with Jonathan Shepherd
sponsored by W betrescue.com
beyond the turf HORSE RACING: CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP: K
auto Star rolled back the years on Boxing Day, powering up the Kempton straight and gamely fending off the challenge of reigning
champion Long Run to land an unprecedented fifth King George crown and he’s 4/1 (Betfred) to capture a third Cheltenham Gold Cup. 2011 winner Long Run remains
favourite at 5/2 with Stan Jams and it’s easy to see why he heads the betting; bookmakers clearly believing the extra couple of furlongs at Prestbury Park will benefit the younger horse. Grands Crus follows the ‘big
two’ in the betting at a high of 8/1 via William Hill but it remains to be seen which route connections will take with the talented grey, who was withdrawn from Cheltenham’s Argento Chase in late January. It was Midnight Chase that captured the Argento in Grand
Crus’s absence and his odds subsequently tumbled from 66/1 to 20/1 at Blue Square. The likely pacemaker loves it around Cheltenham and will be perfectly placed to capitalise if Kauto Star and Long Run aren’t up to scratch so he’s worth factoring in to any each-way portfolio at this stage.
Top Tip: It’s hard to separate Long Run and Kauto Star at the head of the market but the former just about gets the nod while the eye-catching each-way flutter, despite his distant fifth in the 2011 renewal, is Argento Chase winner Midnight Chase, who will relish the track and look to set the pace.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: M
aking his first appearance since last May, Hurricane Fly impressed on heavy ground to take the Irish Champion Hurdle by six and a half lengths and he is now just 10/11 at Partybets to follow that up by retaining his Cheltenham Champion Hurdle crown. Another Festival near-certainty is Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle.
The seemingly unstoppable nine-year-old extended his winning run to 15 races when he landed the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and he heads back to Prestbury Park looking to equal the record of 16 successive victories over hurdles, set by Sir Ken in 1953. Punters seeking bigger prices might chance their arm in the Ryanair
Chase, where Medermit is worth a modest each-way interest at 16/1. Sprinter Sacre leads the Arkle betting at just 9/4 with bet365 but
it’s second favourite Peddler’s Cross, at 4/1 via Boylesports, that could take all the beating. The odds at present are based on the fact that former beat the latter at Kempton but Peddler’s Cross was under
the weather that day and didn’t do himself justice so we can expect a reverse of that form at Prestbury Park, where Donald McCain’s star has excelled previously. Question marks over their jumping meanwhile, discourage any
recommendation of Al Ferof (11/2, William Hill) and Menorah (14/1, Betfred), especially in the case of the latter who fell at Doncaster a few weeks ago. Admittedly, he lost at Cheltenham last time out to Join Together,
quoted by Ladbrokes at 10/1 for this race, but he ran well that day, was a decent second behind stablemate Bob’s Worth at the Festival last year and has plenty of promise.
Top Tip: Hurricane Fly and Big Buck’s deserve their status as most people’s Festival bankers, Medermit has decent each- way claims in the Ryanair Chase, Peddler’s Cross is likely to set off much shorter than the current 4/1 in the Arkle and can emerge triumphant in a renewal that perhaps lacks a little depth while Grand Crus should take the RSA Chase if he lines up but that’s 50-50 at present so a modest each-way gamble on Mossley could reward.
t’s certainly not been an easy path to the Carling Cup final for Liverpool, who have carded away wins at Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City en route to Wembley and ironically the Reds’ face what is potentially a more straightforward assignment in the final itself, as they tackle Championship Cardiff. Bookies agree and so Kenny Dalglish’s charges are Boylesports’ 2/5 favourites to come out on top in normal time while the Welsh outfit are a 9/1 shot with Ladbrokes and bet365 chalk 7/2 against the tussle requiring extra- time. Nevertheless, the Bluebirds
can keep things tight in the early stages, lending appeal to both BetVictor’s 14/5 for Liverpool to edge it after a drawn first half and the same bookie’s 20/21 for the game’s opening goal to arrive after the 27th minute. Bet365 meanwhile, make it 2/1 to be goalless at the interval and
controversial Reds striker Luis Suarez, can add some shine to what has been a difficult campaign, by firing his side to victory.
Top tip: It won’t be easy for Liverpool and Cardiff could ensure it’s 0-0 at the break (2/1, bet365) but the Reds should do it.
Former soccer star and TV personality Robbie Savage kicks off as our guest columnist and doesn’t pull the punches.
ou’re unlikely to find too many England footy fans wiping away the tears over Fabio Capello’s exit. As a Welshman, obviously I can remain emotionally detached from
Capello’s sudden departure, but I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of him. Now surely it is only a matter of time before Harry Redknapp takes up the hot seat and brings some much-needed team spirit back to the fractured camp. Too much of Capello’s reign was lost in translation and he was a man
who was happy to earn £6million a year without learning the language. And the way he left suddenly, just four months before a major
tournament, has left England with no coach and no captain, which is just plain bizarre.
In these circumstances, Redknapp is the ideal man to take over. He will
give the players a lift, he will not over-coach them and he will treat them like men.
Discipline is an important part of any football team’s make-up, but Capello took it too far. He was in charge of a squad of millionaires, but they were made to feel like naughty schoolboys. Having qualified for the World Cup so comfortably, the players were afraid to express themselves on the pitch in South Africa, and Redknapp won’t make the same mistake. He might even let them have a bit of fun. But I think he will hang around at White Hart Lane long enough to leave
Tottenham with two fantastic leaving presents - Champions League football next season and the FA Cup. I feel sorry for Spurs because they will be losing a great manager but their loss will be very much England’s gain.
you’re all eagerly awaiting to see who checks in at the Bates Motel.
As many of you reading this
But you’ve got to doubt the wisdom of sacking Simon Grayson who had done a great job on limited funds and is a great young manager. Leeds deserve to be back in the top flight, they are a massive club but whoever gets the post will have a job on getting this Leeds squad promoted
I’d like to see Neil Warnock in charge at Leeds but I’m sorry to say I doubt even Jose Mourinho could get them up this season.
will be Leeds fans, I’m sure F
ootball has got to be about more than just skill. It should
be about heart and passion too. Sometimes a great tackle is better than a goal. Crowds love to see a firm, fair
challenge and players love that too. When you're looking for inspiration, a clean but crunching tackle can gee your team-mates up. Sadly they are becoming a thing of the past in the modern game. It is a vital part of what has made some of the greatest players in our game - Bobby Moore, Patrick Vieira, David Batty, Roy Keane,
’ve recently been on tour with Strictly and have been having a great time chatting to fans up and down the country. But if ever I needed bringing down a peg or two it came while having a meal out in Newcastle. Spotted by a group of students, one of them shouted over: “Oh my God! It’s only Richard Branson!” Mind you that was marginally better than the old woman who mistook me for a Chippendale. I don’t know what was worse but they both made me smile!
I DON’T LOSE THE HEART AND PASSION
Graeme Souness - so great. I'm not advocating a return to
the days when players clogged each other for 90 minutes and gifted players had to take a kicking every week.
But what I don't want is for us to go down the route of countries like Italy and Spain, where physical challenges are virtually outlawed. I was sent off twice in my career,
if I played today I’d be off every week. Football needs to get a grip and man up in my view.
Next issue John Hendrie gives his take on the current issues in the world of sport. Robbie Savage 111
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