PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS RETURNS THIS WEEK and the 2016 season should be magical. All the old guard is there but this year they are joined by the next big thing, Michael Smith. My belief is the top of world darts could be set for a rejig, especially as The Power looks in permanent decline. His capitulation in the World Championships was especially sad for true darts enthusiasts and his retirement could well be a lot sooner than people imagine. Indeed, 2016 could be the last hurrah of Barney, and Phil and possibly The Machine which is James Wade. Adrian Lewis seems to be rejuvenated and conversely cannot be ruled out at dining at darts’s top table. However his inconsistency makes him a risky betting proposition. My first bet therefore is who will finish bottom of the premier league and, sad thought it pains me to say so, I think 7/1 about Barney, 25/1 against Jackpot and 40/1 against Phil Taylor needs to be snapped up.
The odds compilers have also naturally opened the market for top of the league (this is not to win but to qualify for finals night, where I believe MvG will come to the fore). But in the regular season a sporting wager should be made on Peter Wright 22/1 and, surprisingly, Adrian Lewis again at 16/1: as mentioned above he will either be good or bad in equal measures. Finally, my nap in this event is which dartsman will score the most 180s during the premier league season, and the 9/1 on offer on Adrian Lewis just has to be taken. It seems to me it’s a three-cornered fight between MvG, Gary Anderson and Jackpot and at 9/1 I know where my money is.
As highlighted in last month’s issue I advised Crystal Palace at a whopping 50/1 to win the FA Cup. This was tempered by them having to overcome a tricky Third Round tie at Southampton. This they did and are now top priced 25/1 for the ultimated prize. Please be aware this column was written to last weekend’s Fourth Round and therefore I hope Palace are still in the pot. However, my alternate bet this year is Spurs who are freely available at 10/1. Poccetino’s men are adept on the road. Surely in the Fifth Round (Colchester away in Round 4) and now steely enough to dine at football’s top table I also think that Spurs need to challenge Arsenal for silverware for their fans’ sake this year.
However, the main crux of this article is my official countdown, speculative Heinz and love of all things equine for my official Cheltenham portfolio. This year’s festival is mid-March. MY NAP OF THE WHOLE MEETING IS IRELAND TO WIN THE PRESTBURY CUP. Each year the cup is competed by England versus Ireland foremost winners over the four days. There are 28 races over the four days and keen afficianados might remember me tipping up Ireland at 7/2 and being denied in the very last race. Traditionally the Irish get between 8-11 winners but that was before the total dominance of racing’s elite racers by Willie Mullins. Added to him we have the strength of Diggingstown (Michael O’Leary of Ryanair) plus Enda in the Cross Country and other notable trainers such as Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade and Adan O’Brien in the Triumph. Best price for this bet which will cover you for the meeting is 7/4, which I still believe represents great value and this column has always aimed at valued prices irrespective of whether value is even money or 33/1.
Onto the meeting itself.
Most of the trials have now been run, and most of the targets have been pencilled in by respective owners and trainers. However trying to second guess which horse in the Mullins’ battalion will go to which target is very difficult. Also certain races have not been formulated yet and so my Heinz revolves around known targets and a rounded race. Please be aware that the perils of ante-post betting are such that if a horse doesn’t line up for the race indicated, through injury or just that the horse has a different engagement, is irrelevant to the punter – that is, you lose your money. Balanced against this is obviously the fact that the odds you get will be substantially larger than those on the day. As William Shakespeare once said: “You pays your money, you takes your chance, Yorick”.
So onto the ante-post Heinz which comprises…
Leg 1: L’AMI SERGE at 10/1 for the Arkle. Yes I know Douvan is a shoe-in but if it is to get beat then I have been mightily impressed by the rejuvenated Henderson horse in his two runs so far this year. Last year’s Triumph Hurdle runner-up has taken to fences well and will run the favourite close.
Leg 2: MORE OF THAT at 5/1 for the RSA Chase. Few trainers train staying chasers better than JonJo O’Neill and in More of That, which won the World Hurdle two years ago, he has got a horse to go to war with. The RSA Chase is notoriously gruelling and might well put up beyond today’s likely runners; one horse that’s definitely going there is More of That.
Leg 3: UN DE SCEAUX at 7/4 for the Champion Chase. Everyone needs a banker at the meeting and this I believe will be it. Unbeaten over fences (when he completes) I think this Mullins’ hot pot is in a different league from the rest of the field who largely consist of horses at their best, two or three years ago. That includes the wonderful Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Sire de Grugy and quite simply if it stands up it will be a procession.
Leg 4: ALPHA DES OBEAUX at 9/1 for the World Hurdle. Onto Thursday and even though I think the favourite is eminently unopposable in this race, stranger things happen to good things. If Annie Power turns up or Vroum Vroum Mag is rerouted here then obviously Alpha Des Obeaux’s chances become lessened but those horses are not sure to run so at 9/1 let’s stick with Alpha Des Obeaux.
Leg 5: SCEAU ROYAL at 14/1 for the Triumph Hurdle.
Onto Friday and Friday opens with The Juvenile Hurdling Crown. All the talk is abut the Aiden O’Brien (trained by his son Joseph) hot pot but what have we really seen? What I have seen though is that Sceau Royal at 14/1 will give us a run for our money.
Leg 6: DJAKADAM at 6/1 for the Gold Cup. The highlight of the meeting is the Gold Cup. Will Vauour run? Will it get the distance? Will Cue Card at 6/1 (we’ve taken 20/1 in my column in October) land the triple crown? Remember there is no Coneygree and last year’s runner-up will do for me.
So there is our Heinz and just to whet your appetite, the accumulator pays £190,575 to £1 stake but of course we will make serious money if four of the six legs come in (effectively a Yankee). Right is the betting slip and how to write it out.
Obviously, a 10p win Heinz will still win you £19K but your stake will only be £5.70 so please be aware of your staking plan.
In the next issue we will discuss the Six Nations (Rugby Union), Super League (Rugby League) and my final bets for the Champions League.
Then it’s onto the Snooker World Championship, Augusta Golf and the Boat Race.
Until next time, good punting.