Ed Chamberlin: Going for Gold
Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to this weekend's Hennessy Gold Cup and the Tipping Competition.
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Get ready for yet another top weekend of National Hunt racing. Last Saturday belonged to the Tizzard team and the brilliant Cue Card, who is down to 8/1 with Sky Bet to win the Gold Cup.
Bobs Worth is out to 5/1 having been beaten out of sight but any regular reader of this column will know I think he's virtually unbeatable round Cheltenham.
However, that performance on Saturday did concern me as I think the brutal nature of the 2013 Gold Cup may be taking its toll. Haydock was never going to be Bobs Worth's track but that was still a lacklustre performance.
Long Run was involved in the epic battle at Cheltenham and has looked a shadow of his former self in two runs this season. The Giant Bolster was fourth in the Gold Cup and never went a yard at Haydock. Sir Des Champs was out on his feet up the Cheltenham hill in March. He re-appears in the John Durkan next weekend and it will be fascinating to see if he has recovered his mojo. He could be one to oppose on the day.
This time last year, Bobs Worth won the Hennessy Gold Cup in superb style. We have been so spoilt in the race in recent years, especially during the Denman years.
"When Sky Bet priced me up at 10/1 to win I assumed there was a zero missing. I was then even more surprised to learn I'd been backed in to 8/1 joint favourite. Like a trainer would say on learning about a gamble on their charge, I have no idea where that money came from. I just hope I don't come last like last year!"
There don't seem to be any superstars in this year's field but it still looks a fiercely competitive renewal. I fancy Emma Lavelle's Highland Lodge to run a big race at 10/1 with Sky Bet.
Twelve months ago Highland Lodge was one of the few Lavelle horses to be running well and looked like a top-class chaser in the making. However, like most of the yard's horses, the wheels came off from there on.
As a result lots of Lavelle horses are nicely handicapped this season and the yard is flying. On his reappearance last month Highland Lodge had an impossible task trying to give Standing Ovation 26lb around a speed track like Wincanton.
The Hennessy test will be right up his street and if he gets in to a rhythm up front he'll be very hard to pass. Highland Lodge looks a rock solid each-way bet.
The former should be unbeatable around flat tracks this winter, while the latter is my fancy to win the big one in March.
I also hope to go well in Sky Bet's Hennessy Tipping Competition.
For a football presenter it's just an honour just to take part alongside racing luminaries like David Ord, the shock winner of the competition last year, Graham Cunningham, Lydia Hislop, Nick Luck et al.
When Sky Bet priced me up at 10/1 to win I assumed there was a zero missing. I was then even more surprised to learn I'd been backed in to 8/1 joint favourite. Like a trainer would say on learning about a gamble on their charge before a big handicap, I have no idea where that money came from. I just hope I don't come last like last year!
You can follow the competition at Hennessy Tipping Competition.
What a strange season this has been.
The way things have gone it would be no surprise if Tottenham bounce back from the humiliating 6-0 defeat at the Etihad to beat Manchester United this weekend.
Likewise City could easily go to West Brom next week and slip up. It's been a wonderfully unpredictable season so far and the Premier League title race remains wide open.
However, City have now played like Champions on a couple of occasions.
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They completely dismantled Spurs without having to hit anything like top gear and their display in the Manchester derby still resonates as the performance of the season. They need to sort out their away form but I can see exactly why Sky Bet have them as their 7/4 favourites.
One of the best aspects of my job is watching games alongside the Sky Sports pundits. It was fascinating to dissect Tottenham's performance, first with Glenn Hoddle and Graeme Souness on Super Sunday, then with the boys on Monday Night Football.
Glenn was adamant that Spurs need to play three at the back to enable them to play two up front, just like Brendan Rogers has done with Liverpool this season, while Gary and Jamie were fascinating as they described the problems Roberto Soldado was having playing up front on his own.
It will be interesting to see what AVB does against Manchester United on Sunday. They are only 13/8 with a Sky Bet to bounce back with a win against United.
Equally interesting on MNF was discussing the importance of the kick-off: not something most football fans would see as particularly crucial. Jamie Carragher went as far as to say Gerard Houllier used to treat the kick-off as a set-piece.
While Spurs went backwards for 14 seconds and conceded, other sides including Real Madrid, use the kick off to get the ball forward quickly and pen the opposition in. Prepare to see a number of sides do similar over the next few weeks.
Southampton do exactly that and this weekend, hot on the heels of the tough trip to the Emirates, they go to Stamford Bridge on Super Sunday. I was at this fixture last year and stayed on after the 2-2 draw to speak to and congratulate Andy Crosby and Nigel Adkins.
Little did anyone know that they would be sacked two days later.
Mauricio Pochettino has done a wonderful job at the club but his team face another stern test on Sunday.