Ed Chamberlin: Festival countdown
Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlin is gearing up for next month's Cheltenham Festival and picks out his top five races.
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The countdown to the Cheltenham Festival is in full swing and the raft of preview evenings have begun. These events continue to swell in number and have their critics but they are great fun and good for the sport.
Anything that gets sports fans talking about racing and Cheltenham has to to be good for the game.
"Tuesday will be THE day to be at this year's Festival. The Supreme, Arkle, Quevega and the best Champion Hurdle I can remember. All year it's promised to be an epic and with all the lead protagonists so far standing their ground, we are set for the race of the season."
I highly recommend you try and attend the sportinglife.com/Sky Bet Preview Evening at Elland Road on March 5.
Jason Maguire will be on the panel alongside Racing UK analysts Niall Hannity and Mark Howard as well as Irish correspondent Donn McClean and Sky Bet's racing guru Michael "winners" Shinners all chaired by the mighty Dave Ord. They should come up with plenty of winners and entertainment will be guaranteed.
These are the five races I'm most looking forward to at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival:
Not just because of it's new sponsors but because it's the most open Festival curtain raiser I can remember. The race is shaping up as the perfect opening skirmish between the English and Irish and also the training giants of Mullins, Nicholls and Henderson, who all have leading contenders in the race.
The roar that greets the tapes going up and the launch of four brilliant days racing is one of my favourite moments of the sporting year.
This is always a good race and this year looks no different. Looking forward to seeing whether Faugheen can live up to all the hype.
Another novice hurdle and they look better quality and more interesting than the novice chases at this stage. David Pipe looks to have a really strong team for the Festival my nap of the meeting, Kings Palace, runs in this contest.
This race should throw up the best story of the week, potentially getting racing on the back and front pages. A Big Buck's win would be a roof off the stand job and an "I was there" moment. A win for the mare Annie Power would be a great story too. The latter is far more likely.
Tuesday will be THE day to be at this year's Festival. The Supreme, Arkle, Quevega and the best Champion Hurdle I can remember. All year it's promised to be an epic and with all the lead protagonists so far standing their ground, we are set for the race of the season. Jezki remains a decent each-way price at 10/1.
The sensational four days at Prestbury Park will also be key and decisive days in the prestigious Sky Sports Ten-to-Follow competition. I'm pleased to say I still lead the way at the head of the 21-strong field including the great and good from Sky Sports, Sporting Life and Sky Bet.
However, having been cantering with a double handful a few weeks ago, I've been sending out a few distress signals and could soon be rousted along. That's because Sky Bet's PR guru Dale Tempest, Sky Sports News supremo Andy Cairns and my colleague Alex Hammond loom large in the mirrors. I feel like I'm crossing the Melling Road for the second time out in front, with three big guns taking aim in behind.
Encouragingly for me none of them have ever stayed the trip and won the National Hunt version of the competition in its ten year history and are highly likely to crack under pressure. All three would probably have a Timeform squiggle by their name.
My editor, David Ord, presenter Rachel Wyse, and leading columnist Richard Fahey, remain tailed off.
This weekend feels like the start of the run-in. Still more than 40 live Premier League games to come on Sky Sports and with the way things stand at the top, middle and bottom of the table, there is something riding on every single game.
This weekend's Super Sunday focuses on the race for the Champions League and the battle to avoid relegation.
We start with Newcastle against Aston Villa. Since Yoan Cabaye moved to PSG the wheels seem to have come off Newcastle's season. They have failed to win or score in each of last four games, losing the last three whilst conceding ten goals.
Newcastle have also lost their last four at home and gone 6hrs 10mins since their last League goal at St James' Park.
Aston Villa aren't in great form either, with one win from their last six, and are 12th but that's only four points clear of danger. However, they remain a dangerous unit on the road, having taken 17 points away from home this season.
In the fight for Champions League football Liverpool can get the first blow in on Sunday in the early kick off against Swansea. Going into the weekend Liverpool are a 1/5 to secure a seat back at Europe's top table with Tottenham at 5/2.
"Spurs have been answering all the questions asked of late and have been flying under their new head coach. Since Tim Sherwood took over in mid-December only Chelsea have taken more points (24) than and only Liverpool (27) have scored more goals."
If Brendan Rogers' side continue their winning role at Anfield they will go six points ahead of Spurs and put the pressure firmly on Tim Sherwood's men ahead of their clash with Norwich
They've been answering all the questions asked of late and have been flying under their new head coach. Since Tim Sherwood took over in mid-December only Chelsea have taken more points (24) than and only Liverpool (27) have scored more goals.
Sherwood has the best record after 10 games in charge of any Tottenham manager in Premier League history.
In that time only Cardiff have taken fewer points than Norwich. The Canaries have scored the fewest League goals in that period (4), failing to score in six of the last ten games.
It's left Norwich just one point clear of the drop zone and only 13/8 which Sky Bet to go down. They could find themselves in the bottom three going in to Sunday's game. Norwich have never beaten Tottenham at Carrow Road in the Premier League (L4 D2) - they badly need to change that on Super Sunday.