Kevin Blake: Roi can rule the Champion
In search of a bet for 2022, I trawled through the ante on the hunt for some value and I reckon I found one in the Champion Hurdle .
Considering just how lacking in depth the race is, I was very surprised to see Saint Roi available at 38.037/1 on the Betfair Exchange after what I thought was a very encouraging comeback in the Matheson Hurdle at the Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
So much went wrong for him that day, as he was harried and harassed by the pace-making Petit Mouchoir throughout and raced too freely as a result, yet he was hanging in there until getting chopped up by Zanahiyr on the run for home. He was only beaten five lengths and I would expect him to be capable of better than that on another day.
I could see him running a big race in the Irish Champion Hurdle in February and going off much shorter than current quotes on the big day in March.
Steve Rawlings: Spieth to score in Scotland
Dave Tindall has taken an early look at all four of next year’s majors and I’m in complete agreement with him with regards to Dustin Johnson’s prospects at Augusta.
As Dave highlights, defending the Masters is notoriously difficult so last year’s missed cut can be forgiven, and DJ looks well worth siding with, but my idea of the best ante-post pick for next year’s majors is Jordan Spieth in the Open Championship.
Spieth’s career suffered a bad dip after his rollercoaster Open Championship success at Royal Birkdale in July ’17.
Nobody would have predicted that Spieth would have to wait almost four years for his next win (at the Valero Texas Open in April) but that fine effort wasn’t a one-off in 2021. His general form was miles better than it had been for years and he also finished third at the US Masters, he should have won the Charles Schwab again (second), and he finished a gallant second to Collin Morikawa in the Open Championship.
Jordan and his wife, Annie, announced the birth of their first child, a son, in November and at 28, Spieth looks settled, happy, back in form, and ready to roll. I can see him having a great year again in 2022 and he’ll be a force to be reckoned with at St Andrews in July.
Spieth is a quite brilliant links exponent and on his only previous visit to the home of golf, at the 2015 Open Championship, he missed out on the playoff (won by fellow American, Zach Johnson) by a stroke. He’s a best price of 14/1 on the High Street so the 18.017/1 available on the exchange makes plenty of appeal.
Steve’s bet: Back Spieth to win The Open @ 18.017/1
Ed Hawkins: England can rule the world
Unbridled optimism is often the theme for a new year isn’t it? Well, how about a wager which sorely tests even the most zealous of dreamers – England to dominate in Australia.
Okay, I’ve got your attention. But we’re not talking some Lazarus-like comeback for Joe Root (if he’s still in the job) and his dissembled, dishevelled bunch in the 2022 leg of the Ashes.
The World T20 (yes, another one) takes place Down Under, starting in October.
And despite England’s horrible form in the longer format in the country, the thrash and bash version is right up their street. It’s almost as if the two are connected.
The Betfair Sportsbook make England third favourites at 4.57/2 after their near-miss in the UAE. They were ousted by New Zealand at the semi-final in a tournament reduced to farce by a hefty toss bias. So ludicrous was it that a weak as dish water Australia won the thing.
Flat pitches, big boundaries and a brilliant batting mindset should make England tough to beat. And we have them as jollies ahead of India at 3/1 and Australia at 10/3, neither of whom can match England’s hitting prowess.
Tony Calvin: Follow the Flow for jumps joy
Whenever people are asked for their best racing bets for 2022, they normally default to the Cheltenham Festival.
It is a pretty sad state of affairs, if understandable given the dominant media narrative surrounding those four days in March – hang on a minute, I will take myself round the back and give myself a good kicking for writing narrative – but I have only had one bet on the Fez so far, and I wouldn’t back or tip him at his current price.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase and I am going to advise a small ante-post bet on First Flow at 5/1 each way, two places, with the Betfair Sportsbook in the Clarence House Stakes at Ascot on January 22.
The angle here is the Grade 1 race only attracted 11 entries at the latest forfeit stage, and he is definitely being aimed at the contest once again, having put up a career-best when beating Politologue by 7 lengths in it last season.
Of course, we will have probably done our money if both Energumene and Shishkin turn up, but I would say it is very unlikely indeed that those two will be allowed to clash before Cheltenham – sad, but understandable, again – and therein lies the betting angle.
First Flow is the third-best in here on official ratings, and the only other entry I would be worried about is Hitman, though he would not be in his element in the likely testing conditions.
First Flow will be but he showed he was not a one-trick pony as regards the going when beating Funambule Silvola by four lengths on his return on good ground in the Peterborough last month, and his Ascot record reads 2311.
Kevin Hatchard: Flick’s Germany a team to fear
Germany were reduced to the status of laughing stock after their feeble defence of the World Cup trophy in 2018, and yet they allowed long-serving coach Joachim Löw to limp along until the European Championship three years later. Germany were edged out by England at Wembley in the first knockout, and few realistically expected Die Mannschaft to clinch the trophy.
The World Cup in Qatar will be a different vibe and a different prospect entirely thanks to the appointment of Hansi Flick as Bundestrainer. Flick was Löw’s assistant when Germany won the World Cup in Brazil, and he won everything there was to win during an extraordinary spell in charge of Bayern Munich.
In Qatar, Flick will have some extraordinary players at his disposal. Manuel Neuer is still one of the best goalkeepers, Antonio Rüdiger is in the form of his life, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka can form one of the tournament’s best midfield units alongside Ilkay Gundogan, and there is a surfeit of attacking talent. Thomas Müller is improving as he gets older, not declining, Leroy Sane is back to his best, and players like Kai Havertz, Marco Reus and Serge Gnabry can change a game in an instant.
With one of the best coaches at the tournament and a squad packed with quality, Germany are once again a team to be feared.
Kev’s bet: Back Germany to win the World Cup @ 10.09/1
Rob Furber: Troy can crack the Oscars CODA
As of now, Oscars markets are grasping in the dark to find favourites, seduced into thinking the U.S. critics’ awards circuit winners will be replicated at the Oscars. Academy members often go for stuff that has a strong emotional pull and far removed from critics’ tastes. Step forward CODA, a charming, coming-of-age comedy drama, with three deaf actors, including Troy Kotsur, front and centre of an excellent ensemble cast.
Kotsur’s role as Frank Rossi, father of Ruby, who has the chance of earning a music scholarship, is the heart and soul of the film, in particular, a moving scene in which he asks Ruby to sing to him while he feels her vocal cords to sense the vibrations of the song.
CODA will potentially land in a few categories but Supporting Actor looks by far the most likely place for it to actually win an Oscar. If impatient waiting to collect on March 27, Kotsur also looks worth backing to land the Golden Globe on January 9.
Paul Krishnamurty: Back Boris to bust in 2022
Prior to the North Shropshire By-Election, with ‘Partygate’ dominating the news, I laid out the case to back Boris Johnson to leave post in 2022 at 2.26/5. Amazingly, the odds have got bigger.
What’s happened since? The Tories didn’t just lose that ultra-safe seat, but were thrashed by the Lib Dems. Labour’s poll lead has solidified with some even projecting an overall majority. Johnson’s approvals are on the floor.
Remember this is not somebody new, still defining and introducing themselves to the public, capable of transforming their reputation. ‘Boris’ has been a celebrity for 20 years. Everyone has an opinion and most are fixed. Abusing him in popular culture is now commonplace.
Tory MPs are famous for ditching unpopular leaders – that’s how Johnson became PM in 2019. Rivals are openly positioning, media backers picking a side. They will let him take the hit for tax and energy price rises in the spring at May’s local elections, before striking.
Anything above 2.26/5 represents solid value and also consider laying 2.47/5 about 2024 or later. The Tory bleeding won’t stop until he goes. Anyone who knows the Tories, knows they don’t do suicide pacts.
Paul Higham: Salah to claim Champions League Golden Boot
The presence of Robert Lewandowski in this market, coupled with the surprising Sebastien Haller, means we get a rare bit of value on Mohamed Salah finishing as top scorer – this time in the Champions League.
Haller has 10, Lewandowski nine and Salah seven, but the Egyptian has shown he can bag goals at an alarming rate. Liverpool have a tough test with Inter Milan in the last 16, but given they’re the top scorers in Italy that tie could well have more goals in it than you’d think, and the Reds are favourites to progress.
Bayern and Ajax are also fancied to go through and although Lewandowski has won this before with 15 goals, you’d be surprised if Haller can keep up his scoring rate.
It could be a straight fight between Lewandowski, who is a strong odds-on shot at 2/5 and Salah (17/2), and at those prices the latter’s a worthwhile punt.