Punchestown Day 2 & Alan Potts Blog uploaded - Punchestown Festival Day 1 uploaded - Weekend Race Previews uploaded - World Snooker Preview in General Sport, Mark Ball Blog & Premier League Darts (Thurs) uploaded - Scottish National in Ante-Post Focus uploaded
Before I look back at Aintree and look forward the upcoming sport in today's blog, just a quick note to say that it is my intention from today to include a very short 'Thought For The Day' at the top of the home page every morning.
No big-priced Grand National winner this season, though I was very hopeful with the way that things were going for the first 3m4f of the race with my on-the-day fancy Rogue Angel enjoying himself out in front and then my ante-post hope Blaklion taking over – far too soon as it turned out. So after a good Friday when Rather Be (available at 14/1) was the highlight, it was a slightly frustrating end to the meeting, highlighted by Politologue inexplicably stumbling two strides after flying the final fence, a big leap which looked to have secured him victory being a horse who stays 2m4f and was just starting to get on top.
For the third year running it was a second-season chaser that came out on top with them having previously struggled for decades underlining the changing nature of the race that I highlighted due to the race modifications but I have to admit that One For Arthur was not on my short list from the more fancied runners. For the second year running it was also low weights that dominated as none of the top nine in the handicap could finish in the first 15. Maybe combine that with second-season chasers next season and see what’s left? Many Clouds really was some horse to win off 11st 9lb and I made a point of watching him being inducted into the Grand National Hall of Fame on a gloriously sunny day. So much so, I am currently pulling off a passing impersonation of a tomato.
The success of Colin Tizzard and Alan & Ann Potts was a recurring theme throughout the week following on from the owners' success with Sizing John’s Gold Cup victory with Grade 1 wins for Fox Norton, Finian’s Oscar and Pingshou plus a runaway handicap success for Sizing Codelco. A shame the owners couldn’t quite land a fifth winner of the week with Supasundae being my recommendation for the Liverpool Hurdle who went down all guns blazing. Friday was the first time that I have seen Finian’s Oscar in the flesh and he’s the horse that I most took away from the meeting.
The next major meeting that I am covering every race for is the Punchestown Festival which starts in 15 days’ time which should also provide the sub plot of a battle royale for the Irish Trainers’ Championship. The race trends for the major races at that meeting will be uploaded next week. Before then I am back on Friday to cover Easter Saturday’s action and then again on Sunday to cover the Easter Monday card at Fairyhouse which is the start of a belting five days of racing as it’s Craven Week (three days) plus Cheltenham’s two-day April Meeting and then the two-day Scottish National and Greenham Meetings at the weekend.
The Masters also ended on a frustrating note having backed Justin Rose to win heading into the final round at 3/1 and Thomas Pieters each-way at 100/1. As the leaders were half-way up the 13th hole it was looking very good indeed on both counts as Rose looked like kicking four shots clear and Pieters had played his way into tied-second but, anything can happen on the back nine at Augusta and both players missed out on those respective bets by just a single shot. Pieters saved my Masters being the Top Debutant (7/1) and is a sure-fire future winner of the event.
Well done to Sergio Garcia. Even though I was on Rose there was a big part of me willing on the Spaniard. It’s often said that when a player finally wins their first Major then it could open up the floodgates but it rarely happens. In Sergio’s case, a player whose head has often beaten him and endured four second-place finishes in Majors and over 20 top 10s, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t add another Major whilst still in his 30s. In fact, unless something goes badly awry between now and Royal Birkdale, I’d see him as the most likely winner of The Open with the shackles now unlocked, rather than 20/1 sixth favourite in a place. Being the Major Championship where he features on the leaderboard more often than not, I’m on Garcia already for The Open at 20/1 having backed him this morning as I can’t see him lengthening and he will be near enough favourite if he goes close in the US Open, which I expect him to do with the Major monkey finally off his back at the 74th attempt.
Carl Redden loves this time of year as it’s the clay season, his preferred terrain for betting on the ATP tour, and he has covered the first event of that season for us at ATP Houston which starts tomorrow night (uploaded this morning) and he has a confident selection. So much so that he was virtually begging me to include this event which wasn’t initially part of the schedule for this website so I’ve caved in! In the coming weeks he will be covering three more clay-court events in the lead up to the French Open.
As for me, it’s that time of year again to put on the headphones with a pained expression on my face as I listen to all the Eurovision Song Contest entries many times over! You can pray for me. It will be a little different from The Who last Wednesday at the Manchester Arena! What a strange old place that is. Still, a far better atmosphere than the arena at Leeds produces. I’m hugely tempted to head back to Las Vegas for a week in between Glorious Goodwood and the Ebor Meeting where they have a residency at Caesars Palace for three weeks. Just working out how to bring up the subject with Mrs Jones.
It’s also that time of year for the World Snooker Championships which begins on Saturday, though final qualifying is still taking place, which I’ll be previewing in the General Sports section and have a 33/1+ fancy. Ridiculously, we won’t know the draw until Thursday so that preview will be uploaded on Friday.
Onto the football and even if Crystal Palace don’t beat Arsenal tonight, it will still be a small winning week for Premier League Picks continuing our good run. If Sam Allardyce’s men can secure all three points that will put us 22 points up for the season with hopefully Chelsea (11/2 for the title) and Lukaku (12/1 for Top Scorer) still to come. A brace for Lukaku yesterday now takes him four goals clear and 2/5 to remain on top.
My 5/1 about Real Madrid for the Champions League was looking good until Barcelona came back from 4-0 down to beat Paris St Germain and I’m really looking forward to watching their two-legged quarter final with Bayern Munich. The first leg takes place on Wednesday. Twenty-four hours earlier it’s Juventus v Barcelona.
I’m actually in Barcelona for a couple of days for the return game so will be trying to sort some tickets today. It’s an experience that’s got to be done if I’m already there. With at least two big teams exiting the competition next week I’ve therefore had a little saver on Atletico Madrid at 6/1 who are a devilish hard team to beat and I don’t expect Leicester to pose the runners-up twice in the last three years many problems. Fingers crossed that they then draw either Dortmund or Monaco in the semi-finals so only have one big gun to beat to lift the trophy.