DAILY RACING DIGEST – WEDNESDAY

We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.

Kempton Races


Champion jockey Jim Crowley (right) may have a new retained role with Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, but insists “I don’t want anyone thinking I won’t be going for the title again”.
Former jump jockey Crowley won his first Flat title after a titanic battle with Silvestre De Sousa last year and the former champ gained his first winner with his first ride at Lingfield yesterday. Crowley said: “If I am still in with a shot when Glorious Goodwood comes round, I am definitely going to give it a go. I don’t want people to think I won’t be going for the title again. You simply can’t have that attitude.”
Source: Press Association


Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle favourite Death Duty has been tabbed by trainer Gordon Elliott as his top gun for the Cheltenham Festival. Unbeaten over hurdles, he will spearhead a strong challenge on March 17, with Lexus Chase winner Outlander and Don Poli both heading to the Timico Gold Cup. Speaking at yesterday’s media day Elliott said: “We’ll have several horses travelling over with decent chances but there’s no getting away from it – Death Duty appears to be our big hope. He’s a very good horse and I’d say the best novice hurdler we’ve had.” Death Duty is currently Bet4Causes’ 11/4 favourite for the 3m event.
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/albert-bartlett-favourite-death-duty-leads-charge-for-rampant-yard/276604

gordon-elliott


Gordon Elliott (right) will send a team of “about 30 horses across” to the Cheltenham Festival in two weeks’ time. While Don Cossack’s Timico Gold Cup victory was the highlight of three winners at the Festival last season, his star has subsequently been retired through injury. Elliott admitted: “On numbers I’d say we have a lot more fancied ones this year, but we had three winners last year and it will be hard to beat that.”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4269496/Gordon-Elliott-send-30-horses-Cheltenham.html


Tombstone will have to come through a satisfactory piece of work at the weekend to book his place in the  Champion Hurdle. Trained by Gordon Elliott, the recent conqueror of former 2m king Jezki needs to be supplemented for the March 14 feature. Elliott said: “If everything goes all right and he works all right at the weekend, the plan is we’ll probably run him in the Champion Hurdle. It’s a very good race, but it’s probably an open enough race. We’ve never had a runner in the Champion Hurdle, so I don’t know what it takes to win one, but why not have a go?”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4269496/Gordon-Elliott-send-30-horses-Cheltenham.html


Mutakayyef, who missed the  Winter Derby at Lingfield with a foot abscess, is still on course for the Dubai Turf. Trainer William Haggas said: “His foot is fine, it was just very unfortunate timing. He’ll be back ridden tomorrow and there’s no question of it ruling him out of Dubai. We’ll take him away for a gallop somewhere first, that will put him right.”
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2976927/william-haggas-confirms-mutakayyef-still-on-dubai-mission-despite-lingfield-setback/

thistlecrack


Colin Tizzard has ruled King George VI Chase hero Thistlecrack out until Christmas following a second scan on his torn tendon. “Thistlecrack’s second scan came back exactly the same as the first, as we expected it would,” said Tizzard. “As communicated previously, Thistlecrack will not run again this season and all being well we’d expect him to be back at Christmas.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/28/colin-tizzard-confirms-thistlecrack-expected-to-be-back-for-christmas
https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/hes-out-and-thats-it-thistlecrack-will-definitely-not-run/276589


Camping Ground is set to miss the Cheltenham Festival in favour of the Aintree Hurdle, following his demolition job in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. Trainer Gary Moore said: “It was nice for the horse, he did it well and has come out of it pretty good. We just need to work out where to go with him now. I think two miles is too sharp and three miles is too far, so we need to go somewhere in between and we’re better off waiting for Liverpool.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/28/gary-moore-eager-to-pitch-camping-ground-into-aintree-hurdle


The new 2kg (4.4lb) allowance for female jockeys in France starts today at Deauville. Apprentice Alison Massin has seven booked rides. In all, 13 of the 96 runners at Deauville will be ridden by women. France Galop vice president Jean-Pierre Colombu said he was surprised by the level of controversy the new measure has caused. “Debate is always a good thing and perhaps we will be proved wrong, although I don’t think so,” said Colombu. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/international/new-era-starts-at-deauville-as-2kg-allowance-for-women-kicks-in/276559


Racing will be broadcast on ITV1 on Saturday for the first time since its launch on New Year’s Day. Seven races will be broadcast from Newbury and Doncaster. “It was just an opportunity that came up enabling us to do it, so that’s good. We’ve now got 42 days on the main channel,” said Grant Cunningham, ITV’s head of publicity, factual and sport.
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2975217/terrestrial-coverage-boost-for-horse-racing-as-itv-increases-itv1-racedays-to-42/

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Tuesday, February 28, 2017

MUSSELBURGH: 2.00 Major Ridge, 2.30 Dear Sire, 3.00 Improved, 3.30 Pekanheim, 4.00 Superior Command, 4.30 Darwins Fox, 5.00 Miss Barbossa

WINCANTON: 2.10 Fountains Windfall, 2.40 Driftwood Haze, 3.10 Orbasa, 3.40 Apple’s Queen, 4.10 Ruby Russet, 4.40 Chivers

FFOS LAS: 2.20 Bob Mahler, 2.50 DUELING BANJOS (NAP), 3.20 Fille Des Champs, 3.50 Alf  ’N’ Dor, 4.20 Batavir, 4.50 Well Smitten

NEWCASTLE: 5.30 Out Of Order, 6.00 Foie Gras, 6.30 Sandstream, 7.00 Spititofhayton (nb), 7.30 Art Obsession, 8.00 Fiery Spice

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk

 

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YOUR DAILY RACING DIGEST –MONDAY

We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Monday, February 27, 2017.

Ascot Races

Barry Geraghty (above) will miss the Cheltenham Festival following injuries sustained in a fall from Charli Parcs at Kempton on Saturday. Geraghty said: “I’ve a collapsed lung and six broken ribs on my right side. I’m obviously devastated to miss the Festival – there were so many good horses to look forward to as JP’s (McManus) team all look in particularly good shape this year. Last night was pretty rough. I’ve broken ribs individually before but never had six go all at the same time. I’ll be in hospital for a few more days but once the lung improves my recovery should be straightforward and I expect to be back for Aintree.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/26/barry-geraghty-to-miss-cheltenham-after-kempton-spill
https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/geraghty-out-of-cheltenham/38566


Jockey George Baker woke from an induced coma in intensive care last night after suffering a first-race horror fall in the famous St Moritz snow track in Switzerland. He was riding Boomerang Bob for Jamie Osborne when they fell on a patch of ice and Baker was knocked unconscious. He was flown to a trauma hospital in Chur. Baker’s agent Guy Jewell said: “George has woken up, and with the hospital releasing that news I can only imagine they are pleased with his progress. He’d already had a CT scan and that has come back clear. They will obviously need to check that everything is working properly and his wife is on her way out there.” The rest of the meeting was abandoned.
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/26/george-baker-awake-in-hospital-after-horror-fall-in-switzerland
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49400/george-baker-airlifted-to-hospital-after-fall-at-st-moritz
https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/baker-‘awake-in-hospital’/38559


Gary Moore has concerns about the  Stayers Hurdle trip for runaway National Spirit Hurdle winner Camping Ground, who led is rivals a merry dance on his stable debut at Fontwell yesterday. Moore said: “We’ve treated him like a good horse. A lot of effort has gone into him, believe me, from the staff at home. I know the owner is pretty keen to go for the Stayers’ Hurdle. I think two and a half (miles) is his trip. He has got a very high cruising speed and he galloped them into the ground. I think three miles would be pushing it in my opinion.” Camping Ground was cut to 20/1 (from 50/1) by Bet4Causes for the Grade 1 feature at Cheltenham on March 16.
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49408/camping-ground-leads-national-spirit-field-a-merry-dance-at-fontwell
https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/camping-pitches-up-in-style/38520

Ascot Races


Cue Card (right) has displaced stablemate Native River at the head of the market for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Bet4Causes going 11/4 (from 7/2), after reporting a string of bets on the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old over the weekend. Native River was weak in the market, forcing Tizzard to issue a report on his wellbeing. He said: “He’s lovely and did a proper bit of work today (Saturday). I couldn’t be any more pleased with him. It’s the same with Cue Card.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/market-turning-in-favour-of-cue-card-as-he-displaces-river/276221


Giggingstown House Stud, owners of the Gordon Elliott-trained Tombstone, have decided to supplement the Gowran Park Red Mills Hurdle winner for the  Champion Hurdle. Elliott said: “It looks an open race this year so we have decided to supplement Tombstone for the Champion Hurdle. He has come out of the Red Mills race in great shape so we are happy to take our chances. Obviously he needs to improve but he hasn’t got many miles on the clock and the turnaround in form with Jezki was very encouraging.” Tombstone is currently 12/1 with Bet4Causes, with Buveur D’Air favourite at 11/4. Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/tombstone-to-be-supplemented-for-champion-hurdle/276313
http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/26/tombstone-to-be-supplemented-for-champion-hurdle
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49406/tombstone-to-be-supplemented-for-champion-hurdle

Michael Scudamore Stable Visit


Trainer Michael Scudamore (right) gained two big staying prizes in two days after Mysteree took the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday, following up success with Kingswell Theatre in the Devon National at Exeter on Friday. Scudamore is eying a third National and explained: “The Midlands National will be too soon for Mysteree, he is a horse who is best when fresh, but we will give him an entry in the Scottish National at Ayr in case it is soft there.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/saturday-reports/mysteree-stays-on-strongest-for-in-form-scudamore/276172


Colin Tizzard will have Thistlecrack’s tendon injury scanned tomorrow “not to make sure we got it right, but to please ourselves”. The ante-post Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite and King George VI Chase hero has been ruled out for the rest of the season. After saddling his 50th winner of the season at Fontwell yesterday, Tizzard said: “There was a little tear there but there’s no heat and no swelling. It’s not like he’s walking around with his leg in a bandage. It’s not very much.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/tizzard-to-scan-thistlecrack-tendon-again-to-assess-damage/276319

Chelmsford Races


Sir Michael Stoute (right) gained his first winner of the year when Convey swooped late to land the Group 3  Winter Derby at Lingfield on Saturday, booking his place for All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday. Ante-post favourite Mutakayyef missed the 1m2f contest due to a foot abscess. Winning jockey Andrea Atzeni said: “Convey did it quite well. Obviously, it was his first time over this trip – I wasn’t sure that he would get it but Sir Michael was pretty positive and thought he would stay. It worked out perfectly from a bad draw. He was always doing enough to win his race and saw the trip out really well.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/saturday-reports/atzeni-strikes-late-on-coney-to-land-lingfield-thriller/276171


Following her win over Apple’s Jade at Punchestown, Limini could be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, according to her owner Rich Ricci. He said: “The Champion Hurdle has to be discussed. We were successful last year with it (with Annie Power). It’s a wide open Champion Hurdle. If you fancy Buveur D’Air you probably have to really think about running. She is much bigger and stronger. It will be a last minute thing. We’ll have to see how she works and what she is working against. We’ll make that call after that work.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/ricci-champion-hurdle-option-has-to-be-discussed-for-mare-limini/276176


The BHA has rescheduled the Listed Lady Protectress Chase at Huntingdon for Sunday, following the abandonment of the card last Thursday because of high winds. There will now be an eight-race card and entries for the £30,000 event close at noon today.
Source: http://www.britishhorseracing.com/news-media/press-releases/

Aintree Races


Paul Nicholls has snapped up Katie Walsh (right) for the plum ride on Wonderful Charm for the Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase. Nicholls said: “With Will [Biddick] unavailable for Wonderful Charm we were keen to secure a top amateur and Katie Walsh certainly fits the bill. We enjoyed no end of success at Cheltenham with Ruby Walsh and I am hoping his sister Katie can provide a bit more on Wonderful Charm.” Wonderful Charm is the current 4/1 second favourite to On The Fringe with BetVictor.
Source: https://betting.betfair.com/horse-racing/paul-nicholls/paul-nicholls-cheltenham-festival-news-wonderful-charm-fri-17-march-2017-240217-9.html


The planned semi-finals of the greyhounds Gold Cup, which were to be transferred from Shelbourne Park to Towcester were called off after a row over the distance of the races, with trainer Paul Hennessy allegedly refusing to run his dogs unless the trip was 500m. Organiser Dolores Ruth said: “The Gold Cup was a 480m/525 yard event and everyone was committed to run over 480 metres. We were already down to 11 runners (Burgess Popeye broke a hock in a trial) and it simply wasn’t feasible for the sponsors for only nine dogs to take part.”
Source: http://greyhoundstar.co.uk/trainers-sign-gold-cup-semis-towcester/

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Monday, February 27, 2017

PLUMPTON: 2.00 Cigarisi, 2.35 Bagging Turf (nb), 3.05 Premier Rose, 3.35 Dragoon Guard, 4.05 Coolking, 4.35 Simply Blessed

WOLVERHAMPTON: 2.20 King Oswald, 2.55 Archie Stevens, 3.25 Jashma, 3.55 Fast Track, 4.25 Ravens Quest, 4.55 Atkinson Grimshaw, 5.25 Celerity

AYR: 2.10 Well Joey, 2.45 Antiopia, 3.15 Las Tunas, 3.45 Nakadam, 4.15 Chidswell, 4.45 Ryedale Racer, 5.15 GOLDEN JEFFREY (NAP)

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk

YOUR DAILY RACING DIGEST – WEDNESDAY

We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Wednesday, February 22, 2017.

thistlecrack

Add Thistlecrack (above) to the lengthening list of equine superstars who will not be appearing at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. The King George VI Chase hero has a “small tear” in a tendon and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite has been ruled out for the season by Colin Tizzard. He joins a list of talent that includes Faugheen, Annie Power, Min, Don Cossack, Coneygree and Sprinter Sacre on the sidelines. Tizzard said: “He had a bit of heat and swelling in his tendon on Monday night and as the vet was in on Tuesday I asked him to scan it. It showed a small tear. We’ve seen it in every yard and it happens every year. It’s not a breakdown and hopefully we’ve caught it before it became any proper damage was done. But it means he’s out for the season. All being well he will be fine for next season.”
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/racing/2017/02/21/thistlecrack-gold-cup-favourite-ruled-season-tendon-injury/
https://beta.racingpost.com/news/gold-cup-shock/gold-cup-favourite-thistlecrack-ruled-out-of-festival-with-injury/275685


Following Thistlecrack’s injury, Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National winner Native River is new 3/1 favourite (from 6/1) with MyClubBetting for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stablemate Cue Card is clipped to 7/2 next best.
Source: https://bet4causes.myclubbetting.co.uk/


tom-scudamore-smallTom Scudamore (right), who rode Thistlecrack to victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day said it was “very disappointing for everybody” that Britain’s leading chaser would miss the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the rest of the season with a tendon injury. He said: “Every time you ride these good horses you hope they can be in a position to show just how good they are. He is not going to be able to do that this year and, while hopefully he will be able to bounce back, it is a real sickener for everyone.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/gold-cup-shock/thistlecrack-jockey-devastated-after-injury-rules-out-favourite/275719


France Galop has suspended jockey Robert Havlin for six months after he tested positive for prohibited substances. The ruling body said the Newmarket-based jockey had returned a positive sample when riding at Saint-Cloud on October 30 and that it would “request the reciprocation” of the imposed sanction by the British Horseracing Authority. “Given the positive result to a narcotic and its metabolites present in the biological sample of the jockey, this is a serious breach of the rules of racing of France Galop,” said a statement.
Source: http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/article/465/10776835/jockey-robert-havlin-shocked-by-six-month-ban-from-france-galop


Robert Havlin will appeal his six-month ban handed down by France Galop. In a statement issued by his French solicitor Florence Gaudilliere, Havlin said: “I am the victim of an outrageous miscarriage of justice and defamation of my character. I have never tested positive for any prohibited substance in my 26-year riding career. I am appealing this verdict and suspension on a number of grounds and the counter analysis proves my innocence. It goes without saying that I am deeply upset and shocked.”
Source: http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/article/465/10776835/jockey-robert-havlin-shocked-by-six-month-ban-from-france-galop


Limini.jpgToday’s clash between Apple’s Jade and Limini (right) in the Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown will offer more Cheltenham Festival clues. Apple’s Jade won the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, while Limini will make her seasonal reappearance in the Listed contest. Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, trainer Willie Mullins, said: “Limini is in good form, but I’m sure she’ll come on a lot for the run. She’s wrong at the weights with Apple’s Jade and it will be very difficult to beat her, but we’ve got to start somewhere and we’ll see how she goes.”
Source: http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/preview/762628/top-mares-to-clash-at-punchestown


Paul Nicholls will have a Cheltenham Festival team of “around 18 to 20”, which represents his smallest in years, but hopes are high that Politologue can land the JLT Novices’ Chase. Nicholls said: “He’s one of our leading chances. He’s really progressive and has won three from four over fences. His rating of 152 is very good mark for a novice over fences.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/fred-winter-hope-dreamcatching-leads-nicholls-assault-on-festival-handicaps/275743


paul-nichollsThe progressive Dreamcatching  has been earmarked by Paul Nicholls (right) as one of his leading lights for the Cheltenham Festival. Nicholls said: “Dreamcatching won’t be far away in the Fred Winter. He bolted in at Wincanton on Saturday and has a mark of 131. It’s a race we’ve done really well in, with the first and second the last two years. Qualando, who won it in 2015, was off 131, and Diego Du Charmil won it last year off 133. So he’s around about the right mark.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/fred-winter-hope-dreamcatching-leads-nicholls-assault-on-festival-handicaps/275743


Jim Bolger is among a number of Irish trainers who feel the Irish Derby should be moved after it was revealed development work at the Curragh would limit the crowd to 6,000 from 18,000 last year. Bolger said: “My preference would have been to move it to Leopardstown or Naas. Leopardstown would probably hold a crowd better and have been ideal for the Derby as opposed to limiting the number of people coming to the Curragh.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/trainers-believe-irish-derby-should-be-temporarily-rehomed/27563


arrogate-smallBreeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup Invitational winner Arrogate (right) seems likely to run in the $10m Dubai World Cup (March 25) after working well at Santa Anita yesterday. The Santa Anita Handicap (March 11) is also under consideration, but Garrett O’Rourke, manager of Juddmonte Farms, says a trip to Dubai is the front-runner. He said: “If there was any doubt about that, we wouldn’t even consider going. But the horse seems to be in an exceptionally good state physically and mentally. We’ll discuss the case and if Prince Khalid agrees, I think we’ll roll the dice.”
Source: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/219975/arrogate-his-usual-self-in-five-furlong-move


Former Gala Coral COO Neil Goulden has been appointed as chairman designate for a racecourse-run pool betting operation. Betfred’s £265m deal for the Tote gave it an exclusive right over race pool betting, but that deal expires next year. Major racing stakeholders including the Jockey Club and Arena Racing Company wish to take control in future “to ensure participating racecourses will have full control of their on-course pool betting operation”. The project, led by the British Horseracing Association’s Nigel Roddis, saw a “steering board” plump for Goulden, who said: “I hope my experience can assist British racing in developing its thinking on pool betting so it can grow to the benefit of British racing and all its customers.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/goulden-brought-in-to-aid-racecourse-run-pool-betting-plan/275682


The Gambling Business Group (GBG) is behind a new industry-wide body whose core objective is to improve the regulatory environment for all parties in the UK gambling sector. Entitled The Gambling Expert Group, the affiliation of trade and regulatory bodies, will meet on at least a quarterly basis. Invitations have been extended to a total of 15 regulatory bodies. GBG Chief Executive Peter Hannibal said: “The Gambling Expert Group is the outcome of a programme of close collaboration with the Regulatory Delivery Office, part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Membership is made up of stakeholder representatives including Licensing Authorities, regulators and policy makers. One of the objectives is to provide an opportunity for members to raise regulatory issues and identify and address areas where regulation can be improved.”
Source: http://www.g3newswire.com/uk-gambling-expert-group-formed-enhance-regulatory-environment/


GambleAware launches its first trial advertising campaign to promote awareness of problem gambling. The online pilot of two adverts, targeted at people aged 16-24, is released in the North West and North East of England on YouTube.

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Tuesday, February 21, 2017

DONCASTER: 2.10 Mister Whitaker, 2.45 Soldier In Action, 3.15 The Tailgater, 3.45 SAINT ARE (NAP), 4.20 Ardea, 4.55 Monty’s Award

LINGFIELD PARK: 2.20 Hipz, 2.55 Tempuran, 3.25 Wedding Breakfast, 3.55 Arctic Sea, 4.30 Dangerous Ends, 5.05 Steady Major

LUDLOW: 2.00 Ridgeway Flyer, 2.35 Mercian King, 3.05 Woodfort (nb), 3.35 William Money, 4.10 I’m A Game Changer, 4.45 Mr Mercurial, 5.20 Gulshanigans

KEMPTON PARK: 5.45 Cuban Queen, 6.15 Albaster, 6.45 Askari, 7.15 Steelriver, 7.45 Winterlude, 8.15 Delagoa Bay

Lucky 15 selections: Saint Are (Doncaster 3.45), Woodfort (Ludlow 3.05), Delagoa Bay (Kempton Park 8.15), The Tailgater (Doncaster 3.15)

Both the NAP and Next Best selections won yesterday. Three from four in the lucky 15 went in with the other selection finishing second. Bah and humbug.

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.

MCB’s 12 BETS OF CHRISTMAS

We love Christmas. In fact, we’ve even thought about wearing a Christmas jumper, as well as backing one (have you seen Kempton’s Boxing Day card?). The Festive season is invariably an expensive one, but those bookies insist on giving us more Christmas markets than you’d find in your average German town. Given their generosity, it would be churlish not to take advantage of their Christmas spirit, so herewith are our dozen cracking Christmas bets…

CINCINNATI v SAN DIEGO STATE

CHRISTMAS DAY – 01:00 (BT SPORT)

Presents wrapped and under the tree? Carrot for Rudolph and a mince pie for Santa on the hearth? Good. Don’t forget the sherry.

Then it is time to put your feet up and watch some College Football, namely the Hawaii Bowl from Aloha Stadium, Honolulu.

Donnel Pumphrey1
Game-breaker: Donnel Pumphrey

Hawaii are not involved, having failed to gain the pre-requisite six wins to qualify for a bowl berth.

The Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5) will take on the San Diego State Aztecs (10-3) in what could be a decent game. Rest assured, it won’t be played in front of too many people – Hawaiians rarely turn out in force at the antiquated venue, which has regularly played host to the annual NFL Pro Bowl.

The Aztecs placed first in the West division of the Mountain West Conference and after a 1-3 start, they are on a nine-game winning streak.

Running back Donnel Pumphrey is a game-breaker, who has accumulated over 1,500 yards this season, but the Bearcats could be missing quarterback Maxwell Smith, who tore his ACL towards the end of the year against Nevada.

It is likely that redshirt freshman Christian Chapman will try and keep pace with an explosive Cincinnati offense, led by QB Gunner Kiel, which ranks No.4 in passing yardage in the nation and No.5 in total offense.

Their third-down conversion rate, at 51.6 per cent is only bettered by Texas Tech.

We fully expect Cincinnati (1.83) to win and cover the 1.5-point handicap. [SM]

BEST BET: CINCINNATI -1.5 @ 1.91 

CHRISTMAS DAY TV RATINGS

It is always a favourite punt of ours. Who wins the TV ratings war on Christmas Day has little to do with taste.

That’s why most firms have the BBC’s Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special as odds-on favourite. You know it and we know it: It is truly dreadful and plunges the depths of ‘comedy’ that we never thought existed. And you, dear licence-fee payer, are forking out for the Crayola that the ‘writers’ use to pen up this guff.

Lady Mary
Our crush: Lady Mary

The final episode of Downton Abbey will knock spots off the rancid BBC output (which also includes the truly dreadful soap Eastenders at 6.00).

At odds of 4.50, Lady Mary – upon whom we have a complete crush, daahling – and company look phenomenal value to win the ratings battle.

Want a fair value outsider? Try Dr Who at around 26.00. It will certainly beat Coronation Street.

But we’ll take safe, genteel and well-written drama over sad, crass desperately unfunny ‘comedy’ any day of the week. And we haven’t even mentioned the desperate ‘Miranda’!

The bookies may have got this very wrong. Take advantage. [SM]

BEST BET: DOWNTON ABBEY TO WIN CHRISTMAS DAY TV RATINGS @ 4.50 

STOKE v MAN UNITED

BOXING DAY – 12:45 (SKY SPORTS 1)

Mark Hughes had a wonderful playing career, and his most successful periods were undoubtedly with Manchester United (2.20) with whom he spent two spells and made over 300 appearances.

Mark Hughes3
Hughes: Top manager

The Welshman is now an established Premier League manager and has done a fine job since taking over as Stoke (3.30) boss back in 2013, transforming the Potters from a ‘route one’ team into a side that enjoys operating with a possession-based style.

This change in style has attracted some of the most exciting young talents in Europe to The Britannia, with the likes of Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic all arriving at the club since Hughes was appointed.

Manchester United fans are crying out for a change in style. While Louis Van Gaal’s patient tactics have stopped the side conceding goals, it has also caused United to look like an overly defensive outfit, with the Red Devils failing to score in a staggering amount of games so far this season.

That said, meetings between these two clubs do usually produce goals. Of the last seven games between Stoke and United, only two have ended without both teams getting on the scoresheet.

We expect much of the same on Boxing Day, and fancy a scoring draw at The Britannia. [CC]

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 2.05 

KING GEORGE VI CHASE

BOXING DAY – 15:10 (CHANNEL 4)

Kempton Park’s Christmas feature is shaping up to be an open and competitive renewal.

The Irish appear to hold a strong hand in the chasing department this season, with the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack (3.50), winner of his last four and eight of his last nine, appearing to be the one to beat.

Don Cossack
Solid gold: Don Cossack

The eight-year-old won a sub-par renewal of the JNWine.com Champions Chase at Down Royal in October and has been ticking over at home since then. He looks like a Gold Cup winner in the making, but his jumping is faultless and, if fully fit, will take all the beating.

Last season’s top-notch novice Vautour (3.75) jumped left when winning the Grade 2 Stella Artois 1965 Chase at Ascot and will have to up his game, but there is no reason to think he will not improve for that first run of the season. Willie Mullins’ inmate rates the biggest danger to the selection.

And you cannot dismiss Cue Card (5.00), who looked back to his best when taking the Grade 1 Lancashire Chase at Haydock last month, getting the better of Silviniaco Conti. We see Paul Nicholls’ runner turning the tables this time and he looks a solid each-way bet at around 9.00.

Still, we side with Don Cossack, who looks the class act. [SM]

BEST BET: DON CASSACK TO WIN THE KING GEORGE VI CHASE @ 3.50 

NEWCASTLE v EVERTON

BOXING DAY – 17:30 (BT SPORT 1)

Newcastle (3.20) have endured a tough season so far and all seems far from well at the Tyneside club. The fans are once again unhappy with the board and management team, which is without doubt, having a negative effect on the playing staff.

Romelu Lukaku
Quick and powerful: Romelu Lukaku

That said, The Magpies have managed a few impressive results, with their 2-0 win over Liverpool being the highlight of the season so far.

Everton (2.25) are really starting to look like a settled outfit, after a transitional campaign last season. Roberto Martinez has assembled a talented, young squad since his appointment in 2013 and is now starting to reap the rewards.

Youngsters Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu have all been outstanding for the Toffees this season, and keeping all four men fit will be vital if Everton are going to challenge for a European spot come May.

Newcastle have a wretched record against their Boxing Day opponents, with Everton losing just one of the last eight meetings between the two sides.

Everything points to an away win here. [CC]

BEST BET: EVERTON TO WIN @ 2.25 

SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL

BOXING DAY – 19:45 (BT SPORT 1)

Southampton (3.25) are a side struggling for consistency. Ronald Koeman’s men are not living up to the high standards they set last season, and have looked particularly lacklustre in recent home games against Aston Villa and Stoke.

Ronald Koeman2
Ronald Koeman: Saints struggling for form

However, they have also looked impressive on occasions, most notably during their convincing win away at Chelsea back in October.

Arsene Wenger finally seems to be prioritising Premier League football. Arsenal (2.30) have had a below-par Champions League campaign so far, eventually qualifying by the skin of their teeth after a win at Olympiacos in the final group stage game. The Gunners also suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday to crash out of the League Cup.

That said, it has been a completely different story in the league for Wenger’s men. On their day, Arsenal look arguably the best side in the league, and this was particularly evident in their 3-0 demolition of Manchester United in early October.

These two sides may both possess a similar attacking style, but when they meet each other, goals aren’t usually on the agenda.

Four of the last six clashes between Southampton and Arsenal have ended with less than two goals being scored and we expect their game on Boxing Day to follow suit. [CC]

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.91

CHRISTMAS NO.1 BOOK

We are not exactly a nation of cooks. We like to think we are, with TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef and anything containing the wonderful Jamie Oliver always among the top-rated TV shows. But we simply don’t have the time (we’re too busy watching cookery shows).

Nigella Lawson
She cooks, too: Nigella Lawson

And blokes being what they are (clueless) over what to buy their women for Christmas (or at any other time of the year for that matter), grabbing a cookery book on December 24 is a safe bet for those who have little imagination.

(And really, what are those blokes supposed to do when the reply to the question of: “What do you want for Christmas, honey?’” is met with the response, “Oh, nothing really. I’m fine”).

Lingerie is not cool – and most guys are embarrassed to buy it anyway. Be honest, have you a clue what bra size your missus wears?

So a cookery book is a safe bet. And while we may have heard of Mary Berry (an old lady who bakes, apparently), most blokes have heard of Nigella. Her real name is Nigella Lawson. I think we can all agree: she is the epitome of everything a chef should be.

And, Lo and Behold, she has a new cookery book out in time for Christmas. It is called Simply Nigella and it is 3.00 joint favourite (along with Guinness Book of World Records 2016) to be the Christmas Number One Book.

The Road to Little Dribbling (Bill Bryson) and Over The Top And Back (Tom Jones) are next in the betting, but we put out faith in a couple of things… ahem… to bring home the bacon: The nation’s penchant for cookery shows and the male’s psyche. [SM]

BEST BET: SIMPLY NIGELLA (NIGELLA LAWSON) TO BE CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE BOOK @ 3.00

CHRISTMAS NO.1 VIDEO GAME

We are fans of Madden. That’s about the only game we know well. FIFA isn’t bad, either. But our knowledge of video games is limited, as we are all about sport – not about killing people or aliens, racing cars or generally wasting our time (see what we did there, teenagers?). We have lives.

Call Of Duty
Top game (apparently): Call of Duty – Black Ops III

So we got down ‘wiv da yoof, innit’ to find out what the best-selling vids are most likely to be this Christmas.

Our (little) man tells us that Call of Duty – Black Ops III will out-sell anything, including Star Wars Battlefront and FIFA 16. He says the graphics are excellent. We’ll take him at his word.

If it doesn’t out-sell the rest, there will be sure to be some Fallout 4 (see what we did there?).

You can get on at 2.75. That’s good enough for us, although you will probably need to have at least £50 on to make enough money to afford to buy the damn thing! [SM]

BEST BET: CALL OF DUTY – BLACK OPS III TO BE CRISTMAS NUMBER ONE VIDEO GAME @ 2.75

MAN UNITED v CHELSEA

28 DECEMBER – 17:30 (BT SPORT 1)

In truth, both of these sides have underachieved so far this season.

Manchester United (2.25) have suffered from a lack of goals during the current campaign.  Wayne Rooney has failed to impress and it looks as though Old Father Time is starting to catch up with him, particularly when running with the ball.

Wayne Rooney1
Not the force he once was: Wayne Rooney looks jaded

Anthony Martial was bought in at the start of the season, and seems to have suffered a real loss in confidence, despite a wonderful start to his Premier League career.

Nobody could have forecast the dreadful defence of the Premier League title that Chelsea (3.00) have made. Chelsea are miles off the pace after a wretched start to the season and, in truth, a top-four spot is now their realistic aim for the rest of the season.

The Blues’ recent loss against Bournemouth highlighted their lack of confidence in possession and defensive frailty. Both issues will need to be addressed if Chelsea are going to turn things round this season.

Chelsea are unbeaten in the last eight meetings between these two sides, with the last United victory coming back in 2012.

We see the Champions getting a point here – at the very least. [CC]

BEST BET: CHELSEA/DRAW (DC) @ 1.65

NFL REGULAR-SEASON MVP

With just two weeks of the regular season remaining, we have a 1.57 shot that, in our opinion, should be 1.01 at best.

Back Cam Newton to be the NFL Regular Season MVP. The Carolina Panthers quarterback has led his team to the NFC South title and may well lead them onto the Super Bowl.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton: Odds-on value

His nearest pursuers in the market are Tom Brady (3.00) and Carson Palmer (11.00), respective passers for New England and Cincinnati. But both those players have at least one elite receiver to pass to, whereas the former Auburn man leads a no-name attack. Take him away from that team and the Panthers would do well to win half of the games they have.

Have no fear in betting odds-on. If is walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and balks at the words “a l’orange”, it probably isn’t a giraffe. Remember: It can be odds-on and still be value. [SM]

BEST BET: CAM NEWTON TO BE REGULAR SEASON MVP @ 1.57

LEICESTER v MAN CITY

KICK OFF: 29 DECEMBER – 19:45 (BT SPORT 1)

There is no doubt that Claudio Ranieri is leading the way when it comes to the Premier League Manager of the Season award.

Leicester (3.75) have dramatically overachieved so far this season and many would have forecast them to be in a relegation scrap, rather than battling for a European place.

JamieVardy
Top of the league: Jamie Vardy and Leicester

The link-up play between Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez has been the main contributing factor for the club’s success, with both men currently at the top end of the goal-scoring standings in the Premier League.

Manchester City (1.90) are performing as many expected and find themselves at the right end of the table, unlike pre-season title rivals Chelsea.

However, while they have been typically impressive when attacking, they have come unstuck in defence on numerous occasions so far this season.

Defensive issues were particularly apparent in City’s home losses to West Ham and Liverpool earlier in the campaign, with Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis looking unconvincing and off the pace.

Leicester have an awful record against Manchester City. The Foxes have not won any of the last eight games between the sides and have lost all of the last four meetings.

We fancy an away win here. [CC]

BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 1.90

SUNDERLAND v LIVERPOOL

30 DECEMBER – 19:45 (SKY SPORTS 1)

Sam Allardyce has certainly steadied the ship at The Stadium of Light since taking over from Dick Advocaat earlier in the season.

Sunderland (5.25) have recovered from a disastrous start to the season, which saw them rooted to the foot of the table and have turned out some solid performances under their new manager.

Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool are a work in progress: Jurgen Klopp

One result that particularly comes to mind is Sunderland’s 1-0 win away at Crystal Palace in November, which perfectly highlighted their new found structure and organisation under the man affectionately known as Big Sam.

It has been much the same for Liverpool (1.55) who have also seen an upturn in fortune after changing their manager earlier in the season. Jürgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers back in October and has overseen impressive away wins against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

The most notable meeting between these two sides came back in October 2009, when a Darren Bent effort deflected off a beach ball to give the Black Cats a famous victory over the Mersysiders.

However, Sunderland have a poor record against Liverpool and haven’t won any of the last six meetings between the two sides.

We are going for an away win at The Stadium of Light. [CC]

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL TO WIN @ 1.55

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