Politics is not normally an area of particular interest to myself, at least from a betting perspective; but this May’s General Election gives us an ideal opportunity to make some money (along with the fat cats in Westminster). There is no doubt that politics has changed and it’s caught the layers unexpectedly by surprise. We are no longer in a two-party state where every four years Conservatives or Labour just waltzed in or out of 10 Downing Street. If anything about the General Election of 2010 taught us, it was that the mandarins behind the party machines cannot simply count on their traditional vote.
These days the likes of UKIP, the SNP and even the Greens can obtain substantial representation in Westminster and that’s not allowing for how many MPs Nick Clegg can count on. And there’s the rub: with the number of MPs that fringe parties can now muster it is getting extremely unlikely that any party can receive a majority of 325 MPs (out of 650) in order to govern by themselves. (325 represents an absolute majority because the Speaker is always independent and therefore 324 is the maximum combined Opposition parties).
ALL VERY INTERESTING I HEAR YOU MUTTER, MR DIMBLEBY - BUT LET’S LOOK AT THE ODDS. Both Coral and Ladbrokes are offering a Conservative number of seats of between 301-325 at 3/1. And this has to be snapped up. But if you then take it to the next level and you realise that on this eventuality there can only be a finite number of seats left, then by doubling up on the number of Labour seats at between 276-300 at 9/4, this then leaves the number of Liberal Democrats at between 11-20 (at 4/1 with Ladbrokes), which finally leaves the rest of the rump at UKIP at 5+ seats which is freely available at 4/7.
This eventuality I have just alluded to is effectively saying that the public won’t forgive the LibDems. The vagaries of first past the post translate into the number of UKIP MPs not matching up to anything like the percentage of the vote; the fringe parties getting limited representation; the SNP firmly kicking Labour into second place and out of the political map in Scotland; the Northern Irish voting for in equal numbers the Unionists and Sinn Fein, and the rest of the UK having slightly more confidence in the status quo rather than Red Ed.
Away from politics this column will be the last issue prior to the Grand National at which the weights have just been framed. The importance of this cannot be overstated as any horse can now run to its true ability without trying to protect its handicap allocation. On that note at Kempton last Saturday (20th Feb) ROCKY CREEK put in an exemplary display and I believe will come out on top of master trainer Paul Nichols’ six runners. At 14/1 (16 in a place) he is quite simply my National fancy. These days the National is not such a lottery as it once was (again I’m not trying to comment on the success of the Anti Horse Cruelty Lobby, but it is a fact that the National fences are no longer the fearsome fences of old and therefore there are less fallers and therefore more likely that the fancied horses complete).
So for my second pick and at a very respectable double carpet odds (33/1) I go to a horse laid out for this year’s renewal in the shape of Tom George’s SAINT ARE. Away from Aintree and for those of you looking for a single bet at Cheltenham I think the 4/1 available for the Irish trainers to win the PRESTBURY CUP is a sporting wager. The Prestbury Cup is presented to the country with the most winners of the Festival and the Irish need to accumulate 14 winners out of the 27 races to pick up the spoils. When you think about the powerhouse of Willie Mullin’s stable which has numerous hot pots over the four days, linked to a resurgent Noel Meade and the other Irish trainers who focus most of their winter on Cheltenham glory, although not favourite over the English, nevertheless gives the casual punter a live interest. Until next month, good punting.