Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Emma Raducanu


Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks you'll of course to aware of the stunning achievement of British teenager Emma Raducanu in the US Open Women's Tennis tournament. Not only did  the teenage tennis sensation storm to victory from a position of obscurity in the sport, she did so without losing a single set.

Her stunning rise to world fame has seen news reports saying that she's likely to make £100 million of more in sponsorship deals - which will of course also be accompanies by, in all likelihood, significant tournament winnings (case in point, she pocketed $2,500,000 from her US Open success). Her connections to China too and ability to speak Mandarin (she has a Romanian father and Chinese mother) will no doubt bring more fans and sponsorship opportunities in that part of the world also.

Now 23rd in the tennis world rankings (and the British number one), the 18 year old was ranked 150 prior to the US Open and had little in the way of tournament experience. At the start of the year she was ranked 345, which just goes to show how fast her ascent to greatness in the sport has been.  For this reason alone it's not surprising that she was a huge outsider to win the US Open, available at 499-1 with bookmakers (and of course bigger on platforms like Betfair). She was similarly priced to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year but is now favourite to win that accolade, currently at odds of  1/10. The only way is up for this emerging talent!

Friday, 27 August 2021

In horse racing, what is a penalty?

In horse racing, a penalty refers to additional weight carried by a horse as a result of its previous performances on the racecourse. In a handicap race, each horse has an equal chance of winning so, by definition, a horse that wins a handicap must have performed better than its official handicap rating, so a rise in the weights is necessary.

Of course, it's possible that the same horse could be entered in another handicap before the team of handicappers at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has had the opportunity to revise its handicap rating. In that case, the horse in question will carry a penalty, say 6lb, which is denoted by '6ex' immediately to the right of its allotted weight on the racecard. In some cases, penalties may also be incurred by horses that have won a race, or races, above a certain 'penalty value' in a specified period.

A similar situation exists in Listed and Pattern Races, insofar that a horse that has won in a higher grade within a specified period, or at any time, may be penalised if it races in a lower grade. In a Group 3 race, for example, horses that have already won at that level may be penalised 3lb as a matter of course, while horses that have previously won at Group 1 or Group 2 level may be penalised 5lb.

Friday, 16 July 2021

It's Coming Home (well almost)!

It was heartbreak once again last weekend when Gareth Southgate's England team fell at the final hurdle against a consistent Italy in the Euro 2020 tournament (postponed for a year due to Covid). Disappointment of how England's previous World Cup display displayed such promise, combined with our less than stellar penalty record to bring about a gut wrenching penalty shootout loss. Those missing the spot kick not only had to deal with the emotional weight of the occasion, but also racism by an idiotic few on social media platforms. It's not quite the ending we had in mind.

Despite a patchy group stage (decent showings against Croatia and the Czech Republic but a bore draw against Scotland), England really grew into the competition. The Germany group stage performance was in the balance before quality quick fire goals from  Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, the Ukraine game was a walk over, and Denmark match a good showing against a competent Danish side. Arguably losing to Italy isn't crime of the century as they are experts at doing just enough, as it attested to by being defeated in, now, 34 games. This winning streak is in fact just one short of the joint all-time record (shared by Spain - 2007 - 2009 and Brazil 1993 - 1996) .

Despite this fact the public reaction from some quarters was hyper critical. The British media, and to an extent the general public, love to build the team up just to knock them down. The default setting, somewhat at odds with the clear talent in the team, is the think that we're verging on hopeless. This flips back after a couple of good results to imagining that we're suddenly world beaters. It's always been that way really, with no balanced view of the national squad. To an extent I suppose we can call that passion, but I question how much it helps our national squad.

All eyes now turn to the 2022 World Cup, where we will once again likely see our talented young squad led by manager Gareth Southgate. Weather conditions will no doubt be more difficult to contend with, and we'll be taking on the world rather than 'just' Europe, but I for one am hopeful that we can put on a good display. Realistically, by any sensible measure we did ourselves proud in Euro 2020. Now let's build on that in Qatar. Well done, lads!

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Eurovision 2021 Results


Above I've highlighted the top 12 finishing performances of the 2021 Eurovision. I'm omitted the bottom half of the results on account its the less interesting end of the table (and not because the UK gained a big fat zero points from both the judges and the public - I promise!).

The Eurovision format as an exciting as ever, with the final place order shifting wildly as the general publics votes are reeled off. The winner was not an unsurprising choice considering the betting odds, and I must say I more watched it out of curiosity and enjoyment this year rather than getting involved in that regard.

There were some suitably zany and unique acts as there are every year ( I was quite taken by the camp yet dark disco track Discoteque from Lithuania, which did well with the tele vote). Some sweet tracks too (the entry from Switzerland for example). The winner wasn't entirely unsurprising as indeed shows that 'rock isn't dead. I certainly preferred it to the French entry. If you skipped the show due to the cheese factor, give it a watch next year. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.