“You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” – Britain’s love for losers hits new heights at Wimbledon
This quote is what made me begin to really like Andy Murray. Someone passionate about winning, epitomised by his hard work off the court and illustrated by his water works on it. However is this desire from the likes of Andy Murray enough to deliver success? or is it engrained in the British psyche that success isn’t always about winning?
As Andy Murray stood crying after another ‘gallant’ British effort, the Wimbledon crowd stood and applauded for over two minutes before he could console himself enough to speak. Some of the crowd themselves were in tears with pride for the young Scotsman, others continually chanted his name. Amongst all the British patriotism stood the lone figure of 7 times Wimbledon winner Roger Federer, who had not won a grand slam for 2 and a half years but broke his own record of 17 trophies simply as he would not accept failure as good enough. He comprehensively won the final in 4 sets after a brief wobble at the start. After becoming World Number 1 again (breaking yet another record) the first question he was promptly asked by the British reporter was about the bravery of our sporting star. Murray may have welcomed the support, but certainly would argue with the nations contention that making the final was “acceptable”. He illustrated as such through his refusal to do a lap of honour by the Wimbledon organisers…for losing! As least he has the right idea. Success is not reaching the final its winning it and its about time us Brits cottoned on.
So why is it that we all seem to love a loser in this country? It is not just Murray whose name is spread over the front and back pages in complete support after failing to win. If Lee Westwood were American or Australian, I would fear for him with his lack of a golfing major. They don’t get or understand failure in their culture – or not the kind of toe-curling, humiliating failure that our Olympians have enjoyed almost every 4 years. They certainly would not cheer a personal best or mention an athlete for simply making the final of a track event in their sport pages. Paula Radcliffe, failing to even complete the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, having been odds on for gold, gained widespread sympathy. The Barmy Army was famous in the past for travelling after the English cricket team all over the world as they lost easily in different continents. Again in rugby we have had to hear just how brave Ireland and Wales were as they again just lost by the odd point to our superior Southern Hemisphere counterparts. And let’s not mention football semifinals and penalty shoot outs.
Ever since Devon Loch collapsed just before the winning post in the 1956 Grand National, the perplexing failure has seemed to elate the British imagination, often more than the win. It has become second nature to support the ‘underdog’. We love a trier in our country, often more than the skill. I’m not saying we enjoy losing, we celebrate wining too. Of course we do. But we don’t hold back in our support for our athletes simply because they have disappointed our anticipations.
In sport as in life, failure is only relative: it is how you handle failure that matters. Just a promise to learn from the experience and try to do better next time is acceptable but accepting the failure itself should not be. We all must accept that our hero’s may, and more often than not, will fail; but if they do their best and still don’t win, at least we can be contented that they have tried. They don’t deserve to be remembered with anger or hailed as sporting villains, but at the same time if we continue to praise, almost reward coming second it will be another 78 years before we have another Wimbledon finalist.
A fascinating opening chapter to this TDF leaves a race that is set up for attacking riding in all the jersey competitions. Sagan seems set to dominate the green jersey but he must make it to Paris and this is not a given. Goss, Greipel and Cavendish remain in contention.
The polka-dot jersey is wide open although Schleck remains a decent punt especially as his GC claims now appear to be totally snuffed out. The white jersey is perhaps the most closely contested with Van Garderen, Taramae and Gallopin all turning in great performances. Taramae looks a little less consistent than the other two but is capable of very good days in the mountains.
The GC has become clearer. Sky is holding all the aces (well two of them), Wiggins and Froome are clearly the strongest and this will now illicit attacks from Evans and Nibali. The only slight chink in the Sky armour may lie in descending, an area that Evans and especially Nibali will not be shy in exploiting. So, expect some downhill fireworks and maybe even some big-name spills as the riders take chances. A little further down GC but still in contention I remain impressed by Van Den Broeck whom I expect to show well as the tour progresses – a podium is still possible. Menchov will do what he always does and be there but not right at the front. Roche finds himself trapped yet again between settling for a top ten or hunting stage wins. Frustrating as he looks in great form.
However, unlike Roche we can look a few minutes further down GC and find some quality riders who may just be given the latitude to ride for stage wins in this week’s mountains. The perennial attackers such as Casar and Kiryenka are worth a look, but I would favour the Rabobank pairing of Mollema and Gesink. These are top quality riders with thwarted GC ambitions due to crashes in the first week and slightly below par form. Either is capable of escaping and winning. Another outsider who catches my eye is Peter Weening of Orica Green-Edge. He is a talented rider on a team seeking to make an impact; they have not hit the target yet with Goss or Albasini and will want a result.
Two final names for consideration… Schleck and Chavanel. Schleck must be looking to salvage something from this tour and at the least that must be a stage win. Most people will expect him to wait until the Pyrenees but he may well fancy a surprise to silence the critics. He is now no threat to the GC so could be allowed some slack. Chavanel is slightly different, he remains in touch on GC due to his amazing TT form, so will be marked more attentively. But like Roche he could gamble and be aggressive, and let’s face it he usually is!
Men to Watch….
Wednesday Stage 10 – Nibali @ 5/1
Thursday Stage 11 – Gesink @ 50/1 (projected)
Another interesting parcours for this edition of the TDF and certainly one to favour the TT specialists. However, the hope is that this will force the hand of the mountain men and make them ultra aggressive.
With over 100km of time trialling we must surely look at the GC contenders who excel against the clock. The two obvious candidates are defending champion Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky. Levi Leipheimer is also a proven performer and goes especially well in long, late TT’s such as we will see this July. Of the other GC men many are credible performers in TT’s but a step behind the aforementioned, people such as Vincenzo Nibali, Samuel Sanchez and the improved Robert Gesink. I would also press you to look at Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Tom Danielson.
The green jersey is an interesting one this year. Cavendish will target some week 1 stages but with the Olympics looming will he try to make Paris? He may get more of a train than many are predicting, and I remain sure he is the fastest man out there. So expect some stage wins but no green jersey this year. Perhaps look at Aussie Matt Goss, genuinely fast, can over the mountains and will be well supported. If we are thinking out of the box this year’s route could produce a surprise winner of the Maillot Vert. This would need a rider to shelve top ten GC ambitions to hoover up points on mountain days. Maybe an Alejandro Valverde, Thomas Voeckler or Vasili Kiriyenka? Naturally this could also apply to the polka dot jersey!
Which leads us to the climbers. Frank Schleck knows he must attack hard and for once (without Andy to distract him) I think he will. I also think he is good enough for Stage wins most likely an Alpine one. Yet, with his woeful TT ability I cant see how he can get on the podium let alone win this edition.
Daniel Moreno, Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana are all natural climbers who will surely try to make an impact.
So what of those who will like to make an aggressive showing and pick up stages? We Have Philippe Gilbert who will try to win in the first week but does not have the super form of last year. Peter Sagan is a rising superstar and will surely have an impact. Boassen Hagen has amazing all round ability and could win almost any day! Then we have Voeckler, Chavanel, Roy, Amador, Kern, and the heroic Hoogerland.
Time to draw some conclusions… Barring accidents, illness or injury I think Bradley Wiggins wins this TDF. He has improved steadily in the last couple of years and the SKY team looks incredibly strong (with Porte, Froome and Rogers they could even feasibly have 3 or 4 men in the top ten). That said Evans is super tough and will push Wiggins. Interestingly I think Evans knows Wiggins has his measure in the TT’s so will attack him hard at unexpected times. I expect Evans to get on the second step of the podium. 3rd place is up for grabs. Many are tipping Nibali or Sanchez but I would favour Van Den Broeck who battles well and seems to TT solidly. But don’t rule out Leipheimer, the old dog knows how to limit losses and has a great TT pedigree.
Advice – 1 pt e/w Franck Schleck to win the Polka Dot Jersey @ 20/1
With the England Football team getting the memo from SW19 just in the nick of time, Wimbledon can take centre stage in the nations sporting thoughts over the next few weeks. The weather seems pretty set fair and with some players getting a double shot at claiming a victory on the historic grass courts of Wimbledon this year everything points to an exciting tournament.
I have written before about my admiration for the two men at the top of the Tennis game in its current climate. Few sports can boast such gladiatorial rivalry on the court coupled with good sportsmanship and humility off of it. In this sense Tennis is the forerunner of modern elite sport when it is compared to the “win at all cost” approach taken by many sportspeople around the world. The all cost in mens tennis seems to be human sacrafice via hours of training. The bottom line is I really can’t see past another Nadal and Djokovic final and am already excited by the prospect. Djokovic however will have to improve on his ropey French Open where he played very well once his back was against the wall but rarely did the Djokovic of last year put himself in those position. He is potentially vulnerable but does have a good draw so he should be fine. Nadal looks imperious and he is my tip to win at 9/4. I think he is getting somewhere close to being at his best and think it will take a mighty performance to lower his spanish colours over the next fortnight. Federer looks strong and I suspect he will make the semi’s again, if not the final but I can’t see him getting through Nadal and then possibly Djokovic. If he only has to beat one he may be able to triumph. This is the best surface for him to win a major but as I have quoted before he may never win another major…though I think he may well win the Olympics here. One person who won’t win Wimbledon this year is Andy Murray. He must be having nightares about the strength in depth of his draw. Del Potro, Cilic, Raonic (who I tipped up last year), Roddick, Ferrer, Baghdatis and Karlovic are all in his section and although he has the game to beat all of them having to play players of this quality round after round will take its toll. I actually don’t expect him to make the semis this year but if he does I would be very surprise if he progressed. If there is to be a surprise it could come with young Aussie sensation Bernard Tomic. He made the quarter finals last year and has a potential tough match against Tsonga in the third round to overcome. He is 19 and clearly quite raw having not even won a tour title yet but Wimbledon was his best major performance last year and at 200-1 he might yet spring a Berdych-esque surprise (talking of Thomas Berdych surprises…he’s already out!)
3 pts Nadal to win Wimbledon @ 9/4
1 pt Murray to be knocked out by Raonic @ 6/1
0.5 pt E/W – Tomic @ 200/1
The common consensus is that the Women’s draw is an open and shut case. Sharapova / S.Williams or Kvitova will win, so said Mcenroe and Davenport on BBC today. It is hard to see past them on historical form however women tennis players are very frail performers and I wouldn’t feel confident with Sharapova at 2/1. Kvitova looks value as the defending champ at 6/1 although her form is not where it was 12 months ago. Since the women’s game always seems to throw up a few shocks I am going to put three names forward that might get in the mix one way or another. Sadly the draw looks tough on a few of my selections but I am going to stick with a few of them to potentially cause an upset. Sabine Lisicki is 80/1 because she faces Sharapova if all goes to form however her course form is excellent. she was a runner up in the doubles last year, made the semis in the singles and 3 years ago made the quarter finals. She will be up against it against Maria however if she wins she has a very inviting route to the final. Marion Bartoli reached the final in 2007 and was a quarter finalist last year. She has a tricky section but she has shown she can win grass court tournaments winning Eastbourne two years in a row. She appeals at 40/1. Its not often a third seed is 50/1 but that is the price available for Agnieszka Radwanska. I’m not sure she can win it but she has a decent record in this competition reaching the Quarter Finals in 08 and 09 and is obviously in form being the 3rd seed. She could be a typical low seed women’s draw disaster however her section looks very straight forward without Venus Williams in it and 50/1 looks a big price. The player I do think has a shot is Azarenka. She was in great form earlier in the year however I am not sure her price is long enough to back her against the big guns, however 5/1 to make the final is appealing.
0.5 pts E/W A.Radwanska @ 50/1
0.5 pt E/W – Bartoli @ 40/1
0.5pt E/W Lisicki @ 80/1
2 pts Azarenka to reach the final @ 5/1
Before I preview today, a tip of the cap to the two stables I highlighted on Tuesday as likely to come to the party at Royal Ascot. John Gosden I quoted as being able “to win with the stable cat” and he really put himself on the Royal Ascot map with a treble yesterday. I thought Gatewood would win and I am pleased for William Buick who has to be one of the top jocks around at the moment.
Roger Varian picked up his first Royal Ascot winner since taking the reigns as a trainer. Eton Forever ran a cracker and Varian was understandably chuffed, he has no more runners at Ascot now so he managed to score with his last runner of the week.
We however have one more day left so lets see how we get on…
Race 1 – Chesham
Jalaa has been the subject of some very positive noises by the Richard Hannon team and it is with some confidence that the selection is tipped up in the first raced of the day. Most of these horses have very little experience and it remains to be seen who emerges in the future. Hannon is normally very shrewd with his two year olds and in Jalaa he might have a reals star.
1pt E/W win Jalaa @ 4/1
Race 2 – Hardwicke
As soon as I saw the runners for this card Aiken leapt off the page. Great form, hot stable, course, distance and ground all suit. He has a huge chance. Sea Moon is an obvious danger and I suspect these two will battle it out, however Aiken doesn’t seem to know how to lose and after an impressive run in France this could turn out to be his best victory yet.
1pt E/W Aiken @ 4/1
Race 3 – Diamond Jubilee
Black Caviar is clearly very very good and I am not silly enough to oppose her, however I suspect her dominance and the quest to defeat her might drill some horses into submission leaving some longer priced horses to sneak a place. If Mayson or Tiddliwinks were running today I suspect their price would be around 20/1 possibly even shorter given their victories this year. The horse who chased them home in his last two races finishing second both times was Jimmy Styles. He may not be a group 1 performer but he is in form and 125-1 looks enormous to run into a place.
Advice 1pt e/w Jimmy Styles @ 125-1c (or rather than wasting the money on the win bet possibly backing to place on the tote or Betfair might be more advised)
Race 4 – Wokingham
Well this is a very tricky race indeed and having picked out Deacon Blues last year the pressure is on! Annoyingly one of my selections has been “pricewised”. Waffle chased Deacon Blues home last year and surely a repeat would see him win the race this year. His price has subsequently contracted and there seems less value in backing him in his recent run of form. The shortlist has been quite long and difficult to wittle down. 4 and 5 year olds tend to dominate this race and as Deacon Blues proved last year there is often a group class sprinter hiding in the handicap company. Medicean Man is that horse this year but he isn’t hiding very well. His impressive 4th in the kings stand on Tuesday shows he can mix it in Group 1 company! That will easily be good enough to win this even if he is up a furlong but has no penalty and I still think I will pick him as the “class” horse to potentially triumph. The draw has been very important this week and in particular where the pace is. The rumour is the race is likely to be less of a cavalry charge and more circumspect and that won’t suit the hold up horses. I though Secret Witness was a huge price at 40-1 but he might have already shown his best this year. All the horses I like are drawn high which is concerning as I like one in each group. The high horses are consitent performer Mac’s Power who will win won of these one day! His price again is shorter than I would like so we will just have a little saver on him. Scarf is my high pick and Colonel Mak is my low pick. I toyed with several of the high numbers but in the end a front running performance from Scarf might land the spoils despite my reservations on Godolphins sprinters. Colonel Mak is a tentative selection but his low draw and high price tick a few boxes.
1 pt Win Medicean Man @ 14/1
1 pt Win Mac’s Power @ 14/1
0.5 pt E/W – Colonel Mak @20/1
0.5pt E/W – Scarf @ 16/1
Race 5 – Duke of Edinburgh
Anatolian was game in defeat to James Fanshawe’s High Jinx last time out and that form looks worthy of support. As does Spanish Duke who has only run twice at this trip and was most impressive latest when running third at Epsom to Fiery Lad who was considered but the ground looks to be against him.
1 pt E/W Spanish Duke @ 14/1
1 pt E/W Anatolian @ 11/1
Race 6 -
In the last Overturn is a horse I really admire and very versatile but this trip but be slightly too long for Donald McCain’s gutsy dual purpose winner. Simenon is clearly well respected after hacking up over course and distance on Tuesday. Swingkeel won this last year and clearly has been primed for this again and he might warrant some each way support. Preference is for Petara Bay on the basis his form suggests this isn’t the race for him yet he is being widely tipped up and his price is shorter than I would expect.
1pt win – Simenon @ 7/2
0.5 pts E/W – Petara bay @ 14/1
Another 14-1 winner and 20-1 place puts the weekly profit o £210 from a £10 stake…think I might take a day off
Another fantastic day at royal ascot takes the total weeks profit to £210. Energiser cruised to victory yesterday at 14/1 and Bronze Angel ran a blinder to finish third having clearly been badly affected by the draw. BA won his side by over ten lengths but couldnt peg back fast or free who benefitted from slightly better ground and more pace in th race. Still a profit of over £250 off a £10 stake for both bets is ideal!
In the last rougemont did indeed run a cracker under top weight and pilgrims rest was a nose away from another big profit.
Friday is my least favourite day of Royal Ascot and I haven’t ha a good chance to scour the form so I am going to take a day off rather than put up some things I’m not too sure of. I will return for Saturday where already I have someexciting prospects to post up!
Day 4 -
If I was pushed today I would be inclined to fancy Astrology in the Coronation. He ran a blinder in the derby and the ground will suit. However there isn’t much value. Laugh out loud also is interesting but again the prices seem short. I am shocked cardigan takes her chance…haggas is a shrewd trainer and for her to just be 10/1 having only won a maiden against the Irish and English guineas winners very in interesting!
Gatewood looks a good prospect in the 4.25 and I know Richard Hughes thinks a lot of tassel who runs in the Albany (2.30)
In the last there are some good prices around. Primeval would have won this on firm ground I am sure but the softer the surface the more others appeal. The short list looks a bit like tariq too, Mia’s boy, emilio largo and docofthebay which covers the draw bias.
All in all I am happy to sit out today and finish with a bang tomorrow!
Day 3 – After a ‘Princely’ 20-1 winner tipped up on Day 2 don’t miss the Ladies Day Lowdown from Sports Leviathan
t has a been a tough Royal Ascot so far however Prince of Johanne – Advised at 20/1, restored some pride today to land the 4th tip 2 days. The 3 previous winning bets were priced up at 6/1 , 15/2 and 16/1 (all placed) and it was nice to see a big price winner cruise home today. On a personal note the Royal Hunt cup is one of the trickiest races all season so I was chuffed to nail the winner.
A few of my friends have been a little dismayed with the tipping this week and I can understand their sentiments after such a good year last year. A ten pound bet on all my horses tipped up so far yields a profit of £50 so far so although sometimes it feels like a scattergun approach the profits are coming…Keep the faith
Day 3 – Ladies Day
Race 1 – Norfolk Stakes
I don’t have a strong opinion in this race as the two year olds are always a tricky prospect, especially over the minimum trip. Last year my biggest regret was not backing Lolly for Dolly when everyone else in my family seemed to on the basis of my sisters nickname. No such jibes this year as I am getting on Mister Marc. My son is named using the less common spelling and subsequently the Hannon trained horse received my support on its winning debut. Hannon is in great form and Mister Marc’s reappearance saw him run into Dawn Approach who won well yesterday so that certainly hasn’t put me off, if anything its made his case stronger. The drop in trip might be a concern however he was leading after 5 in both his first races so he clearly has good speed…C’mon Mister Marc!
1 pt win – Mister Marc @ 7/1 Stan James
Race 2 – Ribblesdale
I am a huge fan of The Fugue and considering his unlucky run in a unsatisfactory oaks I would be shocked if she doesn’t prove she is the real deal tomorrow. I suspect Vow will follow her home however The Fugue looks gutsy and full of class and she will probably get her ground tomorrow so all in all a confident vote.
3pts win – The Fugue @ 2/1 Stan James
Race 3 – Gold Cup
I must admit to having backed Fame and Glory to win this at 3/1 a long time ago and I have no intention of changing my view. Opinion Poll who chased him home last year appears to have improved and in Saddlers Rock I see a really decent test for Fame and Glory. At the current prices I think Saddlers Rock looks value at 9/2 and think a combination tricast on Fame and Glory / Saddlers Rock and Opinion Poll could be a play here to keep things interesting.
0.2 points – Combination Tricast
Race 4 – Britannia
Another very tricky race but we struck gold with Prince of Johanne so lets try and decipher another taxing 30 runner field to find a winner! The shortlist looks like Fast or Free, Trader Jack, Born to Surprise, Frog Hollow and Bronze Angel. The latter two get the for the following reasons. Frog Hollow ran a decent race last time out in the Silver Bowl at Haydock. He was hampered on the run in and the cut in the ground might help this horse travel a bit better than the firm ground did that day. The one I am quite sweet on is Bronze Angel. Marcus Tregonning is canny trainer and is the sort of an to bring horses to the boil at the right time. Bronze Angel won last time out beating Lady’s First at Doncaster. The same Lady’s First ran today in a class 1 listed handciap and finished 3rd. Bronze Angel runs tomorrow in a class two handicap and is 20/1. That seems very fair to me and thats where my money will be.
1pt E/W Frog Hollow @ 11/1 Betfred
1pt E/W Bronze Angel @ 20/1 Betfred
Race 5 – The Tercentenary Stakes or Hampton Court
Kahlid Abdullah is mob handed with good horses and although my preference is with Starboard I can’t help but be swayed by a horse of much longer odds. Energizer finished a close 4th to Caspar Netcher in the German Guineas. Although that form hasn’t worked out brilliantly this week it is still group level form in the book and at 14/1 I think he is very overpriced and worth a punt each way.
1pt E/W Energizer @ 14/1
Race 6 – King George V
The race on the card is proabably the most competitive and subsequently the most difficult. I am shocked Rougemont has held his ground taking these horses on with in most cases over a stone more on his back. The two reasons I ca think are 1) Richard Hannon really thinks he can win and subsequently Richard Hughes – No 1 jock gets the leg up. Or posssibly more likely is 2) it allows improving Pilgrims Rest to creep in at the bottom of the handicap off 8 stone a stone and a half lighter than his stable mate and for that reason Pilgrims rest gets the verdict at odds of 16/1/
1pt E/W – Pilgrims Rest @ 16/1 Stan James
As I explained in the last post this preview may have several limitations:
1) It is being written on Monday night as tomorrow evening is clearly earmarked for more pressing matters, therefore the selections, particulalrly in the big runner fields will have no insight into draw bias.
2) I’m not 100% sure of the going, I suspect it will be on the easy side of good.
3) Some of the selections may be non runners.
4) I will have no idea about how my selections ran in the first day, as that is tomorrow, so by this time I may have had a series of losers and the reader volume may be slim!
However if you can cope with all of that here’s the preview of day 2:
Race 1 – Jersey Stakes
Regular readers will know my feelings on Roger Varian’s horses and he could well have a double on his hands on day 2 of the Royal Meeting. Aljamaheer is in great form winning well in a listed race last time out at Newmarket. There are a few interesting things with this form. Firstly the horse beaten into second was The Nile a typical John Gosden imrprover. The Nile has been chosen by William Buick as his number one ride in the St James Palace, choosing him over yestedays selection Fencing. The Nile is clearly held in high regard and Almajaheer saw him off comfortably last time out. The concern is the ground . Hannagan tweeted today he has a huge chance unless the ground is too soft. I am going to post him up as the selection as I still believe he can get the job done. In light of the selections potential frailties a saver is advised on Boomerang Bob. This fella will like the cut in the ground and races most effectively on softish ground over 7furlongs. You can put a line through his last race where he didn’t act that well on firm ground. That leaves his 1 length loss to Caspar Netcher a subsequent group 2 winner in Germany. That form looks pretty good against some of these market contenders. He ran in the guineas finishing 9th of 14 on his side 11th overall. Before the guineas he was being touted as a live outsider. Some of the form of the main protagonists isn’t that great and Boomerang Bob at 20/1 looks good value.
1pt E/W Aljamaheer @ 15/2 Paddy Power
1pt E/W Boomerang Bob @ 20/1 Paddy Power
Race 2 – Windsor Forest
In my opinion this looks a cracking little race with some exciting fillies in the line up. Emulous’s victory in Matron stakes is probably the stand out piece of form in the book beating Irish 1000 Guineas 1 and 2 Misty for Me and Together impressively. Other horses to mention are Chaichamadee who bolted up at Lingfield on Trial day but that race hasn’t worked out and the opposition look relatively weak in hindsight. Captivator ran with aplomb behind Izzi Top in softish conditions at HQ however the two I really like are Clinical and Nahrain. The vote confidently goes to the latter. Clinical impressed me at Epsom but the Nahrain is a seriously classy horse who is probably the star of Roger Varian’s stable. She is versatile winning over 8 and 10 furlongs on ground Good to firm, good to soft and good. Her group 1 win in France was excellent albeit over 2 furlongs shorter than this. The fear is first time out this shorter test might be too much but there is no way Varian would chance his prize asset by putting her out fresh if she wasn’t ready. Granted she is probably being aimed for another tilt at the Fillies and Mares turf where she lost her unbeaten tag narrowly last term. But I think she looks overpriced and hope she can return in style.
3 pts Win – Nahrain @ 9/2
Race 3 – Prince of Wales
Cirrus Des Aigles disappointing defection has made this race much less interesting. It looks likely So You Think will win again. I am never that impressed with SYT but it usually manages to find a way to win which I suppose is an admirable quality. I can’t really make my mind up as the form is very confusing. Planteur is the one I quite want to be on but he is terribly inconsistent and doesn’t seem to run well at Ascot. On last years form he is held by SYT but he did beat him to 3rd in the Dubai World Cup. Since then he has ran close to Cirrus Des Aigles. Overall at 10/1 I’m not 100%. I would probably rather back last years 3rd Sri Putra who is 50/1. The field looks distinctly average for such a big race and whilst there could be a big race in Planteur or even a huge improvement from Farhh lets have a small stakes punt on Sri Putra running into a place again.
.5 point e/w Sri Putra
Race 4 – Royal Hunt Cup
I could write an essay on horses chances in this race. The one I really like is Dimension but there is literally no value around. 10/1 sounds decent but in such a difficult race I can let him go begrudgingly. He may even have a poor draw we don’t know… I am keen to search out more value. I am going to select one from a high draw and one from a low draw. Four year olds have a great record in this race winning all of the last 5 runnings. Cai Shen has the draw of number 1, is 4 years old and is trained by Richard Hannon. Ticks in all boxes and gets the nod at 16/1. Prince of Johanne is in the form of his life and the neck loss to Fury looks great form coming in here. 20/1 looks a good price and thats my second selection draw on the other extreme in 33. Because of Cai Shen’s lack of experience in big runner handicaps I am going to put a 3rd selection up and seeing as some firms are paying up to 5 places it can still be profitable. Mull of Killough is the final selection after an excellent second in the Lincoln. I backed him that day and he couldn’t have been more unlucky as the jockey really cost him the race.
1pt E/W – Cai Shen @ 16/1
1pt E/W – Prince of Johanne @ 20/1
1pt E/W – Mull of Killough @ 20/1
Race 5 – Queen Mary
Another tricky race with no show of prices at the time of writing but Mironica won nicely on debut justifying market support and with some eyecatching entries she makes most appeal of a difficult race to work out.
1pt win Mironica @ SP
Race 6 - Sandringham
In the last, again there are no price shows however the one I like is Kinetica. Unraced this term having ran well in the autumn last year particularly in France. Luke Morris will win a race this week I am sure and lets hope it is aboard Sir Mark Prescott’s Kinetica who looks set to run in group company again this year and this listed race could be a real springboard for her.
1 pt Win Kinetica @ SP
It is that time of year again, my favourite week in the racing calendar, Royal Ascot. There are many great racing festivals and undoubtedly Cheltenham provides the National Hunt lovers with its premier event. On the Flat however Ascot takes centre stage and having grown up in Ascot and the Royal meeting a regular in my personal calender it is obviously my favourite…and I gather the Queen’s too.
Last year we had a very successful meeting on this site tipping up close to double figures in terms of winning bets and plucking out some nice double figure winners including Prohibit in the Kings stand and Deacon Blues in the Wokingham – two of the more tricky races. Today’s installment focuses primarily on day 1 (Tuesday) and due to England commitments on Tuesday night I may well have to put Wedesdays piece up soon too.
M rationale at Ascot this year is to look at several things; 1) Trainers in form 2) Forms of the horses isn’t everything 3) the going and its softer than usual nature.
1) Trainers like John Gosden have a very strong stable this year and with his excellent stable jockey William Buick firing in the winners I think they could probably win with the stable cat at the moment. Their combination strike rate is 45% that is impressive. Take note. Richard Hannon’s horses are also hot at the moment too and I’m really keen to be on side with 2 jockeys in particular. Ryan Moore is a superstar and I think he has some decent mounts and Luke Morris a very impressive young claimer could produce the biggest win of his career if he gets a decent ride taking weight off in the big runner handicaps. Regaular followers know how enamored I am with Roger Varian and in particular horses owned my Hamdan al Maktoum. Varian’s horses always go well at Ascot and he has some very interesting runners this week
2) Lots of horses are trained with Ascot in mind and subsequently may not have won last time out…especially in the big runner races. Horses with winning form are often the shortest odds but there is plenty of value to be had with horses looking to be brought to the boil by canny trainers on the big day.
3) Normally Royal AScot is a hot week and the ground is Good or Good to Firm. Currently it is Good, Good to Soft in places. There is a little more rain forecast but Ascot’s new straight has excellent drainage and I expect that to be Good ground come Tuesday. Having said that the ground will have a bit of cut in it and I suspect a few french raiders – who appreciate the surface will go well this week.
Race 1 – Queen Anne
The Awesome Frankel is back and unbackable for me at 1-6 and I’m sure he will win however there could be value elsewhere. Excellebration is certainly value at 6-1 E/W as he nearly always chases Frankel home and so that looks like a decent bet. I also like Helmet. An Aussie import who has raced in France and at 33-1 e/w also appeals
1pt E/W – Helmet @ 33/1
3pts E/W – Excellebration @ 6/1
.5pts Tricast – Frankel / Excellebration / Helmet
Race 2 – Kings Stand
A real tough nut this year. I was pretty impressed with Bated Breath in the Duke of York and the way he and Sole Power moved well clear was a good marker for this. However that was on very quick ground and I’m not they both will be terribly suited by this ground. Someone who will is the French Sprinter Wizz Kid and he looks my idea of the winner. I also like Tangerine Trees who is a real pacesetter who has won big races in France. If he gets a good start and the ground is soft he will be tough to peg back. His trainer was adamant this has been his main target I will stick with those two.
1pt E/W Wizz Kid @ 6/1
1pt E/W Tangerine Trees @ 25/1
Race 3 – St James Palace
I’m happy to take Power on in this race. His Irish Guineas win doesn’t fill me with confidence. Sure it was impressive but the race was muddled and at the prices he’s well worth taking on. Primarily with Lucayan who I can’t believe is still 10/1 following his French Guineas victory. Originally I was keen on Dragon Pulse however when you consider he was comfortably beaten that day by Lucayan and they are the same price I am keen to stick with the horse with a group 1 win in the book. A little saver is needed on Fencing – mainly because of the Gosden/Buick factor. Fencing has ran creditably this year in the English Guineas and then the Dante. He didnt get home at York and a drop back to a mile should really suit this horse who is held in high esteem by many who know what they are talking about.
1pt E/W Lucayan @ 10/1
1pt E/W Fencing @ 12/1
Race 4 -Coventry Stakes
This race for 2 year olds often follows a similar theme. There is normally a real superstar in the field. Power, Strong Suit, Canford Cliffs and Henrythenavigator have all won this in the last 5 years. However it isn’t always the winner who is the real top drawer horse as 2 yr olds often take time to develop. Holy Roman Emperor illustrated that when 15th in this race before winning group 1′s in France and Ireland and running superstar Teofilo to a head. Despite Power’s victory last year it is clear Richard Hannon is the king of turning out great 2 year olds and in Sir Prancealot it looks like he has another cracker. Very impressive when destroying the field at Sandown a few weeks ago and at 6-1 he’s where my moneys going.
3pts win Sir Prancealot @ 6/1
Race 5 -Ascot Stakes
Last year I tipped up Veiled to win this and he duly obliged. This year he is twice the price! This is a difficult market to really make a justified case but given that Course and Distance form is crucial and horses that win races regualrly come back the next year and defend their crown I like Veiled at 10/1 to give us a good run.
1 pt E/W Veiled @ 10/1
Race 6 – Windsor Castle
I must confess to not having really got a strong opinion in this race. Hannon is mob handed with runners and O’Brien has brought one over from his army of good horses at ballydoyle. However the one horse I have seen run this year is Dylanbaru. He has run 4 times and although he’s only won his maiden but his last race was very impressive and Tommy Stack is a shrewd operator. I’m not sure what price he will start at but for a small stakes bit of interest in the lucky last lets hope he can illustrtate he is still on an upward curve.
1pt E/W Dylanbaru @ SP
I love the Champions league. It is compulsive viewing, involves the best players in the world and produces some marvellous sporting theatre and some interesting attack versus defence training sessions too. However call me a nostalgic stig in the dump but seasons like this one with Chelsea in the final, I find it hard to stand tall and say we are watching Europe’s finest, even if they are there by merit, which they are. In 2005 Liverpool’s champions league winning side contained Steve Finnan,Djimi Traore, Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros. Many people (mainly English) football fans argue that this is one of the worst teams/squads to win the champions league. A starting XI of:
Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hypia, Traore, Alonso, Garcia, Gerrard, Kewell, Baros and Riise doesn’t scream ‘best team in Europe’ but when you look at the strength in depth; a bench of Carson, Josemi, Hamann, Nunez, Biscan(!!) Cisse and Smicer it begs the question how on earth did they prevail at all in a competition so tough for such a long period.
It has been put to me that this years Chelsea line up could rival Liverpool’s 2005 effort with the likes of Bosingwa, Romeu, Kalou, Mikel and Malouda and whilst I agree this is not a strong Chelsea line up and these players are substandard it is slightly over-crictical on players who only a few seasons ago were winning the double for Chelsea under Ancelotti. Biscan and Traore never came close to this level before their CL victory.
Clearly the campaign in 2005 took its toll on Liverpool who finished the season in 5th on 58 points (the same as Bolton Wanderers) a whopping 37 points (enough to survive relegation) behind the league champions Chelsea. So my question is, with Chelsea struggling this season, finishing in 6th; does the Champions League have a detrimental effect on league form? Furthermore I am keen to examine how the standard of the CL has fluctuated and conclude what impact success (in this case judged by making the final) in the CL has on future club league campaigns.
Summary of Results:
1) Since 1993 there have been 19 finals (38 teams).
2) 23/38 the number of finalists who win their league the year before reaching the final.
3) 20/38 the number of finalists who win their league the same year as reaching the final.
4) 13/38 the number of finalists who win their league the year after reaching the final.
5) 8 – the number of finalists who don’t even finish in the top 3 the next year.
The first point to pick up on is the contention that teams success in the CL is a hindrance to their league form. The statistics show a more logical contrary that good league form generally has a positive effect on CL progress. This makes sense, as it is clear that by and large the strongest team in a particular league that season are more likely to progress in the CL. It is also pertinent to note that although the number is over half it could be argued that just over 50% of CL finalists winning their domestic league is a relatively low figure given their superiority in Europe’s premier club competition.
The standard itself clearly fluctuates every year with peaks of goliath clashes between all conquering sides like Barca and Man United in 2009 or Ajax and AC Milan in 1995 to a final in 2007 where neither runners up Liverpool nor AC Milan finished higher than 3rd in the season before, during or after the CL final – How can this be a champions league when 2 underachieving domestic sides battle out Europes flagship club tournament?
23 of the 48 finalists won their league prior to reaching the final illustrating that the most important ingredient to being a finalist is league success. This figure is slightly distorted by the fact that only league champions were initially allowed in the competition but since 2000 (when top European leagues were allowed 4 competitiors) there have been 12 finals and 8 have been won by champions of their league the year before so it is a strong trend.
The most interesting statistic however and probably the most relevant argument of this article is that success in the CL seriously hampers your progress the following domestic season. Whether it is burnout or over inflated expectations teams just simply can’t back up their CL success with league form. Possibly putting credence to the argument that it should be called a Champions Cup not League as clearly the facets of a winning team aren’t consistency or ‘winning when your not playing well’ but being able to take an opponent down over two legs through whatever methods, tactics or bus parking you require. Only 13 clubs followed up a CL final appearance with league success the following year. This very low considering the calibre of teams we are talking about coupled with the stat that 23 finalists are present in the final off the back of winning a league yet don’t seem to be able once they reach the pinnacle of European club football keep the run going. Huge teams such as this years Barca and Man United teams who played in the final last year have finished 2nd in their respective leagues further franking the trend. Ajax 96 , Porto 04 Barca 06 Inter 11 are all examples of all conquering domestic sides who failed to follow up several years of domestic dominance once they won the CL final. Could it be that these successful teams take their foot off the gas once they have ‘achieved it all’? I’m not so sure about that but their must be something deep set has caused this consistent spate of underachievement after major achievement. I suppose the phrase ‘after the lord mayors show’ was invented for examples like this and it seems unequivocal that there is a correlation between CL success and subsequent below par domestic league form.
Whilst I accept that there are a large number of variables involved in CL and league success; injuries, suspensions, transfer windows, cup runs, managerial changes (in Chelsea’s case they seem to succeed once they have one…Hiddink, Grant, Di Matteo) it doesn’t dilute the fact that despite having the ability to attract big names, gain more money through sponsorship and TV rights the bottom line is it doesn’t bring consistency and despite good cup teams like Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and arguably AC Milan being successful none have been able to build a lasting dynasty of success akin to that of Man United, Barcelona or Bayern Munich and that is precisely the reason why I loved the old format. Yes it was exclusive, possibly over elitist and not always the best spectacle, as the champions of Finland provided a test in line with a championship side when we could be watching Real Madrid, Spain’s second best team in action. To me however it was just what it said on the tin…
…The Champions League; Smicer, Traore and Biscan need not apply.
The first value represents the league finishing position the season before reaching the final. The second indicates their league position the season they reached the final and the third number shows their finishing position the season after the CL final. A dash or hyphen indicates the team finished outside the top 3 that season.
2011 Barca 1st 1st 2nd MU 1st 1st 2nd
2010 Inter 1st 1st 2nd BM 2nd 1st 3rd
2009 Barca 1st 1st 1st MU 1st 1st 2nd
2008 MU 1st 1st 1st CH 2nd 2nd 3rd
2007 AC 3rd – - LIV 3rd 3rd -
2006 Barca 1st 1st 2nd ARS 2nd – -
2005 LIV - - 3rd AC 1st 2nd 3rd
2004 PORT 1st 1st 2nd Monaco 2nd 3rd 3rd
2003 JUVE 1st 1st 3rd AC - 3rd 1st
2002 RM 1st 3rd 1st BL – 2nd –
2001 VAL 3rd – 1st BM 1st 1st 3rd
2000 RM 2nd - 1st VAL – 4th 3rd
1999 MU 2nd 1st 1st BM 2nd 1st 1st
1998 RM 1st – 2nd JUVE 1st 1st –
1997 BD 1st 3rd – JUVE 2nd 1st 1st
1996 AJAX 1st 1st - JUVE 1st 2nd 1st
1995 AJAX 1st 1st 1st AC 1st – 1st
1994 AC 1st 1st - BARCA 1st 1st -
1993 Mars 1st – 2nd AC 1st 1st 1st