APRIL – one of my favourite months and not due to the weather or a special occasion, but simply because April tends to be at the business end of season-long wagers. There is one weekend at the start of the month which often coincides with the Grand National, the FA Cup semi-finals and golf’s first major – The Masters from Augusta National. This year the National is on the Saturday (more later) but firstly this year’s Masters takes place on April 7-10. Thus far (and in my column in December) I have generically tipped up the chances of both Jason Day (11/4) and Ricky Fowler (11/2) TO WIN A MAJOR IN 2016 (four chances there) and in last month’s column my provisional two against the field were RICKY FOWLER (16/1) and BUBBA WATSON (12/1) to win this year’s Masters. However, in blistering form at the moment and with a tremendous course record are both ADAM SCOTT (11/1) and CHARL SCHWARTZEL (40/1) both of whom should be added to our portfolio. To level stakes on the four, worseways you are getting 9/4 for your money and bestways a shade over 9/1. What must be remembered around Augusta is that it takes a lifetime to master and that is why golfers that tend to do well are those with course form. In my quartet we have two past champions, a maturing superstar in waiting and the man who would be king. Since Adam Scott changed his putter to get rid of the broom handle, now banned, he has gradually returned to his former glory. A runner-up twice round Augusta and recently the winner of two landmark titles (including a WGC) he has cherry ripe for picking.
However, another former champion should be mentioned and has got an excellent chance. The South African Charl Schwartzel has started 2016 with a bang. He has two recent victories, is an ex holder of the green jacket and now seems pain free after nearly a year out with niggling back pains. Not ideal for a golfer – just ask Tiger Woods! Due to a lot of the markets not being framed at time of writing do look out for any markets concerning Phil Mickelson (specially in past champion markets) and any markets opposing the aforementioned Tiger Woods should he miraculously make it to the first tee.
As previously mentioned both above and in last month’s column, my headline picks are detailed above and all four are set to run. However, there have been a number of Grand National trials recently, most notably Many Clouds at Kelso, The Last Samurai at Doncaster and Silvianico Conti at Newbury. By far the most impressive was the last named Conti but this is reflected in the price and the horse has yet to be supplemented for Aintree. If he runs – which seems likely – especially as Paul Nicholls (the trainer) would seal up the British Trainers Championship should he win, his price would be around the 8/1 mark so I would advocate a respectable wager at today’s prices which is in the region of 14/1.
The semi-final line for the FA Cup is now complete and I hope (as I say each month) you have backed Crystal Palace at the 66/1 I advocated back in January. Just one match away from the Final and a minimum of 33/1 payout! Come on you Eagles! But whilst the FA Cup is at its business end, the two major European football comopetitions are still at the quarter-final stage. To the Champions League, my headline tips back in October are still running strong (PSG at 20/1 and Manchester City at 16/1). Whilst I am not over confident about the blues (probably because I am a long-standing fan and am naturally fearful) PSG look good value. Therefore to supplement this bet I would only advocate BARCELONA at 7/4. I cannot see any team beating them over two legs and therefore they might only slip up in the final, but from a betting perspective we are backing them today at 7/4 when in the final they will be no bigger than 1/2 to win outright. Back heavy, especially if you have not backed PSG, with a view to establishing your hedge early.
Away from the Champions League, it could be well be a Basque double with the cup going to Bilbao at a tasty (pass the paella) 11/1. Currently 1-0 up from the first leg against Gary Neville’s Valencia, they have crucially not conceded an away goal and are favourites to progress. Yes, Dortmund look good but 7/4 to win outright is a farcical price and I would much rather add Athletic Bilbao to our portfolio to augment my January tip, Seville at 14/1 (now 5/1 third favourites).
Away from football, a fortnight ago saw the start of the new Formula One season. The first race was won by Nico Rosberg (the Mercedes No. 2 driver – but don’t tell him that!) from the usual troika of Rosberg, Hamilton and Vettel. I think this year will be the time that Nico replaces Lewis as World Champion, simply because the pair of them are in the best car, Rosberg is German, Mercedes are German (need I say any more?) and I fervently believe that Nico Rosberg has come of age. Just look at the way he won the last four Grand Prix at the end of last year after Hamilton was crowned World Champion and also the animosity and burning desire we all witnessed with the chucking of the hat incident. At a current 11/4, ROSBERG is the confident choice.
Until next month, our Euro 2016 Special where I will extol the virtues of Belgium, good punting.
Bernie the Book