FIRSTLY, A LITTLE REMINDER. Did you back my headline tip for the FA Cup back in January? For those who did I advised Crystal Palace at a whopping 50/1. Currently they are in the quarter finals and play Reading. With all due respect to Brian McDermott’s men, we aren’t talking of them playing Arsenal away, or Chelsea or even Barcelona! So if they qualify for the semis they are one game away from a 25/1 payout and 50/1 if they ultimately win the top prize. Talking of Barcelona, I did advocate putting them in my January Heinz (57 bets) at a whopping 11/4. After last month’s defeat of the Gunners in North London they are currently 7/4. Anyway onto this month.
So who is the man set to rule the world? The answer is current Republican second favourite – MARCO RUBIO. His price has contracted in the last month and he is currently 9/2 to occupy the Oval Office. The American presidential election is a bit like the Superbowl in that the ultimate prize is contested between the AFC and the NFC in football, and in politics between the Republicans and the Democrats. Whoever secures the nomination of their party goes forward to the X Factor final! The reason I fancy Rubio so strongly is firstly, despite the current public voting in the Primaries for Donald Trump, he is simply a flim-flam man. How can the electorate honestly take final stock of a man who has openly called for a Berlin-type wall over the Rio Grande, visa restrictions on anyone with a Muslim sounding name and who has chosen to mock one of his political rivals as being ineligible to stand for the presidency because of his Cuban-American background? Now compare him to Marco Rubio who will command a fair proportion of the Cuban-American vote and is a man so gifted that fellow candidate Jeb Bush recently withdrew from the contest after witnessing him at first hand in Florida as Senator.
Bernie Sanders and HIllary Clinton are running pretty much neck and neck for the Democratic nomination, but one thing is certain: if Bernie Sanders wins then the viewpoint of most Americans is that he cannot command enough support across all American voters to be President. It’s akin to Jeremy Corbyn being seemingly unelectable as Prime Minister in the UK.
But closer to home we have our own referendum on whether we stay in or opt out of the EU. And it’s certainly hotting up with both campaigns now having a creditable figurehead. To look at the polls, both camps are running pretty much neck and neck and the large undecided which currently stands anywhere between 15 and 24%, might well be swung by any immigration story in the coming months, or a price surge on imported goods. To look at the bookies’ odds, they are pretty much uniform in that we will stay in the EU at 4/9 or leave the EU at anywhere between 15/8 and 9/4. Which leads me to the bet we need to lay. Most bookmakers are betting on the winning percentage and I genuinely believe it will be close. That being the case back STAY PERCENTAGE VOTE AT 50-55% at a whopping 12/5 (that’s just under 5/2 for your money!). What you need to realise is that if stay ends up at 53%, then leave by definition is at 47% (and I can’t see a massive six per cent the final outcome). I would rather back at 12/5 than at 4/9 for ostensibly the same market.
We have already laid down our bets for Cheltenham (15-18 March) but what of the National on April 9? Because the weights have already been framed, any horse’s performance from now is disregarded for weight bearing purposes and is now frozen and technically they might be well in come April. This is especially true if a horse does particularly well at Cheltenham in either the Gold Cup or, more personally, the Four Mile Chase on the first day (The National Hunt Chase). So take the prices now before they dramatically change. PS - Some bookmakers last year gave a non runner no bet concession in early March and one bookmaker gave money back on fallers! So that concession has to be taken up.
However, my four picks at this stage are:
1) KRUZHLININ at 25/1. The horse is unexposed, trained by a master in Philip Hobbs and laid out for the race.
2) SAINT ARE at 33/1. Last year’s runner-up off a handy mark and used to National fences. Might go one better.
3) UCELLO CONTI at 40/1. Looked good in Ireland in one of their premier staying chases and is down to run in the four miler at Cheltenham. Odds will contract if bold showing.
4) BISHOPS ROAD at 25/1. Trained by up and coming trainer Kerry Lee, Bishops Road was very impressive in the Grand National Trial at Haydock recently and some people have backed the horse at 130/1 against!! No names, no pack drill.
The first Major of the year is also nearly upon us, namely the US Masters. Readers of my November column might have already backed my two named suggestions in the TO WIN A MAJOR bracket at 11/4 for Jason Day and 11/2 for Ricky Fowler. That looks a great price now, and remember that’s just to win any of the four Majors this year, not the Masters. However I do fancy RICKY FOWLER to win the Masters at 20/1. There is a new maturity about the brash Californian and he has certainly shown his mettle in closing out some high-level tournaments recently. Now is his time. My second selection is two-time winner BUBBA WATSON. Augusta is tailor-made for his unique swing and so are the greens. 18/1 is still available.
The T20 World Cup begins this month in India. One thing is for sure, that in predicting the winner of a competition in a 20- over match is suicidal so to back the tournament favourite ante-post (in this case India) at cramped odds is folly. Secondly, you need a belligerent batter or two in your ranks who can chase down a target at 10+ an over for 10 overs to stand a chance. Thirdly, you need a team used to competing in a high pressure environment. That being said my two tips are AUSTRALIA (at 6/1) and SOUTH AFRICA (at 7/1). But as alluded to above it is probably more sensible to back three against the field in the top batsmen market, and they are:
1) VIRHAT KOHLI at 9/1 (India).
2) QUENTIN DE KOCK at 14/1 (South Africa).
3) MARTIN GUPTIL at 16/1 (New Zealand).
I’d love to back my all-time favourite Chris Gayle but he is so sadly inconsistent these days. But if there is a market (not yet available) for top score then I would certainly advocate him.
Super League is in full throttle at the moment and the opening skirmishes certainly lead to a change in the old guard. My tips for the Grand Final winner (remember that’s not regular season) are HULL FC at 11/1 and perennial bridesmaids WARRINGTON WOLVES at 9/2. It’s a long season but both will qualify for the play-offs and in the case of Hull particularly, they might surprise people at how high their seeding will be.
Until next month with a jam-packed April and further tales of derring-do by Alan Pardew’s men…Good punting.
Bernie the Book