It’s the first “Future Champions Day” at Newmarket on Saturday. After a day full of colour, noise and atmosphere at Longchamp last weekend, I fear HQ will be its usual drab self.
The races are good quality though with the Cesarewitch bizarrely sandwiched between some high class two-year-old contests, that could easily throw up a champion or two.
In the Middle Park (2.35) I find the confidence behind Bapak Chinta (5.7 on Betdaq) infectious. I fancied him to run a big race in the Nunthorpe before injury struck. His work is said to have been electric of late and the extra furlong tomorrow should be right up Bapak Chinta’s street.
I’m a complete sucker for a Dermot Weld raider in a big English handicap and will be backing Rainforest Magic (18) in the Ces (3.50) He’s had a big hike in the weights but I’m sure he still has massive improvement in him. There’s a strong message for Beyond (11.5) too.
My main bet of the day will be Power (3.85) in the Dewhurst at 3.10pm. I’m amazed that a Royal Ascot and National Stakes winner is not a shorter price on Betdaq. I can only believe it’s because he isn’t flashy and has won narrowly each time. This horse is top of the two-year-old pecking order at Ballydoyle, who should only come to his best over this 7f trip and beyond. His battling qualities are tailor-made for a Dewhurst up the hill at Newmarket and Power will be an excellent in-running back on the Daq too.
The World Cup knockout stage – now the tournament starts for real. Four years of preparation comes down to 80 minutes of rugby. Nothing over those four years can prepare a team for knockout rugby. No autumn international, Tri-Nations or Six Nations game can replicate the pressure of a World Cup quarter or semi-final.
Ireland against Wales should get the quarter-finals off to a flying start as both sides, unlike the two teams in the day’s second game, are playing some really good rugby. It looks very hard to call and I’ll be having a small bet on the draw after 80 minutes at 22.
England have been poor so far, yet France have been even worse. I read little in to the French disunity as they can easily turn it on on the day. If this was a friendly I would still fancy the French to win as they are much the more talented side. However, England beat them when it matters in World Cups and I think they’ll edge past them again on Saturday. I fancy England to slowly squeeze the life out of the French up front and win ugly. That is what knockout rugby is all about.
Similarly, the Springboks can strangle the Wallabies. South Africa are far inferior to Australia and New Zealand but thrive in this environment. I tipped South Africa ante-post at 11 and remain hopeful that they can defend their title.
The All Blacks are much the best side in the competition but will be vulnerable in the knockout stage without their talismanic fly-half. They should still be far too good for Argentina but I’d still be happy to lay them to win the World Cup at 1.76.
Looking longer term I remain convinced that Chelsea are getting on an irresistible roll and remain a big price at 4.7 to win the Premier League title. Manchester United are the team to beat but are very short at 2.09 and, as Paul Merson explained on Soccer Saturday, their style will always give the opposition a chance and I can’t help but think that some punters have got a bit carried away with their performances so far. City (3.8) will also blow a lot of teams away but still have questions to answer about their desire and unity on and off the field.
Chelsea are strong in every department and I can see them getting better and better as they get used to their new manager.
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