Monday 22 October 2018

4.20 Newmarket, Wednesday, October 24

All the runners in the AR Legal Fillies’ Handicap (4.20) at Newmarket on Wednesday have question marks over them, for one reason or another, but the one who has fewest, perhaps, is course and distance winner Highland Pass. The daughter of Passing Glance steps into 0-100 handicap company for the first time, but a 4lb rise in the weights for her 1½-length defeat of Amandine in a small 0-95 contest over course and distance last month looks entirely fair.

The runner-up, although perhaps not the most resolute filly in training, had previously only been headed close home when beaten three-quarters of a length in a similar race to this one at Ascot on her previous outing, so it would be no surprise if Highland Pass proved equal to this slight rise in class. She took half a dozen starts to find her form this season, but has officially improved 13lb since opening her account for the campaign, in a lowly 0-65 affair at Salisbury, in August and may still be improving. A collateral form line involving Sayem, trained by Ed Walker, suggests that Crotchet just has the edge on these terms but, unlike Highland Pass, Richard Fahey’s filly will find the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket an entirely different test from Musselburgh, where she’s been doing her winning of late.

It rarely pays to be dogmatic about the outcome of a horse race, but now that I see the case for Highland Pass written down in black-and-white the stronger it becomes. In a race full of if, buts and maybes, she clearly holds an outstanding chance and it’ll be disappointing if she doesn’t go very close, at least, to bring home the proverbial bacon.

Selection: Newmarket 4.20 Highland Pass to win 5/1

Thursday 18 October 2018

Chelsea vs Manchester United - 20th Oct

For many years, Chelsea playing Manchester United has been a Premier League classic. From the days of Wise and Zola to Drogba and Anelka, the Blues have often been a thorn in the side of the Red Devils. Throw in the fact that the away side are managed by the greatest manager in Chelsea history, and this game carries a spark that your average rivalry does not.

Who will win, though? Can United continue their second half rebound against Newcastle United? Or will Maurizio Sarri continue to show that adapting to the English game isn’t quite so challenging as once assumed?

Chelsea News

Unbeaten all season, Chelsea have easily been one of the best performers in the league – and in Europe. Electric going forward and relatively solid at the back, albeit still giving up chances, the Blues should feel good coming into this one. While they’ll be without the impressive Antonio Rudiger, they will have far less injury woes to worry about compared to their opponents.

Overall, Chelsea arrive into this one in fine form both in terms of injuries and performances.

Manchester United News

Meanwhile, United could be without as many as eight players. The likes of Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini are all doubts. Alexis Sanchez might miss out, too. Jesse Lingard and Marcos Rojo are both out, also.

For United, that leaves them with a short number of options in terms of depth, which could play a key role in how this tie will play out across the 90’.


A Chelsea win feels very likely. United may have stopped the flow of lost points with a win against Newcastle, but they aren’t up to much at the moment. Expect Chelsea to work an poorly co-ordinated United defence to the point of domination: this could be a big game for Mourinho, and not just for his United future.

Friday 5 October 2018

Khabib Nurmagomedov v Conor McGregor: Bigmouth Strikes Again

Conor McGregor is clearly a very talented athlete and from humble beginnings what he's achieved is the stuff of Hollywood movies.  He is reported to have made $100 million from the Mayweather fight alone.

Much like boxing, the UFC is often full of bravado and it can be argued that's what helps contribute to the compelling match ups and rivalries that develop within combat sports. The Mayweather vs McGregor fight had more 'press tour' than fight and so it's clearly a tactic that pays off, even if it does come across as unsavoury at times. As it happens McGregor represented himself rather well in that fight, which wasn't really something many anticipated beforehand. He does often back up his own talk with results.

There are aspects of good fortune to all of this too. McGregor isn't undefeated, and so to have huge money fights fall into his lap and for the stars to align in such a way that there are these cross over events is partly down to luck rather than any kind of masterplan. From McGregor's own behaviour outside of the ring, we can see that thinking about his actions isn't always at the forefront of his mind.

He's carried his tried and tested braggadocious, confrontation persona into the Khabib fight too - trotting out the mind games that he feels will both boost his bank balance (and they will!) and allow him to get into the head of his opponent is the order of the day.

The potential downfall in this strategy may well be a combination of the fact that he doesn't really even need to be there, and being out of the ring for two years. Is the hunger still there? He may well gain a lot of confidence from his past successes and showman ways, but that's not of any use once he's in the Octagon. We've often seen what happens in boxing for instance when a fighter's ego is intact but ability is diminished after a break from the ring. Nurmagomedov's grappling game is second to none, he's undefeated and seems prepared to let his performance on the night do the talking. If McGeogor's trademark speed and power remains it could be lights out, but many believe that his opponent will try to take this to the ground fast, and go to work, making for a difficult night for McGregor.

This is a tough fight to call and the odds reflect that. Khabib is currently 5/8 on the exchanges and I'd be inclined to go for that if I was betting on the fight. The 17-1 for Khabib to win in round 4 is tempting too, considering he'll likely try to smoother and tire McGregor. Whatever happens, it's likely to be a very lively encounter!

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Brighton vs West Ham United - 5th May

While it’s still very early in the season, it’s fair to say that Brighton and Hove Albion versus West Ham United has a very big ‘six pointer’ feel to it. Chris Hughton was widely praised at the beginning of the season for making Brighton look so solid, whilst West Ham’ manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was already being threatened with the sack.

With United on the up and Brighton struggling a touch more, though, will the narrative switch?

Brighton and Hove Albion News

Now below West Ham in the table, Brighton have not won in five games so far. With two losses on the spin, too, the problems are beginning to rack up: and it could cause some serious issues for the long-term confidence of the squad.

So far, Shane Duffy has probably been among their best performances, although two goals so far definitely helps to pad that out. Glenn Murray already has four, so goals aren’t a major issue. If the defence – already 13 conceded – don’t turn off the taps, though, that could change. A leaky defence always has a negative impact on the attack.

West Ham United News

For West Ham, the impressive performance of Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson will have Hammers sighing with relief. The dynamic duo were expected to lead a rebuilt West Ham attack, and only now are beginning to look ready to take on that mantle. So, too, is ex-Dortmund man Andriy Yarmolenko.

The Ukraine international is hitting some good form at present, with two goals in the league so far. Anderson’ cheeky flick against United should boost his self-belief, too. For West Ham, there’s a chance to build some momentum with two win and a draw from their last three.


We sense a score-draw here. Both sides can attack, but leak defences – 25 goals conceded already between them, only 16 scored – could see this produce a few goals. Expect this to be a fun and frantic match, with both teams probably happy to get a share of the points.