Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham, Doncaster, PDC World Darts, Cricket & Football

Good evening from the Maj…Who am I kidding.

I suppose I’d better introduce myself. I’m Adam otherwise known as @AdamClarke501 on twitter and was asked at my most fragile time – Friday night down the pub – to guest write this weekends sermon.
 
For my sins I once kept a blog which only lasted one season with weekly rantings and ravings about my beloved and of late desperately awful Aston Villa.
 
What didn’t help was that the season I decided to start the blog was also the beginning of our slow demise and became somewhat repetitive week in, week out.  So I stopped and until this week hadn’t even considered going back to writing one.
 
Football isn’t my only vice, Cricket (Warwickshire), Rugby Union (Northampton Saints), NFL (Vikings), MLB (Red Sox) & Formula 1 to name a few. And yes I’m one of those craft beer drinking w*nkers too. Minus the beard and poncey quiff!
 
I’m a freelance web developer, work can, on the odd occasion, be in short supply. You’ve caught me at a good time, mainly updating sites that I currently run in preparation for Xmas, so I’ve managed to spend a bit of time in putting something together.
 
The Major must be onto something though, he’s been badgering me a fair bit on twitter to guest write this blog for sometime. I am writing this on a promise though from The Major, he said he’d write up a Boxing Day special. A deal is a deal Major!
 
I met The Major through his younger brother (a pretty decent medium fast bowler at the time) many moons ago at our local cricket club, Streetly.  After that we’d no doubt bump into each other more often than not down our then local watering hole.
 
Unfortunately our meet ups have become less frequent due to work and family commitments, apart from that time when he forgot to meet up with me after the Ashes test at match at Edgbaston last year! But at least we have Twitter, so it’s not that I’ve missed him much!
 
His Saturday Sermon became an instant hit in our house and has certainly been missed.  I hope his hiatus is almost at an end.  He’s my go to expert on military battles from the past.
 
My betting habits are probably best described as here and there. The weekly 4 or 5 fold footy acca and the televised horse races on Channel 4 on Saturday’s when I’m not at a sporting event myself that day, don’t see the point in betting unless you’re paying attention to it. Thus, today’s racing tips are the televised races on C4.
 
My love for horse racing certainly doesn’t run as deep as The Major’s or a few others that have guest written this blog this past month or so, but National Hunt racing certainly holds my attention more than the flat variety.
 
Apologies in advance but you won’t see an in depth write up on each race as my racing knowledge doesn’t extend too far, however, from my experiences attending Cheltenham Festival every year since 2009 & an avid C4 Racing viewer, I’ve built up a dossier of horses that I keep track of on a regular basis, so I’d like to think I know enough to at least help you earn a few extra pounds this weekend. A mothership might not be on the cards this weekend, but who knows.
 
You’ll always find me at Cheltenham at least twice during Festival week. Usually Day 1 and Gold Cup Day. My preferred area is the Centaur, particularly handy if it’s lashing down or blowing an arctic gale. Next year might be different. I’ll be interested to see the changes that have been made course side, in particular as a wheelchair user. It’s certainly looked good on the television especially the new parade ring.
 
It’s always such a wonderful time of year even for the part time race goer like myself. The buzz on the train journey down, the annual visit to the Royal Oak near to Prestbury Park. Not forgetting the now customary stampede to the Guinness Bar once through the gate.
 
More often than not you come away knowing that you’ve probably just witnessed history made or even seen the beginning of a wonderful career ahead for another horse.
 
Certainly the 2016 Gold Cup has the makings of being the best ever judging by the current ante post list. ConeygreeVautour and Don Cossack stand out but you can’t write off the likes of DjakadamDon Poli and a personal favourite of mine, Cue Card.
 
I already have one or two ante post bets on for both the Festival & the King George, no doubt a few more will be added by the end of play this weekend.
 
I digress, the festival is much further in the distance and we have some exciting races to look forward to on Saturday from Doncaster & Cheltenham. Next week also sees the start of the World Darts Championships with an in-depth preview. And finally, looking slightly further ahead is the upcoming test match series between South Africa & England.
 
Plenty to take your mind off all what’s bad in the world we live in right now.
 
To the sports.
 
Cheltenham
1:50 Gold Cup Handicap Chase – Champagne West (E/W) gets the nod for me. He’s yet to run this season but showed some useful form in novice chases last campaign, most notably when second to Ptit Zig at Cheltenham in January.
 
2:25 Novices Hurdle – Final Nudge trainer David Dennis is hoping Final Nudge can continue his progression as he steps up in class for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.  The six-year-old gets his chance after making hay in November, winning his last two starts at Wincanton and Bangor.  He’s is on a hat-trick but takes on stronger opposition in this Grade Two event and is upped in trip to three miles.
 
3:00 International Hurdle – Peace & Co load those cannons and let’s hope he meets Faugheen in March. My mouth is watering at the prospect already. My NAP of the day.
 
3:35 Mares Handicap Hurdle – Broxbourne has the staying power after taking Definite Outcome all the way back in November at Aintree and with Nico de Boinville in the saddle, he must have a great chance.
 
Doncaster
2:05 Handicap Hurdle – Sir Chauvelin won at a canter last time out in the Border Safeguard Hurdle and today’s trip will suit.
 
2:40 Novices Chase – It’s A Close Call much better at chasing despite winning twice over hurdles recently.  Paul Nicholls speaks highly of him too.
PDC World Darts Championship
December is here, we all know what is coming – and I’m not on about a fat bloke in a red suit popping down your chimney on Christmas Eve night either. Alexandra Palace in London will host the 2016 PDC version of the Darts World Championships from December 17th – January 3rd.
 
72 players will all have the dream of lifting aloft the Sid Waddell Trophy on finals’ night, and to walk away with a record prize winners’ cheque of £300,000. The opening cast will be drawn from every corner of the darting globe to offer a festive spectacle of tungsten action. You might gather from my opening gambit, that I’m quite a fan.
 
Scotland’s Gary Anderson is the current holder of the most prestigious trophy in World Darts, but he faces a stiff task from current favourite MIchael Van Gerwen & with several others to retain his crown.
 
Dutchman van Gerwen recently stated that he is in the “form of his life”, and who could really argue. The 26 year-old has swept all before him in 2015, and he is a worthy favourite to repeat his maiden win back in 2014. The lime green machine has claimed 18 PDC tournaments in the calendar year alone – including six major events.
 
Time waits for no man, even Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, and the 55 year-old darts legend not only has to battle with the finest players on the planet, but also the fight against his ageing body. Taylor is without question still a leading player on the PDC circuit, but his ‘powers’ – if you pardon the pun – are waning. The extended length of the World Championships matches towards the latter stages could be another hindrance for the 16 times former World Champion, who is currently not holding any PDC major title.
 
Reigning champion Gary Anderson will be desperate to hold onto his trophy, and the popular Scot is likely to be one of the major players at the business end of the tournament. Anderson, handed the second seeding, backed up his World Championship win with the 2015 Premier League title in May, but has been relatively quiet since. His form has to be taken on trust, but the 44 year-old has the game to retain the title if in last year’s form. However, at the back of my mind, having the tag of current world champion, puts me off this year. Good chance of a semi final berth though.
 
Former two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis has been in the darting wilderness in recent times, but is starting to show signs of his former glories. Lewis is seeded fifth, and has a tough quarter of the draw to overcome, but has the scoring power to trouble anyone.
 
Peter Wright is seeded fourth and the colourful Scot will be attempting to go better than his final appearance in 2014. Wright is another player who is in good recent form, and will be considered as a dark horse to claim the title.
 
Fellow Scot, Robert Thornton justified his 80/1 odds to win the World Grand Prix back in October, is also worthy of consideration. A quarter-final defeat at the hands of Michael van Gerwen in 2015 was his career best at the Ally Pally, but he is capable of better and is in the opposite half to MVG this time around.
 
It is very difficult to offer real confidence in any opposition stopping Michael van Gerwen claiming his second world crown in early January. MVG faces a potentially tricky last-16 tie against either fellow Dutchman, Raymond van Barneveld or England’s Stephen Bunting, and if the draw goes to seeding, a semi-final clash against Wright or Lewis.
 
The dominance that van Gerwen has shown in recent months suggests that none of those players are likely to stop the world’s number one player in his current form. Adrian Lewis & James Wade would have to be considered as potential long-shots, but having treaded the path to world glory, they rate as decent alternatives.
 
My picks are as follows
 
Michael Van Gerwen 11/10
Adrian Lewis 16/1
James Wade 20/1
Peter Wright 22/1
Robert Thornton 50/1
 
One final bet of note is to back two or more nine-dart finishes in the tournament (11/4), which looks a very likely occurrence this year.
 
Cricket
Looking slightly further ahead, England will be taking on South Africa in a hotly anticipated series in which I am very lucky to say I shall be witnessing. Can’t say I’m looking forward to flying out on New Year’s Day though for the 2nd test starting around 2 hours after I land. But at least it’s an overnight flight!
 
Anyway, this could be England’s chance. South Africa struggling to field a full strength side with the recent announcement that fast bowler Vernon Philander will miss the opening 2 test matches & their recent struggles on the slow spinning pitches in India which didn’t suit them one bit, gives England, in my opinion, the edge. 3/1
 
Football
My Premier League 5fold is Norwich, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Watford & Stoke City.
 
If you’ve got this far, thanks for sticking with me.  I’m sure we will all breath a collective sigh of relief when the Major returns from his hiatus on Boxing Day as promised for writing this, eh Major?
 
Have a great weekend everyone!
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