Tuesday, 8 February 2011

I'm Not Dead ... Yet !!

Seemingly this blog is still alive (and almost) kicking. I should get off my arse and write something useful (or just fill a bit of space).

Happy 2011 to y'all. I'll see if I can sort something relevant.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

www.horse-play.co.uk

Oh look, Dom's involved in another project!

http://www.horse-play.co.uk/

The beginner's guide to horse racing, for all you racing n00bs.

Plus news, reviews and of course, the odd tip.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Coupon Busters

Quick plug for a new project I'm involved with.

Coupon Busters - your one stop shop for all of your weekly football coupon needs.

Can't be arsed to do any research before you stick your Saturday accumulator on? Let us do it for you. We've got a range of suggested accumulators, from shorter priced "Sure Thing" bets, to massive "Longshot" accas, plus all kinds of football and betting related news and features.

You can also follow us on Twitter, for all the latest updates.

Who ya gonna call?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Death

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I feel we might need to lay the blog to rest. It has been mumbled about before, but only when there has been a lull in sporting and betting activity, before bursting into life after a decent post by someone.

This summer has been different though. Wimbledon has just finished, the World Cup is all but over and the Derby has been and gone for creatures both canine and equine. We’ve got both the Open and the British Grand Prix in less than a fortnight, pre-season tours and training for the new football season has started (at least at Championship level) and the Ashes looming large on the horizon.

Yet the tumbleweed blows. What gives, dudes?

I was planning to do more on the World Cup, but as I’m sure you’re all aware by now, I’ve been job hunting. Working 45 hours a week of make-it-up-as-you-go shifts is pissing me off immensely and what little time I’ve had off has been spent writing CVs, applying for work and trekking to London for interviews.



It has finally paid off, as I’m moving to the Big Smoke in under a fortnight to begin my new life as an odds compiler. This is a dream job for me anyway, but is definitely a first step to greater things and I’m looking forward to it immensely. I have no idea how much time I’m going to find for the blog now though and it seems that the other mainstay, Mr Campbell, has disappeared from the face of the Earth, which doesn’t bode well.

Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully I’ll get the to churn out another epic Championship preview, maybe more. Hopefully Campbell will return, though if the Greyhound Derby can’t motivate him, we’re in trouble. Same goes for Tim about the GP and Walsh about the Derby, Eclipse or Wimbledon.

Is that bell I hear tolling?

Take it easy, chaps.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010 - Group Stage Preview

Well, it’s almost here. 64 football matches, featuring some of the best players in the world, as well as some of the worst. I know half of the Scoop Troop have probably forgotten about this year’s World Cup in South Africa, owing to the fact that Scotland are shit and have once again failed to qualify, but hey, they’ll be used to it by now.

So anyway, here’s my preview of the 2010 FIFA World Cup group stages. Prices quoted are to win the World Cup outright unless specified otherwise and are best price at time of writing. Enjoy.

Group A:
France (20/1 - BetFred & StanJames; 21.00 - Betfair)
Mexico (100/1 - Ladbrokes; 110.00 - Betfair)
Uruguay (125/1 - Bwin; 170.00 - Betfair)
South Africa (150/1 - Bet365 & StanJames; 190.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: France are favourites for the group even though they shouldn’t be in South Africa. Still, they’re not exactly a force these days and will struggle to hold off Uruguay, who I fancy to surprise a few this year. With South Africa having the home advantage and Mexico looking a useful outfit in defeat to England, this is a tricky group. I’ll plump for Uruguay to top the group, with France in second.

Group B:
Argentina (15/2 - ExtraBet; 8.60 - Betfair)
Nigeria (150/1 - Bet365; 180.00 - Betfair)
South Korea (250/1 - Victor Chandler & BetFred; 310.00 - Betfair)
Greece (250/1 - Blue Square; 320.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: Argentina are far too good for this group and despite trying their best to fail qualify for South Africa 2010, I can’t see them losing a game at this stage. I quite fancy South Korea to upset the odds and fill second place at Nigeria’s expense.

Group C:
England (13/2 - Victor Chandler; 7.60 - Betfair)
USA (80/1 - SportingBet & ToteSport; 90.00 - Betfair)
Slovenia (400/1 - Bwin; 630.00 - Betfair)
Algeria (600/1 - PaddyPower; 770.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: England are clearly going to win this group, by virtue of being far less poor than the other three sides. I’ll be amazed if it’s not the USA filling the runner-up slot. No shocks here, should finish in market order.

Group D:
Germany (16/1 - Ladbrokes; 16.00 - Betfair)
Serbia (66/1 - ExtraBet & Ladbrokes; 75.00 - Betfair)
Ghana (80/1 - ToteSport & Victor Chandler; 110.00 - Betfair)
Australia (150/1 - Bet365; 200.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: I’ve seen a few folk waxing lyrical about Serbia after their qualifying campaign, but they did still manage to lose to France and Lithuania in a weak looking group. I personally fancy Germany for the group, with Australia, who are very unfairly priced for me, scraping through at Serbia’s expense, probably on goal difference.

Group E:
Holland (12/1 - Ladbrokes; 13.00 - Betfair)
Cameroon (125/1 - Bwin; 140.00 - Betfair)
Denmark (150/1 - Bet365; 190.00 - Betfair)
Japan (400/1 - Bwin; 740.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: World Cup underachievers Holland should stroll this group and my predictions have the group finishing in market order. Japan may have been the first side to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals, but I can see them being one of the first out.

Group F:
Italy (14/1 - Ladbrokes & Victor Chandler; 16.00 - Betfair)
Paraguay (80/1 SportingBet & Bet365; 110.00 - Betfair)
Slovakia (400/1 - Bwin; 550.00 - Betfair)
New Zealand (2,500/1 - SportingBet; 1,000.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: Italy have got the easiest 2010 World Cup group by far and they will qualify in first place, with Paraguay in second. The season in New Zealand finishes in March and though they may be fresh, they won’t be sharp enough to cope. If Slovakia beat Paraguay, they will have a really good chance to qualify, but I can’t see it.

Group G:
Brazil (5/1 - Bet365 & BetFred; 6.20 - Betfair)
Portugal (28/1 - ToteSport & SportingBet; 32.00 - Betfair)
Ivory Coast (33/1 - Ladbrokes & Bet365; 44.00 - Betfair)
North Korea (2,000/1 - ToteSport & SportingBet; 1,000.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: North Korea, lol. Anyway, Brazil will widdle all over this group, while Portugal and the Ivory Coast do battle for second. It will be really close and go to the last game for sure, with Portugal needing a point against Brazil, or relying on Ivory Coast failing to beat North Korea by enough goals. Portugal it nick it, for me.

Group H:
Spain (4/1 - BoyleSports & StanJames; 5.30 - Betfair)
Chile (66/1 - Bet365 & SportingBet; 80.00 - Betfair)
Switzerland (200/1 - Bet365 & StanJames; 320.00 - Betfair)
Honduras (1,000/1 - Bet365 & StanJames; 1,000.00 - Betfair)

Verdict: World Cup favourites Spain will have no bother getting out of this group. I can’t see either Honduras or Switzerland having enough for a dangerous Chile outfit and I think they will have the second spot locked up after two games.

So is there anything worth having a bet on during the World Cup group stages?

I think the 11/10 about Uruguay (BoyleSports) to qualify from Group A is a great shout and although my own predictions have them topping the group, I don’t think I’m brave enough to take the best price 7/2 for them to win it.

I also like the 9/4 being offered by Bodog that England get exactly 7 points in their group. England have never finished a World Cup group on nine points and have only taken maximum points once, way back in 1982, when it was still two points for a win. They always find a way to draw and I reckon America are the likely candidates this time round.

Spain, Brazil, Italy and Holland are certainties to win their groups and I’ll be investing in the following group winner trebles on Betfair:

Brazil, Spain, Italy - 2.88
Brazil, Spain, Holland - 3.00
Brazil, Holland, Italy - 3.60
Spain, Italy, Holland - 2.92

For now at least, I’m totally undecided on who the FIFA World Cup 2010 winners are going to be. I can see a Brazil vs Holland Quarter-Final tie and the winner may well come from that, probably beating Spain in the final. The Spanish have finally proven they can do it on the big stage, but they’ve still never been beyond the Quarters in a World Cup and they may well bottle it.

I just can’t bring myself to back the Dutch, as they always fail to deliver too. It may be dull, but at this stage I’d probably go with Brazil, though I will wait until I’ve properly got my teeth into the Knockout-Stages before nailing my colours to the mast.

Watch this space and don't forget to check out the offers in the post below, if you're opening new accounts for World Cup betting.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

World Cup 2010 Offers and Free Bets

I’m currently working on a preview for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which is going to be epic. As that might not be here for another day or two, why not cast your eye over this little Aladdin’s Cave of free bets and bonuses? That way, when you read my awesome World Cup predictions and want to bet on such fantastic football forecasts, you’ll know who has the best offers.

Bet365 – The usual £200 free bet offer is still in place, which is a 100% deposit bonus on any amount between £10 and £200. Simply sign up and follow the instructions.

Betfair – If the exchanges are more to your tastes for your World Cup bets, then the world’s biggest betting exchange are offering a £25 no risk bet to all new customers.

Betfred – Fred Done and the BaldyBet team are offering a £50 free bet to new customers during the World Cup. Simply bet between £5 and £50 and within 48 hours of the bet being settled, the Bonus King will award you your free bet. Full Ts & Cs here.

BoyleSports – Boyles are not only offering their usual £20 free bet during the 2010 World Cup, but they also have a free to enter prediction competition, with a guaranteed prize of €50,000 to be won, plus the chance to win up to €1,000,000. Check the website for full details.

ExtraBet – These guys have increased their fixed odd betting sign up promotion for the World Cup, giving away up to £100 in free bets. Stake between £10 and £25 between now and July 11th, and they will match it with a free bet. They will then match your 5th bet up to £25 and 15th bet up to £50. Full Ts & Cs on the website.

Ladbrokes – The Magic Sign are currently offering new customers are £10 free bet. Not a great introductory offer, but they are a reputable firm that you know you can trust.

SportingBet – Sign up at SportingBet and get a £25 free bet, as well as daily promotions and offers during the World Cup. Also, any £10 bet placed between now and July 11th will earn you an entry into their million pound World Cup predictor game!

StanJames – In addition to a £25 free bet for new customers, StanJames are offering money back on all World Cup outright bets up to £250, if Spain win the competition! See the website for full details.

Titan Bet – This lot are offering their usual £250 sign up bonus to new accounts, which is impressive enough on its own, but for the World Cup, Titan are offering $100,000,000 to anyone who can correctly predict all 64 matches during the tournament. Okay, it probably isn’t going to happen, but they are still awarding $1,000,000 to whoever is closest! Get along to the website to take part.

ToteSport – Open an account with the Tote in time for the 2010 World Cup and you’ll instantly earn a £10 free bet.

Victor ChandlerVC are keeping their usual sign up offer for the World Cup: up to £100 in free bets plus £25 to use in their online casino. Bet an initial £50 and get a free £50 bet, then after five more consecutive bets of £10 or greater, you’ll get another £25 free bet. Five more £10 bets in a row will land you a further £25 free bet, plus the £25 casino bonus. Nice!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Food for thought

Things have been a bit queit recently, partly my own fault for not getting round to writing up my Ayr and Perth visits. One thing that really got me angry and I left the need to share was the massive gambles landed by Barney Curley and a former forum favourite Chris Grant last week. I need to be careful what I say here for legal reasons but the fact that 3 horses tumbled in odds (one from 25/1 into 6/4) and showed improvement from nowhere to win really leaves a sour taste. I have not had a bet since and am not sure when the next one will be.

Anyone who has followed the form of the Aidan O'Brien runners will also note that a number of these have barely been put into the race/given a chance to win the race. One thing we like as punters is to know if our horse doesn't win then at least it was given every chance to land the odds. With the O'Brien runners at the moment this is questionable. I think in terms of flat racing I may await the normally fruitful July and August period to continue punting.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Doncaster, Saturday 17th April 2010

I’ve only been to Doncaster once and that was for the 2008 Ladbrokes St Leger, when Conduit (left) famously ended Michael Stoute’s barren run in the race, as well as making resident Trooper Will look like a right mug. How did it go again Walsh? "Conduit cannot possibly win the St Leger" or something, wasn’t it? Anyway, I had a cracking day out (got the first two winners as well) and it really is a lovely place.

That same day, I backed Mia’s Boy in the State Club Handicap, over a mile. I felt it travelled really well and was badly hampered at a crucial time. I remember being pretty pissed off at the time as I thought it could have won and I’ve always looked out for it ever since, so I’m delighted to see him take his chance in tomorrow’s feature, the Doncaster Mile (18:15).

The six year old bay loves it at Doncaster, with two wins and a second from six appearances at the South Yorkshire course, which also includes creditable 4th (2009) and 6th (2010) placed finishes in the Lincoln Handicap. If the ground stops drying out, conditions should suit him fine (and any overnight rain to soften it up a touch would be perfect) and I reckon he’s the likely winner.

The selection’s seasonal reappearance saw him go down by a neck on the all weather, to tomorrow’s top weight, Dunelight. That day they both raced off 9st 3lbs, but Mia’s Boy re-opposes 3lbs better off and comes into it off the back of that respectable top-weight 6th placed finish in the William Hill Lincoln. Dunelight will make the running and keep the pace honest, which will set it up for Mia’s Boy (right) who likes to come with a late run and Doncaster is a tough place to win from pillar to post.

As for the others, Light From Mars looks well held after finishing eight lengths behind the selection here in October, while Cloudy Start will need the run, as he did first time out last year. Fanunalter is going to have to really improve to even get close. This has all the makings of a full roll bet in my opinion, though I’d leave the 2/1 available on Betfair for now and see how it looks later tonight.

Having dealt with the finest fayre of the Doncaster Mile, let’s get stuck into the supplementary sundries. The last race is an absolute stick-on for Stoute’s Saptapadi, who wasn’t beaten by much over five lengths in the Chester vase, so a Class 4 Maiden clearly isn’t going to be any bother (and nor is the price going to be worth bothering with).

The opener is an eighteen runner, amateur lady riders affair, so I’ll likely swerve that one. The second race isn’t much better from a punting point of view, as only two of the thirteen entries have even seen a racecourse, so this one gets a wide berth too.

Jarrow looks a pretty good thing in the third (17:40), with the form working out quite well from its last race. The current 4/1 on Betfair looks fairly nice, I bet it doesn’t go off at that price. I’d also be tempted to have an each way nibble on Bossy Kitty at a huge price too, if only because it’s Kirsty Milczarek (left) in the saddle, but it does seem a harsh price considering the filly’s form in October, even if it is a big ask.

Red Jade looks a decent bet in the 18:50. Fahey has started the season with a bang and his nags are running very well. Although the chestnut gelding is hiked 6lbs in the weights, I can’t see that being a problem. The form is working out well after his reappearance over course and distance at the end of March and the only concern would be the ground. Although I don’t know for certain that he’d prefer softer, both of his victories have come on soft, so I guess that will be the excuse should it come last!

I like Hollow Green in the penultimate race, the 19:25, which is currently 6/1 on Betfair. Winning on seasonal appearance last year, the four year old filly won a few races over the summer and was campaigned at a higher level towards the end of the season. Recently second over course and distance, losing out to the aforementioned Red Jade in that race where the form’s working out nicely, she is now 1lb lower than her highest winning mark and is a genuine, consistent type. In such a tricky little race, I think that’s a good quality to have on my side and I also rate Cathy Gannon, who will be steering tomorrow.

My likely bets then:

Universal Recycling Doncaster Mile Stakes (18:15)
Mia’s Boy
4pts win
Advanced Medical Rejuvenation Handicap (17:40)
Jarrow
1pt win
Society Lifestyle And Leisure Magazine Handicap (18:50)
Red Jade
1pt win
Moss Properties Fillies' Handicap (19:25)
Hollow Green
0.5pts e/w

Tote Placepot:
L1: 2 + 5 +14
L2: 5 + 13
L3: 1
L4: 5
L5: 6 + 11
L6: 6 + 9
(24 bets)

World Snooker Championship - Ding To Be King

Just back in from work. Was surprised to see Ding Junhui available to back for the forthcoming Betfred World Snooker Championship at a large looking 8/1, but even more surprised when I just fired up oddschecker.com, to see that some firms go 9/1!

The reigning UK Champion, Ding Junhui has been in decent form and is clearly a future winner of the World Snooker Championship. 9/1 with Ladbrokes looks like a good bet to me.

Each way terms are half the odds, first two. Definitely worth a nibble.

I’m going to Doncaster races tomorrow so I’ll have a look at some nags tonight and might try and come up with a few tips and maybe a placepot. It’s the final of Miss South Yorkshire after, which should be a laugh. Fill in your own gags about fillies and that.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

John Smith's Grand National 2010

The Grand National. Four miles and four furlongs of spine tingling, adrenaline pumping joy. The race needs no introduction really, so let’s set about finding the winner.

I don’t have a bad record in the race really, having backed Amberleigh House (right) each way the year it placed and the following year when it won, as well as Comply Or Die two years ago, but I didn’t do so well last year and will be looking to put that right. I’ll adopt my usual strategy of picking a shorter priced fancy, as well as one from the middle of the market and a bigger priced outsider.

Let’s tuck into the trends then. Age to start off with, as no horse aged seven has won it since 1940. There are always some seven year olds in the Grand National and some mugs must chuck money at them. Tricky Trickster (left) is as short as 12/1 (Betfred) and the last time a horse of the same age won, we’d just gone to war. Ridiculous. More senior horses are to be avoided too, as horses twelve or older have won just twelve wins in the race’s history. Eight to eleven is my range.

Plenty of stamina is required to triumph and all winners of the Grand National since 1971 had won over three miles, prior to taking part. This simply cannot be overlooked.

All of the last twelve National winners had at least three career wins in chases before the race, eleven of those having won four or more times. Only one of the last twelve (Bindaree, right) had failed to win a chase with thirteen or more runners; experience in bigger fields is clearly an advantage in a race containing forty runners. On top of that, all of the last twelve Grand National winners competed in ten or more chases prior to the race. I’ll apply all of these statistics to further thin the field, as collectively they should help to pick a horse with the right type of experience required to win the Grand National.

A stat I’ve come to like is recent form. As Will pointed out last year, all twenty of the last twenty winners had come at least third or better in at least one of the three races prior to the Grand National; we’ll overlook the fact that not all third place finishes weigh up the same, but as Will rightly said, it allows you to ditch the nags that (misleadingly) look well handicapped on older pieces of form, but that are actually out of form.

I thought about sidestepping the well-known trend regarding weights for the first time ever, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. If I’m honest, it’s probably because I wanted to include Black Apalachi (best price 14/1, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Coral) as I backed it as my outside bet two years ago and it travelled like a dream last year, stepping over the fences as though they weren’t there. But that would defeat the point of any trends based approach, so I must stick to my guns, no sentiment allowed.

The facts are that in the last half a century or so, only Red Rum (left) has lugged home more than 11st 5lb and in the last quarter of a century (give or take) only one horse has carried home more than 11st, which was Hedgehunter with just 11st 1lb. An obvious cut off point is 11st and I will cross anything greater than that off my list.

All things considered then, I am left with four: Beat The Boys, Arbor Supreme, Chief Dan George and Merigo. The latter pair are highly unlikely to take their chance in the Grand National at this late stage, with Merigo needing sixteen to come out and the former needing seven. I really like Merigo too, I had it down as a potential Scottish National winner on this blog, but they pulled it out due to the ground. I was sure it would have won anyway. Anyway, somewhat frustratingly, this leaves me with just two horses and I like to pick three as mentioned at the start of this post.

As Beat The Boys (right) slots neatly into my “outsider” category (best price 100/1, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Coral) and Arbor Supreme into my “shorter priced” category (best price 16/1, William Hill, Ladbrokes, SportingBet) I had better pick a selection from the middle of the field, despite the lack of trend horses. Chief Dan George would have done the job, but as it looks unlikely to run, I’m going to plump for Comply Or Die.
2008's winner falls down on several trends, but I backed him two years ago when he won the race and when all my nags were out of contention by halfway last year, I find myself rooting for him again. I would love him to go in again this year. At a best price 28/1 (Totesport, William Hill) he looks very easy to back and rest assured, if Timmy Murphy chooses him over The Package, that price will be clipped, if only a small amount.

Beat The Boys would become the first grey to win the race since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and only the third ever, but this is a trend that doesn't bother me, due to the sheer percentage of runners in the Grand National that aren't grey. It's a little bit like the myth regarding French-bred runners that I advised people to take no notice of last year - a moral victory I thought, when Mon Mome went in. Any horse from the Nigel Twiston-Davies (left) yard must be respected, due to his record in the Grand National, coupled with recent big race form.

Arbor Supreme has been targeted at the race (always a positive) and his versatility with regard to the going is a useful tool. Seemingly on an upward curve, he's trained by Willie Mullins and the record of the Irish trainers in the Grand National speaks for itself.

So to recap, my selections for the 2010 John Smith's Grand National (all 0.5 points each way):

Arbor Supreme - 16/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, SportingBet)
Comply Or Die - 28/1 (Totesport, William Hill)
Beat The Boys - 100/1, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Coral

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

5/1 Fancy Tonight & Scottish Derby

The Greyhound Blue Riband at Hall Green is at the semi-final stage which go ahead tonight from 8:20. I missed the start of the competition unfortunately but I hope to make up for that by giving us a 5/1 winner for one of the heats tonight.

The three market leaders are split between the three heats and in the first Eye Eye Pickle, a dog I actually really like, can be taken on by the dog in trap one Moneygall Obama. Uncharacteristically, Obama was slow away in the first round but still showed good pace to win the heat. We can forgive him that one as he is usually fast to the bend and his trials were super fast with only Fear Zafonic and Eye onthe Storm having gone faster. 5/1 is super good so get involved.

The Scottish Greyhound Derby is at the second round stage tonight and the competition has been delayed a week after the postponement of the first round. The final will be live on SS a week on Saturday and to give us something to cheer on I've picked out the winner. Blood Of Kings is predominantly a sprinter but has the occasional 4 bend race - he's taken to Shawfield well and ran 29:31 in a trial as well as 29:51 when making all in the first heat from an unenjoyable trap six berth. He's chucked in trap 5 tonight and although he's a railer will still have the early to blast clear of these and win. If he gets an inside berth for semis and final then I think we have ourselves a bit of value at 16/1!

8:20 Hall Green
T1 Moneygall Obama @ 5/1 Various


Scottish Greyhound Derby
Blood Of Kings 16/1 Boylesports

Wooooooooooooooooddddsssssss!



Family man Tiger Woods generally goes off at between 6/4 and 2/1 for most majors, and I'm sure I've previously seen him even money. For the Masters this week he is 5/1! Of course there are huge reasons for this, with it being his first tournament in months and having no time to practise due to his constant shagging. However, I can't not back him at this price and then see him piss all over the field. So, gooooo Tiger!

I'm no golf expert and probably haven't ever had a tournament winner but I've a few other fancies for the Masters...

Anthony Kim 43/1
Geoff Ogilvy 47/1
Sean O'Hair 74/1
Matt Kuchar 94/1

All prices on Betfair. Please leave a comment with your thoughts on the 2010 Masters.

Scott

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Get On It Large!

Thursday Footie Fancies & Token Festival Fun !

Well folks, I've had a pretty grim week so far, I won't bore you with all the details, except to say it started badly with the F.1 - so near yet so far with my selections, all of whom did their best to avoid the podium, but were all about the other major points placings, just to make things more agonising. I really hope the forthcoming races prove to be more competitive and enjoyable, as the fayre served up in Bahrain can only be described as turgid.

Chelsea crashing out of Europe at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan did little to raise my spirits on Tuesday, after a trying day working on my race bike in the workshop, during which there were several verbal exchanges with some local residents, who clearly have too much time on their hands as they criticised me endlessly for starting the engine, which was necessary and done sympathetically in the early afternoon so as not to cause a nuisance.

Sorry, I promised not to bore you, but somehow have done so. If you've got this far, then well done. Today, I am aiming to get out for a few beers via the bookies, I need some light relief from home ! As you can imagine, I have had little time to digest all of Dom's excellent Festival previews, let alone put any money down, but I cannot let Cheltenham go by without at least a small tickler, so I am aiming to be out in time to catch the last race of the day, the "Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase" at 16.40. I for one, am no racing expert, so for me, this is almost mindless gambling, opposed to the well thought out reasoned selections of the Troop's resident racing experts, but for anyone who is interested, I will be having a small stakes each way punt on both "Galant Nuit" and "Nostringsattached".

I haven't a whole heap of time (the race is off in just about an hours time or thereabouts) to check out and compare prices, but with William Hill's, whom I will be investing my hard earned, the following prices are available (currently, subject to change):

Cheltenham 16.40

Galant Nuit - 8/1
Nostringsattached - 12/1

As I said, these are purely my own fancies, and thus no one should take them too seriously. Looking at the line up, form and prices, this race could, quite simply, be the proverbial "pin in the map" job, and anyone could win it !


And now onto this evening, I will happen (for my sins) to be in the company of some Liverpool fans, and as much as I dislike the Scouse club, I guess we will have to watch the game in some seedy local hostelry. So to keep things interesting, I will be placing the following football bets today:

Juventus are generously priced at 19/10 to beat Fulham this evening in the Europa League. Although the West London club have been impressive in European competition at home, being unbeaten in 13 such games at Craven Cottage, I feel the Italian giants will be the ones to burst this bubble, despite going into this second leg tie with a 3-1 lead. Juve cannot afford to sit back and defend, as Fulham have that all-important away goal, and I fully expect both sides to go at it hammer and tongs. The main issue faced by Juventus is something of a crisis between the sticks, with both Buffon and Manninger out of this tie. Fulham themselves will also be missing key men Danny Murphy and Jonathan Greening. I'm not convinced that the Juve win will be a huge one, but an away victory none-the-less.

Liverpool simply have to win this evening to salvage any realistic chance of a trophy from what has been a torrid season by their high standards, and despite having to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg, I shall expect them to comfortably dispatch Lille within 90 minutes and qualify without too much drama. The 4/9 odds offered on the home win offer little value or interest for the small stakes gambler, but I feel confident that they can grab goals either side of half time, and am going for a Liverpool H/T & F/T result, which is available at 23/20. If Fernando Torres has his shooting boots on tonight, he could well run riot, and at 5/1 to score two or more goals, I'll be risking the price of a pint in this market too.

Summary

Juventus Win - 19/10
Liverpool Half Time/Full Time - 23/20
Torres To Score 2 or more goals - 5/1

(All prices quoted are with William Hill)

Right, I'd better get on. Good Luck all !

Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Trip to Ayr Races 13th March 2010


On Saturday past I may my first visit to the races in over 6 months. I have been to Ayr on four occasions before but each meeting was either the Ayr Gold Cup or Scottish National so the quality of racing was high. This time though despite it being a Saturday afternoon card where often you can expect a card of a high standard, this was not the case. I had a good look at the seven race card on the Friday evening and quickly realised that winners would be extremely hard to come by. I managed to highlight one or two fancies but nothing that I was particularly confident about.

As I may have mentioned in previous posts my friend Alan lives not too far away from Ayr so I drove down to his and then we caught a train into Ayr, the racecourse being just a ten minute walk or so from the centre of town. We invested in club enclosure tickets as they were only £2 more expensive than the Grandstand for this meeting and once again I have to say the facilities are extremely impressive. I would have to say facilities wise Ayr is head and shoulders above the other Scottish racecourses I have visited. Take the toilets for example which are immaculately kept and also offer Racing UK and Sky Sports news on various TV’s throughout the area. Unfortunately the price of club enclosure tickets is around £18 more when it comes to the big meetings but people do pay for that so who am I to argue about the wrongs of this.
Anyway onto the racing where the card kicked off with a 2 mile novice hurdle. Having looked at the form extensively I found it hard to have confidence in either of the favourites Drussel or Si Bien but was unable to find any potential dangers further down the field either. Therefore I decided that while Drussel was the likeliest winner, the Irish raider was too short at the offered odds of around 7/4. He did go on to take the opener in fine style but I had no regrets about sitting out this race.

The second race was a small field handicap chase where I expected Cast Iron Casey to bounce back to form. I expected odds of 8/1 but due to a combination of a key non runner and strong market support only 7/2 was available which I reluctantly took. My selection ran a decent race, finishing 3rd but was never really placed to challenge behind the winner Quito de Tresor who built a commanding lead and managed to hang on grimly in the end to land the odds for favourite backers.

The third race I did manage to identify Knockavilla as a good bet at 7/2, despite him have a trio of second place finishes to his name. I suspected a flat two miles would bring out the best in him. I would have to say having seen him travel well and then find nothing, eventually finishing third, that I would place as much trust in him as I would in Tiger Woods at a Victoria’s Secret party.
The fifth race was the most interesting for me when I looked at it at the start of the day. I liked the look of the Pauline Robson trainer novice Humbie and also was interested in Solway Ally who had shown improved form when second 2 days earlier at Carlisle. Unfortunately there were a swarm of non runners in this field including Humbie and this meant Solway Ally was sent of 5/2 fav. I was tempted to back the Liz Harrison trained seven year old but the odds coupled with the uncertainty of how much its run 2 days prior had taken out of it made it hard to play. My decision was made tougher by the fact the stable girl for the horse, who was leading her around the paddock was my pick of the paddock! Of course I don’t need to tell you that Solway Ally won and didn’t carry a penny of my hard earned cash.

Other races on the day included a competitive 2m4furlong handicap hurdle won by the Irish Raider Ramsden Boy at big odds, a 4 runner staying chase won by the 5/4 favourite Seize and the closing bumper won by the 25/1 Jim Goldie trainer outsider Wyse Hill Teabags. I wisely avoided the handicap hurdle and chase races and took a small interest in a Chris Grant trained newcomer in the bumper who ran a decent race but never looked likely to find me the elusive winner.

Overall I only played in three of the seven races, which was unusual for me but probably the right move in end despite a couple of potential selections going in. I did have a fair sized bet on Knockavilla but again a valuable lesson was learned and I really hope the new discipline I have shown recently separate blog to follow on that) will lead to a profitable time over the next few months.

After the racing it was off out in Ayr for a few drinks and a bit of nightclubbing, although given this is a betting blog I don’t suppose many readers will be too keen to read stories of my near miss in trying to pull a stunning nineteen year old. Back down to Ayr in just over 3 weeks for the Scottish National where I will be hoping for more luck on both the punting front and in bagging myself that nineteen year old. Happy punting.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Cheltenham 2010: Supreme Noves' Hurdle

Well, it’s finally here. At half past one tomorrow, we’ll hear the famous roar of the crowd as the tape is lifted on the first race of the 2010 Cheltenham Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The race is open to novice hurdlers aged four years or older and is run on Cheltenham’s Old Course, over two miles and 110 yards and featuring eight hurdles.

Last year I went with Kempes, who never got near to eventual winner Go Native (right) and I’ll be looking to improve on that. As ever, I’ll be looking for some trends to try and thin the eighteen strong field out a little, in an attempt to find the likely winner.

The strongest trend for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is last time out form, with twelve of the last thirteen winners of the race having won on their previous start.

Another noticeable trend is age, as 30 of the last 35 winners were aged five or six, but I don’t place too much emphasis on that in this race, as the vast majority of participants are aged five and six. Interestingly though, it would rule out hot favourite Dunguib (left), who is seven.

There are other factors that point to a potential upset in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle too, notably that only six favourites have won in the last thirty renewals. Another fairly strong trend is that eight of the last 18 winners had run in no more than two hurdle races, a statistic strengthened by the fact that so few horses with that sort of profile actually take part in the race.

With the winner of the last five renewals returned at odds varying between 6-1 and 40-1, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle really is a race where you can pick almost anything, though it is probably worth noting that only one horse has placed at odds of greater than 50-1 in the last thirteen years. All these factors lead me to believe that the festival hotpot (best price even money, William Hill and Ladbrokes) is worth taking on, even more so when you look at how ropey his jumping was in Leopardstown. Now then, let’s get it beaten.

Flat Out and Blackstairmountain (right) are horses that fit every trend I’ve mentioned so far, but have the added bonus of being trained by Willie Mullins, who is one of just four people still training to have won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle more than once, most recently with Ebaziyan in 2007. Irish trainers generally have a good record in the race and seven of the last nine winners were all Irish trained.

Of the two, you would be tempted to side with Blackstairmountain (best price 12/1, SportingBet) as Ruby Walsh has chosen the five year old bay as his mount, but I have something of a reputation on the blog for picking the wrong one whenever I narrow it down to two, so I guess I’d better go with Flat Out (best price 20/1, Stan James, Victor Chandler and SportingBet) as well!

It’s worth noting tomorrow’s special offer from BetFred. In addition to the usual free £50 bet for signing up, if you back a horse in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and it loses, you’ll be refunded the stake as a free bet (up to a maximum of £100). That offer makes the race even more appealing as if Dunguib does oblige, you’ll get your stake back to bet on something else (like Punjabi, who is going to win the Champion Hurdle at 15:20, as tipped by The Scoop Troop!)

If the exchanges are more your scene, Blackstairmountain is priced at 15.0 (14/1) on Betfair and Flat Out is 26 (25/1) - both prices bigger than anything found with traditional bookmakers. Betfair are also offering a £25 free bet to new accounts.

Spinal Research Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Tuesday 16th March, 13.30
Blackstairmountain 0.5 pts e/w
Flat Out 0.5 pts e/w

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Cheltenham 2010: Ladbrokes World Hurdle

The Ladbrokes World Hurdle is run on Cheltenham’s New Course, over a distance of three miles, featuring twelve hurdles. Horses aged four or older can take part and this year’s hot favourite (best price on offer 8/13, from William Hill and SportingBet) is the defending champion, the Paul Nicholls trained Big Buck’s (see right).

There are sixteen hopefuls lined up for this year’s World Hurdle, but that number can be halved if we look at the last time out form of the last ten winners of the race. By last ten winners, I am going back to 1996 – Inglis Drever and Baracouda won the race five years out of the last ten, so I’m just looking at their stats for the first time they won the World Hurdle. But yeah, looking at LTO form for the last ten winners, eight had finished in the first two and four from the last five were LTO winners.

No five year old has won the World Hurdle and only one horse older than nine has achieved the feat. Nine year olds don’t have a great record, with only four winners in the last 35 years and two of those were repeat winners. Eight year olds don’t fare much better, with five winners in thirty years; two of those were repeat winners too. It looks like six and seven year olds are best placed to make a challenge to Big Buck’s then.

Time For Rupert (left) and Karabak are the only two that adhere to the above profile (though Big Buck’s himself also fits the bill).

Of the two, Karabak would tempt me the most, in terms of a potential winner. My pick for last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the bay gelding finished second in that race. Although none of the last ten World Hurdle winners had any winning Cheltenham Festival form (again, not including the repeat winners, who obviously did) six of them had placed at a previous Festival, five of those finishing in second place.

Karabak (left) is yet to score over three miles, unlike Time For Rupert, but half of the last ten winners had also never won over three miles prior to their first World Hurdle win, so I don’t see that as a massive problem. He dug in well and stuck on gamely after messing up the final hurdle in the rescheduled Long Walk, suggesting that he gets the trip and is up for the challenge. In truth, he’s probably still progressing. Whether he can progress enough to beat Big Buck’s, I’m not sure, but at a best price 15/2 (Coral, e/w terms first three, a quarter the odds) it really does look like an each way bet to nothing.

In terms of value, Time For Rupert (right) looks a nice bet too. The best price 20/1 (widely available) looks insulting for a horse than has winning course and distance form, appears to act on all types of ground, is being targeted solely at this race and that ran second in the Cleeve Hurdle, giving the winner 4lbs in the process. This is surely overpriced and Coral’s 14/1 seems a lot nearer the mark.

I have to say, Big Buck’s does look the most likely winner of the race. The World Hurdle has thrown up five repeat winners in the last ten years and this year’s hot favourite has all the form in the book and rightly heads the market. For the casual punter though, 8/13 is no fun, so I’d fancy taking it on with both Time For Rupert and Karabak. As previously mentioned, the latter seems a genuine bet to nothing and the former seems insultingly overpriced.

Hell, why not thrown in a cheeky combination tricast, just for fun?

The World Hurdle sponsors are offering a £25 free bet to all new accounts - why not sign up and take advantage of the offer to back Karabak?

Ladbrokes World Hurdle
Thursday 18th March, 15.20
Karabak 2.5pts e/w

Time For Rupert 0.5 pts e/w

Friday, 12 March 2010

Cheltenham Festival - only four sleeps away!

The countdown to the Cheltenham Festival is well and truly underway and I for one am quite excited. I’m particularly pleased with my selections so far, here’s a quick recap to save you filtering though the recent flurry of blog posts:

Champion Hurdle: Punjabi (16/1 last month, best price 8/1 now, but only with only with Totesport and Sportingbet)

RSA Chase: Citizen Vic (33/1 ten days ago, BP 25/1 now with most firms)
Weird Al (11/1 ten days ago, BP 15/2 with Sportingbet)

Pertemps Final: Dorset Square (20/1 two days ago, as short as 10/1 now but can still get 20/1 from Sportingbet)

Ryanair Chase: Tranquil Sea (9/2 on Monday, BP 4/1 with basically everyone now)
Our Vic (66/1 on Monday, since declared a non-runner)

JCB Triumph Hurdle: Alaivan (9/2 eight days ago, 4/1 now with almost everyone)

Will be looking at the World Hurdle next, to see if I can get Big Buck’s beaten. Hopefully that preview will be up on Saturday. I will also write something for what promises to be an intriguing Cheltenham Gold Cup, though I heartily recommend that everyone enjoys the spectacle without financial investment.

Anyone looking for good free bets for the Cheltenham Festival would do well to check out Bet365, who are offering up to £200 in free bets for new customers, a host of novelty bets and they go Non Runner Money Back on all the big races. On top of that, if you back a winner in any of the televised Channel 4 races, whose price is 4/1 or better, they'll give you a free bet in the next televised C4 race to the same stake!

Pre-Season F.1 Fancies & Bahrain G.P. Tips

A few selections for the outright F.1 2010 Drivers Championship:

Jenson Button is priced as high as 13/1 (Extrabet). Well worth backing e/w. Team mate Lewis Hamilton is available at a best price of 10/3 with Stan James.

If you're looking at backing Ferrari, there is little value chasing Fernando Alonso, with odds as short as 9/4 at many of the high street bookies (Ladbrokes are best price, 11/4). Team mate Felipe Massa is a far more attractive preposition, with a best price of 9/1 with bwin, and is available at more or less all of their rivals priced between 7/1 and 8/1.

I'm definately going with an e/w (top 3 pay) bet on Nico Rosberg, who I feel offers outstanding value - read the previous post for more insight. I'll most definately be taking advantage of the very generous 22/1 with BetFred. Prices are as low as 12/1 elsewhere, so shop about for your best bet locally, if you don't use an online account.

There is little value in the Constructors Championship market outright, the odds are too low and it's too tight to call right now as there are several teams who are very close in terms of ability, with scope for so much change over the course of the season. McLaren are available widely at 2/1 (best price 14/5, SportingBet) with Ferrari even narrower at a widely available 7/4 (best price 2/1, Ladbrokes). Neither represent particularly good value right now, so I'll be avoiding this market right now.

Bahrain G.P.

Fernando Alonso is the bookies favourite, but I won't be plumping for a Ferrari win. Instead, I believe there will be a close scrap between McLaren and Mercedes for the podium placings. Several firms are offering 10/1 on Jenson Button to take the win, though Extrabet go a whopping 12/1 and I think this offers outstanding value - he was dominant here in 2009 in taking his third win of the season. If you'd rather spread the risk by going each way, try Stan James, whose e/w terms are first three, 1/4 the odds. Red Bull's Mark Webber is a best priced 17/1 (SportingBet) and certainly represents a value e/w bet. I will be taking a look at both of these drivers, along with the aforementioned Nico Rosberg, who is priced at 12/1 with Stan James, William Hill, Boylesports and Betfred.

For anyone who fancies a random flutter on something a bit different, there are plenty of "specials" available (William Hill in particular have a host of interesting features in which to put your money on, and enhance your enjoyment of the event). I like the look of the "Safety Car" market, where you can back whether or not it will need to be deployed during the course of the race. I would be inclined to back the appearance of the Safety Car, it is available at a best price of 11/10 with both Bet365 and SkyBet. Although in the years previous, the Safety Car has not always been an integral part of this event, all it will take is a bit of over enthusiasm (perhaps from one of the numerous novices) and the fact that there will now be more vehicles on the track than in recent years, which could well see someone getting intimate with the scenery at some point !

Best of luck to all those having a flutter this weekend.

Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Meet The 2010 F1 Teams & Drivers

To follow up yesterday's post which detailed some of the new rules and regulations ahead of the 2010 Formula One season, today I will take a look at the driver and team line ups, and offer my predictions for their success or otherwise in the year ahead.


McLaren-Mercedes

2009 Constructors Championship - 3rd (71 Points)

2010 Prediction - 1st (Best Price to win Constructors Title, 14/5, SportingBet)

1. Jenson Button
British
2009 - Drivers Championship: 1st - 95 Points (Brawn G.P.)
Best Career Result - 1st (7 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 324
Debut - Australia 2000 (Williams)

Button enjoyed his best season to date in 2009 with surprise package Brawn G.P. with a particularly strong start to the season, winning six of the first seven races, although he made heavy work of the latter part of the season, meaning a title he should have secured by the time the European events had past by went all the way to the wire in Brazil. Now into his eleventh season in the top tier, Button is now with his fifth team, and providing McLaren can deliver with a competitive package, his smooth style should see consistent top three finishes, although whether his raw pace is enough to match Hamilton remains to be seen.

2. Lewis Hamilton
British
2009 Drivers Championship - 5th - 49 Points (McLaren)
Best Career Result - 1st (11 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 256
Debut - Australia 2007 (McLaren)

In the worst McLaren in his three year Formula One career, Hamilton struggled in the early part of the season with a torrid car, however his perseverance paid off, with victories at Hungary and Singapore, which saw him lead his team to third in the standings ahead of bitter rivals, Ferrari. Hamilton totally outshone his team mate of the last two years, Heikki Kovalainen. Expect Button to be more of a threat, but if Hamilton can look after his tyres in the races, Hamilton is more likely to prosper in what is set to be an intriguing inter-team battle.

Mercedes G.P. (Formerly Brawn G.P.)

2009 Constructors Championship - 1st (172 Points) - as Brawn G.P.

2010 Prediction - 4th (BP 11/2, ToteSport)

3. Michael Schumacher
Germany
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A (Did Not Compete)
Best Career Result - 1st (91 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 1291 (Excl. 1997 Disqualification)
Debut - Belgium 1991 (Jordan)

So, a legend, at the ripe old age of 41 returns to try to lead the team which nurtured his career through the junior formulae to victory. Schumacher hit the headlines last year, when it was rumoured he was to return for Ferrari to take the place of the injured Felipe Massa, but perhaps he realised that the car was a dog ! Schumacher won't be here to make up the numbers, and alongside his old friend Ross Brawn and with Mercedes power, this car will be amongst the front runners. I'm sure there will be lots of people expecting too much of "Schumi", not least his fans. I wouldn't back him for the championship, although I'd be delighted if he could do it. I expect the odd podium, if the car works a win isn't beyond him. Consistent points should see him take up residence somewhere between fifth and eighth in the Drivers Championship come the seasons end.

4. Nico Rosberg
Germany
2009 Drivers Championship - 7th - 34.5 Points (Williams)
Best Career Result - 2nd (Singapore 2008)
W.C. Points (Career) - 75.5
Debut - Bahrain 2006 (Williams)

Rosberg has shown signs of great potential in his drives in an uncompetitive Williams over the last few seasons - indeed in his first ever race, at Bahrain in 2006 he was the youngest driver ever to set the fastest lap in a Grand Prix. In a consistent season in 2009, he only failed to finish once, and was in the points regularly, fulfilling and exceeding the potential of the Williams. I believe, that this season he will be working closely with Schumacher and the team, as clearly, if he can continue his development, Rosberg is a champion in the making. A definate dark horse for the podium anywhere he races, should the Mercedes be a competitive package, keep an eye on his prices with the bookies - an underrated driver who I believe will fluourish under the stewardship of Ross Brawn.

Red Bull - Renault

2009 Constructors Championship - 2nd (153.5 Points)

2010 Prediction - 3rd (BP 7/2, Bwin)

5. Sebastian Vettel
Germany
2009 Drivers Championship - 2nd - 84 Points (Red Bull)
Best Career Result - 1st (5 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 125
Debut - Hungary 2007

Sebastian Vettel, a product of Red Bull's feeder outfit Toro Rosso was very much a revelation of the 2009 season, in an indecently quick car designed by former Williams guru Adrian Newey. Had the team been on the pace in the early rounds, then Vettel could quite easily have been World Champion. Handles pressure well, and clearly a precocious talent, if Red Bull can consolidate their performance of last year, then they could quite well go one better. However, I put them on a par with the likes of Mercedes, but ahead of the likes of Renault and Williams. I believe Vettel will take on the role of team leader, but do not see him finishing top three in the title come the seasons end. May well be worth a punt on a "best of the rest" coupon, which takes into account the title "winners" minus the drivers of Ferrari and McLaren.

6. Mark Webber
Australia
2009 Drivers Championship - 4th - 69.5 Points (Red Bull)
Best Career Result - 1st (Germany 2009 & Brazil 2009)
W.C. Points (Career) - 169.5
Debut - Australia 2002 (Minardi)

It's perhaps a shame, but I think Webber missed the boat in Formula One. He has been about now for the best part of a decade, and shown lots of promise but has never had a big break with one of the powerhouses of the sport, in particular, I remember watching him score points in his debut in 2002 for Minardi and believing he would be World Champion in the not too distant future; unfortunately it never came, and now it's surely too late. With Red Bull, he clearly has the equipment, but rarely the luck, and last season was overshadowed by his young team mate, Vettel. I can only see this continuing this season, Webber is a match for anyone on his day, but now time is starting to count against him. If Webber can qualify strongly then he can challenge for podiums, but I believe a challenge for the title is beyond him. Sixth at best in the drivers title. What will count in his favour however, is stability, as he is competing with the same team, designer and team mate, and this could well see him and the team impress in the early part of the season whilst others are still finding their feet.

Ferrari

2009 Constructors Championship - 4th (70 Points)

2010 Prediction - 2nd (BP 2/1, Ladbrokes)

7. Felipe Massa
Brazil
2009 Drivers Championship - 11th - 22 Points (Ferrari) *Missed 8 Rounds Due To Injury
Best Career Result - 1st (10 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 320
Debut - Australia 2002 (Sauber)

Massa makes a return to the sport following the horrific incident which occurred during the qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009 where he was hit on the head at over 160mph by a spring which had become detached from one of Rubens Barrichello's damping units. He has undergone intensive therapy, and is reportedly raring to go and has impressed in testing, and also in a number of competitive motor sport events in his native Brazil over the close season. His relationship with Alonso will be under constant scrutiny, following one or two disagreements in the past, along with recent condemnation of the alleged "race fixing" tactics of Singapore 2008 which involved Alonso whilst competing for Renault. I see no reason why Massa cannot challenge for regular race wins this year, and he is sure to be in the hunt should his health remain good, and the car be reliable.

8. Fernando Alonso
Spain
2009 Drivers Championship - 9th - 26 Points (Renault)
Best Career Result - 1st (21 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 577
Debut - Australia 2001 (Minardi)

2005 and 2006 Champion Alonso joins Ferrari to take the seat vacated by Kimi Raikkonen, who is now competing in the World Rally Championship. He is widely tipped as being the favourite for the drivers crown this season, although it has been rare for a Ferrari driver to win the title in their first season for the team in recent years. If he can strike up an amiable working partnership with Massa, and the Ferrari is drivable this year (it was by all accounts a dog last term) then he has to be regarded as a serious contender. I still feel they could wind up as second best to McLaren, however.

Williams - Cosworth

2009 Constructors Championship - 7th (34.5 Points)

2010 Prediction - 5th (BP 50/1, Bet365)

9. Rubens Barrichello
Brazil
2009 Drivers Championship - 3rd - 77 Points (Brawn G.P.)
Best Career Result - 1st (11 Wins)
W.C. Points (Career) - 607
Debut - South Africa 1993 (Jordan)

The driver on the grid with the most starts, Barrichello showed in 2009 with Brawn, that he still had the determination and grit to run up front, and was still in the hunt for the title at the close of the season, despite his protestations at having to play second fiddle to Jenson Button for much of the year. A new team, along with a rookie team mate could well hamper Barrichello's chances of regular top points finishes this season, and I fear a year of mid table mediocrity could well be on the cards for the ever popular Brazilian, who by now has to be regarded as being in the twilight of his career.

10. Nico Hulkenberg
Germany
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A
Best Career Result - N/A
W.C. Points (Career) - N/A
Debut - Bahrain 2010 (Williams)

Hulkenberg joins Williams in his first season in Formula One following a successful few seasons in open wheeled racing. He is only the second driver (Lewis Hamilton being the first) to join F.1 as a G.P.2 Champion, having won the series in 2009. Past honours include winning the A1 GP series for Germany in 2006/07 and winning the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2008. Clearly a driver of talent and raw speed, the ultimate test comes in Formula One, where he has impressed as a test driver for Williams. Coming from the same managing company as Michael Schumacher, headed by Willi Weber, Hulkenberg is already rumoured to be in the running for a Ferrari seat as a long term replacement for Felipe Massa within the next three years. Hulkenberg will, no doubt, be fast; but will he exercise enough caution to avoid visiting the scenery more often than not ? With veteran stablemate Barrichello alongside him, he has a natural mentor and is certainly one for the future. Expect the honour of best rookie to be between him, Lucas di Grassi of Virgin and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi.

Renault

2009 Constructors Championship - 8th (26 Points)

2010 Prediction - 6th (BP 150/1, Bwin)

11. Robert Kubica
Poland
2009 Drivers Championship - 14th - 17 Points (BMW)
Best Career Result - 1st (Canada 2008)
W.C. Points (Career) - 137
Debut - Hungary 2006 (BMW Sauber)

Renault look shaky - they have an all new driver line up, and come off the back of a tempestuous season, following the shocking revelations of the race fixing incident in Singapore 2008, which culminated in the expulsion of former principal, Flavio Briatore. In Kubica, they have a talented driver, who shows displays of brilliance in terms of his racecraft, but at times appears lazy; particularly in qualifying which can hamper his race weekends. He is capable of scoring solid points, and consistency will be the key. Even so, I see him being in the lower reaches of the top ten, and this season could be an uphill struggle for the likable Pole.

12. Vitaly Petrov
Russia
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A
Best Career Result - N/A
W.C. Points (Career) - N/A
Debut - Bahrain 2010 (Renault)

Petrov becomes Russia's first Formula One driver, and he joins a Renault team living off past glories. Renault tend to struggle to develop out and out novices to the sport (look at the troubled Nelson Piquet Jr, who had the backing of a successful father and still failed). His signing could well be due to being reasonably priced in the drivers market, despite similar interest from Sauber. He does have some racing pedigree to his credit however, being runner up in the 2009 GP2 series, as well as a string of victories in the "Lada Cup, Russia" (I kid you not !!) His goals are to score points "mid season onwards". Perhaps one to avoid in the betting markets.

Force India - Mercedes

2009 Constructors Championship - 9th (13 Points)

2010 Prediction - 8th (BP 80/1, ExtraBet, ToteSport)

14. Adrian Sutil
Germany
2009 Drivers Championship - 17th - 5 Points (Force India)
Best Career Result - 4th (Italy 2009)
W.C. Points (Career) - 6
Debut - Australia 2007 (Spyker)

Sutil's stats belie his capabilities as a driver. He has had some rotten luck (remember Monaco 2008 when Raikkonen's Ferrari shovelled him off the track whilst running fourth ?) in some inferior machinery. Force India showed signs of massive strides forward in 2009 (Giancarlo Fisichella chased Raikkonen home for a fine second place in Belgium). Over the last couple of years, Sutil has matured as a driver and last year had a very good finishing record. Although I do not believe they will be regular podium visitors, I do think Sutil can lead his team to plenty of lower points finishes. Mid table, but solid and consistent - and I think Sutil could well come into his own in a wet race scenario. His one downfall maybe that the pressure of being number one driver could see him return to the days of his silly - but costly mistakes.

15. Vitantonio Liuzzi
Italy
2009 Drivers Championship - 22nd - 0 Points (Force India)
Best Career Result - 6th (China 2007)
W.C. Points (Career) - 5
Debut - San Marino 2007 (Red Bull)

Liuzzi has had something of a stop-start Formula One career, and despite being around the paddock since 2005, he only has two full seasons under his belt, having been something of a "supersub". Last year, he was promoted as Force India's test driver to second driver, following the departure of Fisichella who took over Massa's Ferrari drive following the Brazilian's accident. Liuzzi is unspectacular in all he does, and is likely to plod round staying out of trouble, and quite likely pick up a few points here and there. Stability will be the key in the Force India camp, and with him and Sutil picking up where they left off last year will possibly see them start the season more strongly than they finish it. I wouldn't risk any money whatsoever on Liuzzi - I think it will take a huge slice of luck for him to even smell the steps of the podium, let alone walk up them.

Toro Rosso

2009 Constructors Championship - 10th (8 Points)

2010 Prediction - 10th (BP 250/1, BoyleSports)

16. Sebastian Buemi
Switzerland
2009 Drivers Championship - 16th - 6 Points (Toro Rosso)
Best Career Result - 7th (Australia 2009 & Brazil 2009)
W.C. Points (Career) - 6 Points
Debut - Australia 2009 (Toro Rosso)

Buemi comes into his second season of Formula One with the same team, and will be looking to build upon a solid, if unspectacular debut. In a sporadic year for the team (which started and finished the season strongly, with a mid season dip in form), Buemi made few mistakes, but was dogged with reliability issues. If Buemi qualifies well, then he tends to race well, but struggles in traffic and rarely makes headway. Bear this in mind if you fancy backing him at any point this year. Again, I see this team being in the midfield abyss, maybe slightly off the pace of the likes of Williams, Renault and Force India, and could well be embroiled in situations with the newcomer teams.

17. Jaime Alguersuari
Spain
2009 Drivers Championship - 24th - 0 Points (Toro Rosso)
Best Career Result - 14th (Brazil 2009)
W.C. Points (Career) - 0
Debut - Hungary 2009

Alguersuari was hastily brought into the Toro Rosso line up in time for the Hungarian G.P. of 2009 following the dismissal of the disappointing Sebastian Bourdais. He is the youngest driver in F.1 history, therefore he is still very much on a steep learning curb, and thus expectations for the 2010 season are less than high. Out of eight starts, he only nursed the car to the finish three times. Certainly not one to back, unless you fancy a small tickler in the "first to be replaced" market, although he is likely (in my opinion) to be given at least half a season to settle and prove himself.
Lotus

2009 Constructors Championship - N/A (New Team)

2010 Prediction - 7th (BP 250/1, Bet365, SportingBet, Ladbrokes)

18. Jarno Trulli
Italy
2009 Drivers Championship - 8th - 32.5 Points (Toyota)
Best Career Result - 1st (Canada 2005)
W.C. Points (Career) - 246.5
Debut - Australia 1997 (Minardi)

Trulli, very much a "journeyman" of the Formula One scene brings his vast array of experience to a familiar name, but an all new team in the form of Lotus, who bear little resemblance to the former World beaters, now under the ownership of a Malaysian corporation. Along with Kovalainen, they form an unusually strong line up for a fledgling team, showing the rest of the paddock they mean business. Lotus look set to certainly be top dog, certainly in terms of the newcomers, and if they find some reliability and consistency, a few points is not beyond them. Trulli is renowned for his qualifying supremacy and blistering speed over a single lap, and if he can qualify the car in the top half of the grid, then Lotus could quite easily spring the odd surprise.

19. Heikki Kovalainen
Finland
2009 Drivers Championship - 12th - 22 Points (McLaren)
Best Career Result - 1st (Hungary 2008)
W.C. Points (Career) - 110
Debut - Australia 2007 (Renault)

Perennial underachiever Kovalainen has certainly had some fantastic chances with top teams Renault and McLaren during his time in Formula One, and has often disappointed and played second fiddle to stronger team mates. Having said that, he has driven alongside two World Champions (Alonso and Hamilton) and should bring some useful information to the team. He needs to impress this year, otherwise I can see him making an exit to Indy Car or Touring Cars at the close of the season. Despite this, I still foresee him failing to match Trulli on raw pace, and it could well be a challenging year racing for a team who will be lacking the big money resources he is clearly used to.

H.R.T. (Hispania Racing Team)

2009 Constructors Championship - N/A (New Team)

2010 Prediction - 12th (BP 500/1, widely available)

20. Karun Chandhok
India
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A
Best Career Result - N/A
W.C. Points (Career) - N/A
Debut - Bahrain 2010 (H.R.T.)

Chandhok was a late announcement in the line up for H.R.T. (who had previously registered as Campos) and has briefly been considered for a drive in F.1 in the past with Force India. I have little doubt that Chandhok will be something of a mobile chicane this year, having a less than glowing C.V. in feeder series, and will be something of a tail end charlie in terms of qualifying and racing. If he scrapes any points, I feel it will be due to luck and others failing to finish. Last season, he finished a disappointing 18th in the GP2 series, which begs the question why he has landed an F.1 drive.

21. Bruno Senna
Brazil
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A
Best Career Result - N/A
W.C. Points (Career) - N/A
Debut - Bahrain 2010 (H.R.T.)

Being the nephew of arguably the greatest Formula One driver of all times surely must be a heavy burden on young shoulders, and it will be interesting to see how young Senna copes with the limelight which is sure to surround him in his rookie season. A driver who has repeatedly been linked with drives in the past, it is perhaps something of a surprise he hasn't landed a more lucrative drive (even if only for the marketing opportunities he brings along). Senna has a far more distinguished racing career behind him than his team mate, the highlight being the runner up in the GP2 series of 2008. For this reason, he is sure to be the dominant force at H.R.T.; but even so, the lack of experience is bound to show, and once again I'd be surprised if the points haul (if any) is only in single figures come the season's end.


US F.1

Although the US F.1 team were granted an entry for the 2010 season, sadly they will not be making it to the grid this year, citing financial problems. They are still confident that they will be able to defer entry and race in 2011. Thus, there will now be only 12 teams competing this season.


Virgin (Formerly Manor F1)

2009 Constructors Championship - N/A (New Team)

2010 Prediction - 11th (BP 300/1 SkyBet, Bwin)

24. Timo Glock
Germany
2009 Drivers Championship - 10th - 24 Points (Toyota)
Best Career Result - 2nd (Hungary 2008 & Singapore 2009)
W.C. Points (Career) - 51
Debut - Canada 2004 (Jordan)

Despite making his debut in 2004, Glock enters only his third full season of F.1, following two reasonable seasons at Toyota. He takes on the role of first driver at Virgin Racing, where the expectations on his shoulders, in particular, will be high. Glock will be keen to impress, having missed the last three races of 2009 following injuries sustained in qualifying in a horrific incident at the Japanese Grand Prix. Although Virgin were major sponsors of last years double title winning outfit, Brawn, do not expect them to repeat the feat with their own car. I expect them to contend with the likes of Lotus and Toro Rosso, but cannot see them having the strength to be regular points scorers. The onus will be on Glock to lead, and with a weaker team mate than Trulli has at Lotus, I cannot even back Virgin to even be the best newcomers to the series.

25. Lucas di Grassi
Brazil
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A
Best Career Result - N/A
W.C. Points (Career) - N/A
Debut - Bahrain 2010 (Virgin)

Newcomer, di Grassi knows his team mate Glock well - he finished second to him in the 2007 GP2 series. In 2008 and 2009, he has finished runner up in the GP2 series, and now his consistency has paid off and won him a Formula One drive. Although I expect him to perhaps be over-enthusiastic at times, there is every chance di Grassi could prove to be a revelation, and could well be ranked as the best newcomer this year. He also has some F.1 experience, having been test driver for Renault in the past. On out and out speed, he tested a Honda at Catalunya, and was 0.2 seconds a lap off the pace of Bruno Senna in the same car, but I feel as an overall package, di Grassi will have the measure of his countryman in the H.R.T. this season, particularly with the advantage of having an experienced team mate alongside him.

Sauber - BMW (Formerly BMW)


2009 Constructors Championship - 6th (36 Points) - As BMW

2010 Prediciton - 9th (BP 40/1 BoyleSports, SportingBet, ExtraBet)

26. Pedro de la Rosa
Spain
2009 Drivers Championship - N/A
Best Career Result -2nd (Hungary 2006)
W.C. Points (Career) - 29
Debut - Australia 1999 (Arrows)

39 year old de la Rosa last competed in Formula One competitively in 2006 for McLaren, since then he has been amongst their ranks as test driver. A hasty signing for the now re-badged Sauber team, following the withdrawal of factory support from BMW. Under the stewardship of Peter Sauber, the team has potential, but after so many years away from the competitive side of racing, I fully expect de la Rosa to lack edge and bite (akin to the efforts of Luca Badoer at Ferrari in 2009 who found himself in a similar situation). I wouldn't fancy de la Rosa to make much of an impact, and he could quite well find himself seeking alternative employment at the season's end, if not before.

27. Kamui Kobayashi
Japan
2009 Drivers Championship -
Best Career Result -
W.C. Points (Career) -
Debut - Brazil 2009 (Toyota)

Kobayashi made an instant impact when called up to the ranks of Toyota for the last two races of 2009 following Timo Glock's accident in Japan. He came under criticism for his swash-buckling style in Brazil where he was wheel to wheel with many seasoned pro's, and put some sweet maneouvres on a number of veterans of the sport. His raw pace and natural talent is evident, I believe he will be the most successful Japanese top tier driver to date. However, I also feel he is likely to be in the "win it or bin it" camp and may have a few big "offs" this year. If he can conserve his tyres, he is bound to get the best out of his machinery. I fully expect him to outscore his team mate at least 2:1 come the end of the year.

So, apologies for the length of this post. As you can tell from my predictions, I have made it clear which teams I feel will be the ones at the sharp end of the grid, and those to forget.

To tie all this together, tomorrow I will be posting my tips for this weekends Bahrain G.P.; and also my top selections for the Drivers and Constructors titles.

Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man