly unexposed Field of Fame who was 3rd in that event. That should make it close between the two on these revised terms.
With a maximum of 11/2 available on Field of Fame however, I prefer to look for another formline where there is better value and am siding with What About Carlo, a strong finishing 4th in the Lincoln earlier this season.
He was well backed to follow up subsequently at Epsom (6/1 the night before to 11/4 SP) but according to trainer Eve Johnson-Houghton he had a ‘massive sulk’ in the race. I think the ground may have been plenty quick enough there and he probably didn’t enjoy a continual barging match with Mount Logan from Tattenham Corner.
The ground ought to be a little easier at York tomorrow and there’s certainly none of Epsom’s cambers to affect him being crowded in the same way.

The Lincoln run was full of promise for the season ahead and he is on the same mark here of 98 on a trip that should suit ideally. I would be hoping for a good gallop here and a hold up ride from William Buick and then he can perhaps replicate his record from last season where he produced his best performance on his third start (after a disappointing second one).

0.75pts ew What About Carlo @16/1 (general)

Prices correct at 1730 BST 12th May

Selections in the back up races on tv:
2.40 Mass Rally needs to be held up until the very last-minute but when it all goes right he’s a very decent horse with two C&D wins from higher marks than tomorrows 97 to his name. He’s 8 now but his seasonal debut at Pontefract looked all over a warm up for this meeting. Unfortunately, others seem to have seen this too and he’s already been backed to less than 10/1 – a tad too short for me in a race where he will need plenty of luck against some decent opposition. (He never got a run and looked unlucky when 9th here last year)

3.15 Hard to discount anything readily and no surprise to see 4 of them fighting for favouritism around 5/1. If the ground does ride quick I might be backing Lucky Kristale to topple them all after an eye-catching reappearance run at Newmarket where she lost a shoe (can see there being little between her and the winner there Astaire).

3.45 Looks a two-horse race for the Musidora, a recognised Oaks trial. It’s likely to be very tactical in such a small field and I just favour Star of Seville getting 4lbs from Together Forever – but the prices don’t really appeal on either

After the Channel 4 tv coverage ends there’s another bet to be had in the 4.20 (lack of prices available for this earlier today)

Foreign Diplomat seems to have found himself on a very lenient looking mark of 81 here. I say lenient as he has 2yo form that ties up closely with Desert Force who is currently on a 94 rating. He was a promising type last year who didnt quite fulfil as much as maybe anticipated. His easy 3yo maiden win gave every encouragement that he can do better this season and it should be remembered that this one had Group 1 entries last season so was obviously well thought of. William Haggas is a very good placer of his horses and I feel it significant he’s brought this one up to the big meeting in his native Yorkshire. I think he could go off much shorter than the 6/1 currently available on him for this race


1.5pts ew Foreign Diplomat 6/1 (365, Skybet, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Boyles)

*prices available at 2042 BST 12/05


Good luck with whatever you back

Thanks for reading – comments always welcome



What About Carlo looks one to avoid now after another performance that looked like he wasn’t in love with the game any more. The winner Mahsoob did indeed look a Group race horse of the future with the way he won.(-1.5pts)

Foreign Diplomat travelled well, was slightly hampered but then didn’t find as much as looked likely. He’s probably better than where he ultimately finished but even with an uninterrupted passage it probably didnt cost him a place.(-3pts)

RUNNING BALANCE now 48.03 pts from the initial bank of 50pts


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Chester Cup 2015

chester cup

Chester Cup
Wednesday May 7th
Chester’s tight turning track makes it one of the most draw dependant courses in the country and even it’s marathon distance Cup event is affected.
There’s only a furlong run to the first bend and low drawn runners can quickly secure a good position.
With the declarations and draw out today you are naturally led to look out who has secured the best spots and these are the lucky ones drawn in order from 1 to 6
1.Shu Lewis
2. Gabrials Star
3. Gabrials King
4. Buthelezi
5. Angel Gabrial
6. Mymatechris
You might be forgiven that owner Dr Marwan Koukash did the draw himself at his beloved Chester with 3 of his ‘Gabrial’ horses in the box seats.
However to make best use of this inside draw you really need a horse that can sit prominently and his two main chances – Gabrials King and Angel Gabrial appear to be horses who need to be held up and need some luck in running. I wonder if they could just throw away their advantage
Just look at last year’s run of Angel Gabrial to see how the best horse in the race can get beat – alas video link not available to witness his last to first ‘around the field’ drive only to get run down in the final furlong . I don’t think Jamie Spencer could have done much else with the position he had but he may find himself trapped again and is carrying a massive 15lbs more in this race than he did then.
Dr Koukash also has last years victor Suegioo lining up again but whereas that had an ideal draw 4 last year he is out in the car park at 16 this time round.
Looking through the whole field there are an awful lot of runners who like to come from behind and there could be traffic problems for many.
The race looks set up for something to control the pace from up front and stay out of trouble and I think there are two ideal candidates.
Shu Lewis is unproven over this trip but runs like it shouldn’t be a problem. She’s consistent and has run well enough against better animals to make me think here 100 rating is perfectly fair. At 9 she may look a veteran age but it should be remembered that she only began racing at 5.

Buthelezi has always had plenty of talent having passed through the hands of John Gosden and John Ferguson prior to joining the canny Brian Ellison. He seems to have found some consistency with his new yard. Although up to a rating of 94 after his latest win he was as high as 105 in his younger days
This horse really doesn’t mind being up front and I don’t think they will have to go that strong too early to make full use of this advantage on him.
There is rain forecast on Tuesday and Wednesday but neither selection should mind a bit of give underfoot. It’s only when there is a deluge and the ground becomes really soft that the inside berth advantage starts to be negated – and moreso later in the week as the course is more used

*Tuesday Update – 9mm of rain reported in Chester today and ground now Good to Soft – there could be more tomorrow*
Trip to Paris (drawn 11) was the one I was looking at most before the draw. With not too many pacesetters drawn inside I still wouldn’t totally rule him out. However all his form is on quicker ground and the forecast rain is a bit of a concern there.

Likely favourite Quick Jack will need to have all the breaks being a confirmed hold up horse from stall 9. I would have thought that other long distance handicaps would play more to his strengths this season. He’s bound to travel well but will have a lot of competition to get the gaps at the right time
All firms are currently ¼ odds 1234 – prices are here
There may be some who offer an extra place on the day but I feel that the low drawn will be backed before then
Some early recommendations for the race:
1 pt ew Buthelezi @16/1 (general)
1pt ew Shu Lewis 20/1 (Betfred, SportingBet)
Prices correct at 1530 BST Mon 5th May

Thanks for reading – comments always welcome



Both picks were well backed by the time of the race (17/2 and 11/1 at the off) but while Buthelezi had the earluy postion I had hoped for, neither were ultimately good enough on the day. Rather annoyingly it was Trip to Paris who was a good winner – if the ground had been a little better he might well have been a recommendation!

So the running balance is now 52.53pts from the initial bank of 50pts


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Guineas weekend -Newmarket 2015

The Flat season really goes into overdrive this weekend with Newmarket hosting the first two classics of the season – Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas and Sunday’s fillies equivalent – the 1,000 Guineas.
While there is decent racing elsewhere there’s nothing that entices me too much for betting purposes so this blog will be focussing on the action at ‘Headquarters’.
Expected rain has fallen at the rack this week but not to such a degree that the ground has eased much. It was reported as Good to Firm on Thursday and with largely dry conditions forecast since we should anticipate going on the fast side of Good
Saturday 2nd May
The 2,000 Guineas at 3.45pm is the centrepiece with 19 runners due to go to post at time of writing (Elm Park may be a doubt though if fast conditions remain which could result in a small rule 4 deduction)

Prices can be found here:
In particular for each way punters note the firms who give an extra place and offer ¼ odds 1234…its worth its weight in gold as long as the win odds aren’t paltry in comparison.
Gleneagles heads the betting at no more than 3/1 and is part of a double pronged Aidan O’Brien attack with Ol Man River (about double those odds).
The former is the sort who just seems to do enough in his races – and therefore it’s hard to judge just how much he does have in reserve. With Ryan Moore seemingly having stable first choice now I have to favour him over his stablemate, who may be a better type later in the season over slightly further.
I don’t really hear the same stable confidence as with the stable’s recent runners in this race – Camelot and Australia. While both have to be respected I don’t consider them to be value prices right now
French raider Territories comes next in the list at around 6/1 and was a ready winner of France’s main trial for this the Prix Djebel. He was a late addition to this race when supplemented last week and there has to be a whiff of some last-minute panic to have a Godolphin owned runner at the event. Andre Fabre can never be underestimated when he sends one across but he looks to have a little to find on Gleneagles on 2yo form from Longchamp – and all of his best form is on a softer surface
Estidhkaar is next in the list and already a recommended bet on this blog Ante Post after his Greenham trial when a close second in a very quick time. He was 14/1 then and no more than 8/1 now. He returned injured from his one poor run last season and really looks like a horse who needs this mile trip.


He had Ivawood 4 lengths behind him at Newbury and the latter’s jockey Richard Hughes has made some claims this week that his mount can improve enough to reverse those placings. This would seem to rely on Estidhkaar not having improved but I’ve little doubt he will. More of a concern for Ivawood supporters would be stamina – his sire (although bred to stay further) was a sprinter and I fell that 6 furlongs rather than a mile is where Ivawood’s future beckons.
It should be remembered that although from the same stable, Hughes would never have had the option to ride Estidhkaar as Sheikh Hamdan has his own contracted jockeys.
Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum also owns the supplemented Intilaaq – highly impressive in his one race on tha same Newbury card. It’s hard to know what he beat there but he routed them all. The time was good but didn’t match the splits of the Greenham in any way. Paul Hanagan would have had the pick but he has chosen Estidhkaar.
Elm Park comes here with similar credentials to Kingston Hill last season having looked the best 2yo around when stamina was really at a premium in the Racing Post Trophy. As previously suggested he may not run if the ground remains quick and I think will find others to outspeed him if he does turn up. The Derby appears his main aim this season in any case.
At Doncaster he looked to have a race on his hands for a while with Celestial Path until that one couldn’t go with him in the soft ground. It had already been suggested that Celestial Path would have a problem with conditions underfoot and he is now likely to be back to a surface that suits. He’s very closely related to the Group winning fillies Chachamaidee and J Wonder and a quick look through their form shows them to have a big need for Good or Good to Firm conditions.

celestial path
Sir Mark Prescott for once won’t be having a handicap coup in mind here and I think we can expect him to be ready despite no run so far this season. He appeals as a good outsider to keep on side.
Kool Kompany proved his toughness when an all the way winner in the Craven Stakes. That proved he stays this trip and goes on this course. That race was a level below the Greenham trial but he still appears slightly shunned by bookmakers who quote him at 25/1+
Lastly I have to give a mention to a favourite of mine, Glenalmond at 66/1. I really liked his chances in his debut in the Free Handicap but like so many of Karl Burke’s runners this season he appeared to need his first race. He is 5lb better off for a 4 length beating by Home of the Brave on that run which should make things much closer. I do think Home of the Brave was a lot sharper that time and that he may be the less well suited to this 1 mile trip. I do have a slight reservation about the ground being on the quick side for Glenalmond but in essence feel that he should be about the same price as his conqueror.


There is no better Guineas jockey around than Kieran Fallon and he seemed very positive about the colt on Twitter yesterday after riding him out on the Middleham gallops.
There may be some heart ruling the head here as I was tickling away at his odds of 1000 before and after the Free Handicap run. Suffice to say that if Fallon does get his 10th Guineas win the blog may be quiet for some time!
With a big field we could well get a split of two groups in this race something that caused a controversial result when Night of Thunder beat Kingman and Australia last year. Likely pacesetters would seem to be Home of The Brave (draw 17) and Kool Kompany (draw 7) – with possibly Intilaaq (11) also prominent. Hopefully this will give an even pace on either side and there won’t be any hard luck stories (but Newmarket alas does have a few too many of these)
With Gleneagles too short and having already got a solid position on Estidhkaar I’ll be adding two outsiders to the portfolio with firms offering 4 places. Kool Kompany almost makes it to the list but I feel he may be just serve to be a pacemaker for Estidhkaar in the next stall
So the other two are;
1pt ew Celestial Path @20/1 (1/4 1234 Paddy Power,365, Skybet)
0.5pts ew Glenalmond @66/1 (1/4 1234 365, Paddy Power, Skybet)

Prices correct at 1705 BST 01/05/2015

(already recommended ante post 2pts ew Estidhkaar @14/1)

The remaining tv races:

(prices correct on these at 1800 BST 01/05/2015)

Top Tug may well be an improver this season but this is his seasonal debut and his best piece of form comes on softer ground. He also may need a further. I don’t think he merits being favourite for this race. The two top weights Bronze Angel and Educate couldn’t have better C&D form having been the last two winners of the Cambridgeshire. It’s Educate who appeals by far the most on these terms. He’s back to the same mark he won that top handicap from and – he is fit and ran well in a Group 3 event last time.
The best early prices have already disappeared but I still rate him a bet where 8/1 is available
1.5 pts ew Educate 8/1 (365, Skybet, Ladbrokes, Corals, Betfair Sportsbook , Boyles)

Stepper Point is an old friend of mine but his Group winning penalty may find him out here on a course that I think is just a little too stiff for him. Watchable is early fav but has never competed at this trip before – there’s a world of difference between showing pace at 6 furlongs and competing with real speedballs at 5 furlongs.
I’ll be sitting this race out – NO BET

A dismal turn out of 4 runners and a short priced fav in Telescope. He looked in need of his first run last season (albeit on soft ground) and although he is the clear form pick I certainly wouldn’t want to be chancing very short odds in what could be a very tactical race. Ryan Moore is also expressing some misgivings about fast ground in his blog and I can see his price drifting – he’ll certainly be looked after with the rest of the season in mind
Pethers Moon has race fitness on his side and could well benefit. It’s just his 3lb penalty which prevents me putting him up at 3/1
I don’t think there is that much between the two outsiders Second Step and Odeon on form but as one is around 6/1 and the other 33/1+ I am drawn to a tickle on the big outsider here.
Last season Odeon showed definite ability but often ruined his chances by pulling far too hard.
He’s been gelded over the winter and I am taking a chance that this could help him realise his undoubted potential – Graham Lee is also very good at these tactical races
0.5pts win Odeon 40/1 (Paddy Power)

Saturday selections

2pts ew Estidhkaar 14/1 (Ante Post already advised 2 weeks ago)

1pt ew Celestial Path 20/1

0.5pts ew Glenalmond 66/1

RESULTS; No draw in the Guineas with Gleneagles running out an impressive winner. Estidhkaar was most disappointing. Celestial Path did best of the picks in 5th and might well have been closer but for an inconvenient draw. Loss of 7pts

1.5 pts ew Educate 8/1

RESULT; Educate travelled into the race well but was just beaten by two better horses. There will be some Rule 4 deductions here and some firms may pay out 1/5th odds instead of 1/4. I’ll be settling the blog recommendation at 1/4 odds with a Rule 4 of 15p as I have on bets that I have personally placed. Therefore that returns 4.05 pts and a profit of 1.05 pts

0.5 pts win Odeon 40/1

Backed into 16/1 I thought there might be something in this but Odeon was readily brushed aside. Loss 0.5pts

10.5 pts staked in total on the day – 4.05pts returned – a loss of 6.45 pts


SUNDAY 3rd May

While quick conditions were prevalent on Saturday there is rain forecast this evening which could have an effect on the going for Sunday’s card
My thoughts on the main race below

1,000 Guineas (3.40)
Often a tricky race and it can produce surprise results – for the fillies more so than the colts this race may be run too early in the season before they come to hand.
Odds can be found here:
Considering there are only 13 runners there’s a notable bonus being offered by who pay out on 4 places

There have been some shocks in recent years . Homecoming Queen 25/1 in 2012 was a clear winner and showed little afterwards – in 2010 Jacqueline Quest was first past the post at 66/1 but subsequently disqualified (in possibly Newmarket’s worst ever showing of a draw bias in a Classic in recent years).
All 13 declared runners have a chance of some sort but I feel the trip may be too far for last year’s juvenile speedball Tiggy Wiggy – and too short for Irish raider Legatissimo
Lucida is at the head of the betting and was a consistently good performer last year until her final start (possibly over the top then – or maybe soft ground was to blame?) She is closely matched with Fadhayyil (beaten a length here in the Rockfel) , Malabar and Osaila (also both a length to find on Curragh form. Qualify was further back in that Curragh race and seemingly held.
I would think the winner would most likely comes from this group of 4 and Osaila has some edge in that she has had a run (and a winning one on this course) this season.
Jim Bolger and Barry Hills the respective trainers of Lucida and Fadhayyil have both won this race before with seasonal debutantes (Finsceal Beo and Ghanaati) so they must still be greatly feared.
Fadhayyil is the one I think could be the best of this quartet – she still looked very raw when beaten by Lucida and was the one who really stuck out as having the scope to progress most at 3.


Like Ghanaati, it was always the plan of her trainer to have no prep for this and to come here after just a racecourse gallop. It’s a question of if she is fully tuned up and if she is I think she will take some beating.
Malabar also comes here without a run and was a bit unlucky both at The Curragh and subsequently on here final start at Longchamp. I just have a feeling that she doesn’t have the same scope as some of her rivals
Redstart and Jellicle Ball were the 1-2 in the Fred Darling trial at Newbury and represent a completely different form line. Ralph Beckett does seem to train his fillies to be ready for that race and so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jellicle Ball improve past her here over an extra furlong.
Local Time has carried all before her in Dubai already this year ( a similar warm up to last year’s 3rd Ihtimal). She hasn’t beaten anything of the standard that runs here though and her form on this course last season – while it was a win – looks a bit below what may be required here.

I don’t think predicted rain will alter my thoughts on this race if it comes or not so I’ll give these two recommendations

2pts win Fadhayyil @13/2 (general)

1.5pts ew Osaila @8/1 (Paddy Power 1/4 1234)

I do fancy Fadhayyil as the likelier winner but with her proven fitness Osaial as s stronger place banker – hence why only one is recommended each way

Of the back up races in the card there are a few possible bets but all of them in some way are dependent on the degree of rain that falls overnight.
Therefore I’ll post any of these in an update tomorrow morning

While rain has fallen it doesn’t appear there has been that much and ground will still be quick like yesterday (while some times didn’t reflect this that was probably down to a strong headwind)

Thoughts on the back up races (except the two year old maiden at 4.15)

1.50 I have my eye on Astronereus as a horse who could win something decent this year but both he and likely fav Gothic may have wanted a bit more rain – this prevents me from making a recommendation here

2.25 I’m a bit surprised to see Rizeena being chanced over a mile and on a course where she doesn’t always seem to show her best form. Fintry is the form pick but has never raced on a surface this quick.

3.0 A very competitive sprint handicap but am backing two here with firms who offer ¼ odds 1st 5.

Gamesome has long been highly regarded by his trainer and I feel could prove better than a handicapper this term – his reappearance run in Group 3 company was highly encouraging.
Foxtrot Romeo is more exposed but will be fitter than most here having been on the all weather this winter. He is 5lbs better off for 3 lenghts with Huntsmans Close on their Ayr running last year. That should make it close now but Foxtrot Romeo wasn’t racing on that golden patch of ground next to the rail that day as the winner did. I think he can reverse that form and is the better value pick
1pt ew Gamesome 10/1 (365, Skybet, Paddy Power – all1/4 odds 12345)
0.75 pts ew Foxtrot Romeo 18/1 (365)


4.50 No bet here but Forte is worth bearing in mind as her family is littered with an Oaks theme. She’s a half sister to Talent (winner of this race 2 years ago) and a descendant of Bireme, both Epsom winners – and her grand dam Yawl was favourite for the same race. I won’t bet on here here as the ground is a concern and there are some nice looking unexposed types in the field.


5.25 Last bet of the day here. There is little to separate Muqtaser and Lostock Hall on their form at the last meeting here but they are now best prices of 3/1 and 14/1 respectively.
This makes little sense to me and I have to back the latter as Karl Burke’s runners have mostly seemed to need their initial runs this year. The lack of heavyt rain is a definite plus point in the selections favour here.
The one niggle is that all the runners finished in a heap in that race they both contended – and so maybe the form isn’t strong – but there’s nothing jumping out at me from the rest of the field
0.75pts ew Lostock Hall 14/1 (Hills)

Thanks for reading – comments always welcome


Sunday selections 10pts staked

1pt ew Gamesome 10/1*

0.75pts ew Foxtrot Romeo 18/1*

2pts win Fadhayyil 13/2

1.5pts ew Osaila 8/1*

0.75pts ew Lostock Hall

* recommended where special place terms available


A fairly bruising weekend with only Gamesome giving any returns (1.75 pts for a 5th place dead heat).

The Betfair drift on Fadhayil pre race was ominous and Osaila was very disappointing after racing too keenly

Sunday returned a loss of 8.25 pts


From the initial bank of 50pts the balance is 56.53 pts (11.3% ahead)

This was a disappointing weekend which I hope we can bounce back from in coming weeks. The Chester meeting may give some opportunities next week when the blog may return on Wednesday


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