In this packed issue we are going to discuss the outcome of soccer’s two premier European cup competitions, the Champions League and the Europa League, the betting spectacle that is Cheltenham with some last minute additions to our portfolio and the 2018! (surely you mean 2017?) (no, I don’t) American football season. Speaking of which, I hope you all followed my headline tip for this year’s Superbowl, the New England Patriots at 13/2 as highlighted in October’s issue and February’s issue. But why 2018? Because my attention was drawn to which teams might perform well next year and prior to the draft, it is not foolhardy to have a small interest on the CLEVELAND BROWNS for next year at a whopping, and I do mean whopping, 250/1. Now obviously the chances of a 250/1 outsider of all 32 teams winning the Superbowl next year are fanciful but even at this early stage I would suggest a 10 unit each way bet which will return you 3,750 units if successful. Over the next few months there may be odds on the Browns winning their division (the AFC North) or their conference (the AFC) but while it’s there start your portfolio early as last year’s 115 Browns will be an awful lot better than that and they will surprise a lot of pundits.
FOOTBALL – CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
But on to the Champions League. February saw the first legs of the last 16 Champions League ties with the conclusion over the next couple of weeks. And what a minefield they might be for the big three. You could argue that Arsenal have more than a fighting chance in defeating Bayern Munich. Similarly PSG have some sort of chance of beating Barcelona and Real Madrid certainly will have it tough against a resurgent Napoli. One or more could easily fall. So where does the value lie? Unquestionably ATLETICO MADRID at 10/1 have to be backed. They are a hard team to beat and have endured disappointment, not only in last year’s final when Real snatched it on penalties but also in the 2014 final when Ramos nicked an equaliser for Real deep into injury time and their resistance was broken, losing 41 in extra time. This will be their year and with Diego Simeone to guide them (and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want to cross him) I think 2017 will be their year.
FOOTBALL – EUROPA CUP
Europe’s other competition also reaches the knockout stage with the last 32 after the third placed teams in the Champions League have come into the draw. The big advantage now is that the winners of the Europa League qualify for the Champions League next year which now means that some of Europe’s elite take the competition that much more seriously. Man United are favourites at 4/1 and you can see why. The same could be said for Spurs at 15/2. But let me ask you a question. If either of those two teams look like securing a top four berth in our Premiership then how seriously will they then take it. Liverpool certainly did last year losing in the final to
perennial winners Seville, so the big two’s chances can’t be overlooked. However, slightly down the order is the resurgent ROMA who are currently second in Serie A. They have a tough last 32 tie against Villareal but I expect them to qualify and then the 12/1 will look very appetising.
SNOOKER – BET FRED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Snooker’s premier event, the World Championship, begins in mid April, and now is the time to lay our snooker tips on the green baize. With the dilution of the snooker season by the powers that be (Hearn Junior) I feel that a lot of players who need to play to keep their ranking points up are susceptible to burn out. In any event when I was looking through the rankings and the players in form, and most pertinently those with good memories of the Crucible, I was amazed that STUART BINGHAM is now the world’s number two. Top eight maybe but number two? But then I delved a bit deeper and he is having a good season with victory over Judd Trump in the Welsh
Open recently, he is a former world champion in 2015 and he is certainly committed to the sport. When you compare his odds of 25/1 against the household names at single figure odds, you can see where I am coming from. My second pick against the field is The Hawk – BARRY HAWKINS – at 20/1. Compared to Ronnie (let me throw my dummy out of the pram because it’s so tiring and I need a haircut and I’m playing rubbish) O’Sullevan at 4/1 favourite and Mark Selby who is bang out of form at 5/1, you can see my point.
HORSE RACING – CHELTENHAM
The perils of backing antepost have never been more prevalent than in February, especially for leading owner Rich Ricci. In February leading hopes for the Champion Hurdle, Annie Power and Faugheen (the last two winners of the grade 1 hurdle) both were ruled out through injury. Furthermore another one of Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins’s stars Min also defected from his intendedtarget The Arkle. With most bookmakers at the time offering no concessions, a lot of antepost wagers struck in the autumn have been lost and many fingers burnt. However, if you held vouchers opposing those horses then those odds have protracted. As I have always advocated, you pays your money you takes your chance, which was one of my top ten tips on our website in January’s column. In a year where Coneygree and Don Cossack are also unable to defend their Gold Cups, you can see the pitfalls. And as we go to press, the future of jump racing in Thistlecrack who was 6/4 favourite for the Gold Cup, has now suffered an injury blow and is out until Christmas. Once again the perils of antepost wagers on racing. Fortunately my portfolio has been predominantly unaffected and alongside you will see the latest wagers together with my latest tips. But firstly a word needs to be said about a special market the bookmakers are offering – Top Trainer at the Festival. In recent years this has been won convincingly by Willie Mullins and indeed despite the losses mentioned above, he is still odds on to retain his crown. However the value lies in backing NICKY HENDERSON at 11/2. In a market where realistically only three or four trainers can win the 11/2 on offer represents tremendous value. Similarly in the Top Jockey market, Ruby Walsh is rightly oddson, but again if you are of the belief that several trainers will have one horse in each race to topple Willie Mullins, then it follows that as Ruby Walsh will be on the majority of those horses, he might also come under pressure. Obviously you are looking for a jockey with a large book of rides, and rides that have a decent chance, then you can look no further than JP McManus’s retained jockey BARRY GERAGHTY to give you a bet for the week at 11/4. JP uses numerous trainers from both sides of the pond and last year he was the leading owner at the meeting.
HORSE RACING – LATEST TIPS
My latest tips for the Festival are detailed below (colour coded in red) to differentiate them from last month’s tips and please bear in mind that as now most bookmakers are NRNB (Non Runner No Bet) the risks of investing a couple of weeks before the races are less risky.