Ed Chamberlin: Open Meeting
Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to Cheltenham's Open Meeting and the Premier League action in his latest blog.
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Jump racing leaps to the fore this weekend with three superb days at Cheltenham. The Open Meeting seems to get bigger and bigger every season and no end of top class horses are set appear this weekend.
Sprinter Sacre is set to be the headline act on Sunday, while Nicky Henderson could unleash another star in the shape of Captain Conan, who I'm told has schooled superbly at home.
Henderson looks set to dominate Sunday's card and he could play a major role in Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup as well. However, he'll have his work cut out to beat David Pipe's Grands Crus, who is a short price with Sky Bet but will be very hard to beat.
He's not the first high class horse to struggle in the brutal test that is the RSA Chase at the Festival. The upside from that below par performance is an attractive looking handicap mark.
"The Pipes know exactly what's needed to win this race and its demands look tailor-made for Grands Crus. He's no value but I think Grands Crus will probably win and I can see him as a warm order to double up in the Hennessy at Newbury."
The best bet could be to back him for that double before Saturday's race.
Henderson does still have a strong hand to play. Quantitativeeasing (20/1) looks sure to run another big race just as he did last year. I love course specialists round here and Quantitativeeasing's record round Cheltenham is exceptional. The problem might be that he's just carrying too much weight. I think stablemate Triolo d'Alene could be the dark horse in the race.
The stable really fancied him at the Festival but he was too inexperienced in that contest, did not jump well and will have learnt a lot. He jumped a lot better at Market Rasen in May. With a summer under his belt Triolo d'Alene is open to a stack of improvement and I think he's on a tasty mark. He's my each-way bet in the race.
Friday sees entries close for the Racing Post Ten-to-Follow competition, which is always a lot of fun. My main list is as follows - Big Bucks, Boston Bob, Darlan, Grands Crus, Flemenstar, Hurricane Fly, My Tent Or Yours, Simonsig, Sir Des Champs, Sprinter Sacre
The Manchester clubs have character in abundance. Both dug out results yet again at the weekend and the difference between City and United and the other challengers at the moment is their ability to win when they aren't playing well.
Both fell behind at the weekend but have an incredible belief that they will still go on to win and there was an inevitability about both results. As a result Sky Bet shortened up Manchester United to even money from 6/5, though City are unchanged at 2/1.
Chelsea lacked that killer instinct against Liverpool and have drifted a fraction to 7/2.
"Once again Hazard, Mata and Oscar showed flashes of genius and they remain an excellent side but I still worry how Roberto Di Matteo is going to juggle his resources with a packed set of fixtures, including a trip to Japan, between now and the end of the year."
Arsenal and Tottenham's odds seem to drift every week and the two meet on Saturday with the pressure bound to be heaped on the losing manager. It's a big game for both sides, though a trappy one for punters (Arsenal 10/11, Tottenham 11/4, draw 13/5) and kicks off Sky Sports' Premier League weekend at midday on Saturday. It's a brave move to back Arsenal at odds on at the moment.
Talking of pressure, arguably the biggest game of the weekend is at Loftus Road as the bottom two meet - QPR (5/6) and Southampton (3/1) .
The two managers head Sky Bet's market for the next Premier League manager to leave their job with Mark Hughes at evens and Nigel Adkins a 7/4 chance.
Tony Fernandes has been outspoken about his manager's future but any speculation about Adkins takes an awful lot of guesswork. It would be easier to predict the first four in the correct order in the Grand National than read Saints' Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese's mind.
On Super Sunday I'll be returning to the venue of the first football match I ever presented on Sky Sports. I shall never forget Fulham v Newcastle in February 2010! This weekend Fulham (4/6) take on Sunderland (4/1), whose form this term is something of a mystery.
Who'd have thought at the start of the season after signing Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher, to accompany McClean and Sessegnon in attack, that Sunderland would be the Premier League's lowest scorers at this stage with only seven goals?
In contrast, Fulham are the second top scorers with 24 and Dimitar Berbatov has turned out to be an inspired signing. At around £5million he must already be one of the signings of the season and clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal must be thinking 'if only'. His Fulham side are hard to oppose on Sunday.
I'll be staying in London on Sunday night then meeting up with Gary Neville early the next morning at Sky Sports HQ to prepare for the Monday Night Football - West Ham (evens) v Stoke (11/4). I wonder if we'll be looking back on another successful weekend for Manchester.