REWIND TO JANUARY AND the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium between eventual Superbowl winners the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, and the sense of anti-climax and injustice in Andy Reid’s maverick football team was palpable, with the Patriots going through in overtime without KCC ever getting a chance to equal Tom Brady’s achievements. Hey, but that’s football and that’s the rules. Fast forward to October and the Chief’s are riding high in the AFC West and look a shoe-in for a long run in the play-offs.
With a quarter of the regular season gone and a schedule outside their division which has one pulsating home field advantage decider in Foxboro against the Pats, KANSAS CITY are wiser, healthier and a lot more savvy this year and are my number one pick for the Superbowl at a universal 11/2.
With the Chiefs my headline nap for the AFC, what of the NFC This year the AFC looks a lot stronger in that the Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens and even the Houston Texans can be seriously considered for the ultimate prize. But only one team qualifies for the final as the Superbowl is contested between the winners of the AFC and NFC. Up until two weeks ago the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS were my headline pick and their chances still depend on the return to fitness of talismanic quarterback Drew Brees who was injured early on in their showdown at the Rams.
He is forecast to be out until week 8 and given that their schedule is not overly difficult, my belief is if the Saints can stay in contention (maybe 5-3) until early November, their current price of 20/1 cannot be overlooked. Back them now on the expectation of a returning and resurgent Saints.
My last foray is a six timer on the divisional winners. My fancies are:
Baltimore Ravens AFC North 8/11
Houston Texans AFC South Even money
Dallas Cowboys NFC East 4/7
Minnesota Vikings NFC North 23/10
New Orleans Saints NFC South 8/13
LA Rams NFC West 8/15
The sixfold pays a mouthwatering 43/1.
More immediately, the first weekend in October is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Longchamp and Enable is attempting and unprecedented three-peat with victories in 2017 and 2018. Yes she is a superstar, yes she has the advantage of being John Gosden trained and Frankie Dettori ridden and yes she has been undefeated for what seems like all her career and boasts 11 group ones to her name but I think however you analyse her career she is no Treve or Sea Bird or Dahlia. She is odds-on and will likely to be no more than even money on the day and I just feel that her time has come and in a competitive race she will be overturned. But with what?
First port of call would be the Arc Trials, the Niel, the Vermeille and the Foy and undoubtedly the performance of SOTTSASS to my mind was exemplary. Stuck on the rails with nowhere to go, the sudden burst of acceleration put his trial to bed in a matter of strides and I think at 7/1 is undoubtedly an each-way steal and Sottass will bring the Arc back to the French this year.
My one caveat is (at time of writing) the Japanese horse DEIRDRE who was so eye-catching in the Irish Champion Stakes a couple of weekends back. Last seen at Glorious Goodwood Deirdre was an unfancied 20/1 for a group race and turned over both a Gosden hotpot and Aiden O’Brien’s 1,000 Guineas heroine. A note of caution, Deirdre might not run and decisions are being made this week but she is currently a whopping 40/1 for the Arc. You pays your money ante-post, you takes your choice, it’s a risk or reward bet.
Until next time, good punting.
Bernie the Book
In our smörgåsbord Bernie the Book this month I will be previewing a variety of betting opportunities, but firstly I have no hesitation with leading on the forthcoming Rugby Union World Cup, this time being held in Japan from September 20th. This will be the first time the competition has strayed from its traditional northern or southern hemisphere homes and is taking place in East Asia. Japan might have an adverse effect on some of the participants (time zones, altitudes, air quality) and it is to this end that my main bet will be SOUTH AFRICA (the Springboks) at a tasty 5/1.
In the previous eight World Cups only four teams have managed to win, not surprisingly headed by the New Zealand All Blacks with three wins. In fact the only northern hemisphere side to win the competition was England in 2003. This year despite Wales being the number one ranked team in the world and both England and Ireland in the top five, the cup will go to the Springboks. Why?
The reason is twofold: firstly great squads, and great teams, can only be at the top for a number of years and especially in rugby union, it is largely cyclicle. New Zealand is the rightful favourite at around 11/8, but I feel the team is on the wane, whilst South Africa is improving at just the right time. The second reason is that South Africa is paired in the same pool as New Zealand along with Italy, Namibia and Canada and it is far better to play the tournament favourites in the group stage where the top two teams qualify for the knockouts, than in the knockout rounds. I fully expect the final to be contested between South Africa and New Zealand as they can’t meet again until the final.
The group winner has a slightly easier passage probably playing Scotland or Japan in the quarters and England in the semis, but in any event the runner-up in this group will still be favourites to beat Ireland in the quarters and probably Australia or Wales in the semi. In addition you probably need history on your side which strongly favours the southern hemisphere.
But enough of rugby, but not enough of Japan because my antepost fancy for the Arc is Japan for Aiden O’Brien. As the master of Ballydoyle will not declare his hand until much nearer the time I would advise holding your bets until you see non runner no bet from a bookmaker. He is currently around 5/1. I would advise an interest now as should he partake and win the Leger, he might well prove to be the main danger to Enable. In any event it might be politic to back BROOME for the St Leger in September. He is currently around the 10/1 mark.
Our smörgåsbord is completed with my initial tips for the forthcoming European football season.
In Europe’s premier trophy, the Champions League, my main punt, as last year, is JUVENTUS at a mouthwatering 12/1. My viewpoint hasn’t changed, any team with Ronaldo is always going to be at the business end of the tournament but now with the addition of the Dutch wonderkid Matthijs de Ligt and to a lesser extent, Aaron Ramsey, I think they will have plenty of ammunition and knowhow. Obviously the chances of MANCHESTER CITY at 9/2 can’t be overlooked but 9/2 is a very short price for anyone hoping to win Europe’s premier competition for the first time.
Finally, PADDY POWER has come up with a very interesting market, and a very interesting price that has me all abuzz. As you will know, the third placed teams in the eight Champions League groups go into the Europa Cup at the last 32 stage and Paddy Power is offering a mouthwatering 7/2 that one of those eight teams wins the competition. So that’s 7/2 about any one of eight teams, who by definition might be better than some of the leading teams that didn’t qualify for the Champions League out of 32. Plus any one of those eight teams can’t meet each other until the last 16. I will have a bit of the action at this early stage purely on the basis of value.
And in the inaugural Bernie the Book Pick 5 Competition we have had a tremendous entry of 139 runners and riders all bidding to win our first prize of £500. Entries have now closed. The season-long competition which will be won by the entrant with the most football knowledge will be updated on our website every month. Just click on the table update to see your position.
But remember, as it is a handicap, the embryonic table at present looks lopsided as it includes all the points additions for the year. Regular updates will also appear in this column.
When compiling the initial table it struck me that most people either chose Rangers or Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership, getting a handicap start from Celtic and the most popular teams across the entries were Manchester United, Derby County, Portsmouth, Plymouth but strangely enough there was a disproportionate number of people who tipped Oldham Athletic. Were they from the north west or do they know something that the rest of us don’t!
Until next month with selections for the Arc de Triomphe and the National Hunt season.
Think you know which teams will perform well this season?
Now here’s your chance to put your knowledge to the test and it’s totally free to enter.
Simply pick one team from each division and their total end of season points added to the allocation given by myself alongside, will give your total.
Highest points wins! Simples!
WHAT A SUMMER IN STORE FOR CRICKET LOVERS!
There’s a home series ashes to savour in July but first the ICC?Cricket World Cup began on 30th May with venues all over the UK. And this year there’s been a rule change which can only benefit the more fancied teams. Quite simply, all the ten teams play each other in one league rather than the traditional method of Group A v Group B with a danger that one group is significantly stronger than the other. Therefore the dependence upon Duckworth?Lewis or Net Run?Rate is negated somewhat.
Any discussion on the outcome has to start with the world’s number one team – for at least the last two years – and that is England. Not only are they number one, they are also playing at home with patriotic support, they have a batting line-up of enviable make-up, in Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Buttler,?Stokes and Ali!! (Strewth as the Aussies may say) so how can you not fancy them?
The short answer is, they are just too short and a price of 2/1 favourites before a ball is bowled is rather skinny. I have no doubt that come semi-final time their price could only have constricted to 6/4 and who knows the outcome of a one-off.
Far better to back a team with equal support, the world’s best player (Kohli) and a squad equal to, if not better than, England. Because it’s one thing having a plethora of batsmen, but only two bat at any one time, whereas in India they have a bowler who will ravage any line-up in the world and that is Jasprit Bumrah. INDIA’S squad will also contain Sharma, Dhawan, Pandya and Jadeja, and MS?Dhoni and anyone watching the Indian?Premier League over the last couple of months will know how destructive they have been. Their price is 7/2 and I think that is a price well worth taking.
As to the rest, I think?Australia, even with the returning David?Warner and Steve?Smith, will be too fractious, and while Pakistan,?West Indies and?South?Africa will give us many highlights, they are simply not consistent enough. The Black?Cats of New Zealand probably offer a better alternative each way at between 10 and 16/1 dependent on where you shop. An alternative to traditional each way is a India v New Zealand final at 14/1.
In the top batsmen market my three against the field are ROHIT SHARMA at 20/1, QUINTON DE KOCK at 25/1 and DAVID WARNER at 25/1.
Away from cricket, Wimbledon starts on 1st July and therefore is included in this month’s Bernie the Book as the event will already have started by the time you read July’s column.
The time has come for the new order to challenge the establishment and therefore I readily dismiss Rafa, the FedExpress and Mr Grumpy. Whilst Djokovich remains imperious and the most likely winner, my two against the field in any selection (look out for the draw) are STEFANOS TSITSIPAS at 25/1 and KAREN?KHACHANOV at 66/1. Certainly back them when odds are against a more fancied opponent but certainly each way.
And in less than a month we have the highight of the British flat racing season, Royal?Ascot, over five days from 18-22 June. Looking at some of the mouthwatering clashes in May, I can only hope that all horses stand their ground over the next few weeks. But some races are framed already and regular readers should make a note of the following:
CROSS COUNTER 5/1 Ascot Gold Cup
SEA OF CLASS 4/1 Prince of Wales Stakes
CALYX 6/4 Commonwealth?Cup
INVINCIBLE ARMY 6/1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes
MUSTASHRY 16/1 Queen?Anne
And so to July with my antepost predictions for the forthcoming football season (what already!) and the Open Golf at Royal?Portrush.?Good punting!
PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS starts next week and the ten-man jamboree this year takes in not only Holland but Germany on its travels but come May, I expect this year’s final to be a repeat of last year in the Green Machine facing Michael ‘Bully Boy’ Smith. He has certainly progressed over the last 12 months and losing finalist in the PDC World Championship testifies to this and that 10/1, I can see a lot of juice in backing Bully Boy now. Remember, the top four qualifiers play out on the final stage and I cannot see Bully Boy not being in the top four especially with the likes of Peter Wright, James Wade, Raymond Van Barneveld and Daryl Gurney being in such poor form.
Away from the darts this month sees the return of the Champions League and the round of 16. This is where europe’s big boys step up to the plate and I suggest a straight six-timer on the following to qualify from their respective ties. This pays 17/1 if you shop around, but certainly with whoever you back you should be able to receive odds of at least 15/1. My suggestions are: PSG (4/11), Roma (19/20), Borussia Dortmund (5/6), Bayern Munich (11/10), Barcelona (1/7) and Juve (4/7). I deliberately left out Man City as even though I think they are a shoe-in to beat Schalke the price is too prohibitive at 1/25!
Now that March is only six weeks away, most of the clues are in for Cheltenham 19. In previous columns I have advocated Laurina (10/1) for the Champion Hurdle (now 7/2), Kalashnikov for the Arkle at 7/1 and now my complete Cheltenham tips prior to the day are as follows. NB try to remember that most firms offer NRNB on some markets and therefore be mindful of who you place your bets with.
I would advocate placing a Super Heinz which comprises on 21 x doubles, 35 x trebles, 35 x 4-timers, 21 x 5-timers, 6 x 6-timers and an acc which comprises of 120 bets. Even at 50p, it’ll cost you £60.
Laurina (7/2) Champion Hurdle
Kalashnikov (7/1) Arkle
Mr Fisher (10/1) Supreme Novices
Delta Work (9/2) RSA
Waiting Patiently (6/1) Ryanair
Sir Erec (13/2) Triumph
Kemboy (9/1) Gold Cup
They will certainly give you a run for your money and keep you with an interest in Cheltenham over the four days.
Bernie the Book