Tom McCall is our Director of Travel and Concierge, and former Head of Trading at Fitzdares bookmaker
In this first addition of Beat the Bookies, our monthly look at the Antepost markets, we assess the chances of a horse that has been second at the last four Cheltenham Festivals, the most unpopular golfer on the planet, and arguably the greatest white-ball cricket team of the modern era.
More white-ball glory for Captain Morgan and England’s cricket team
The current England white-ball set up is certainly the best England have ever had, but could they also be the best white-ball team since the advent of the IPL and the T20 World Cup in 2007/2008?
To prove it they will need to win the T20 World Cup in India at the end of the year, becoming the first country to hold both the 50 Over and T20 World trophies at the same time. Barring Carlos Brathwaite’s heartbreaking final over assault on Ben Stokes in 2016 they would already hold this accolade. At 7/2 they rate a strong fancy to succeed this time.
What Eion Morgan has done with the English white ball set up over the last five years is nothing short of miraculous. As a batsman in 2015 he was the only English player to embrace the modern approach to limited overs cricket, using his hurling background and strong wrists to play unorthodox and thrilling shots that our rigid and data obsessed management at the time overlooked When the team predictably fell apart in the build up to that World Cup, it was Morgan who was left carrying the baby. Few saw any chance of success, and after the embarrassment of the World Cup not long after, Morgan’s job was already on the line.
By first embracing Brendan McCullum’s mantra of removing the fear of failure, resulting in a thrilling ODI series against New Zealand that removed some of the shackles of the previous regime, and then by encouraging the hierarchy to prioritise white-ball cricket and embark on a successful four year cycle to the 2019 World Cup on home soil, Morgan has unassumingly led a remarkable renaissance.
For galvanizing the entire England set-up, and calmly navigating the rocky politics and rotation of modern three-format cricket, Morgan deserves the utmost respect. If he can lead his team to T20 glory in India this December, he will rightly be recognised amongst the great sporting leaders of the country. The squad he has nurtured and has at his disposal gives him every chance.
Whichever way they line up, a top order of Buttler, Roy, Malan, Bairstow, Stokes and Morgan is the strongest in the world. With Archer potent in all phases of the game and arguably the most valuable T20 bowler, Rashid’s guile and consistency, the Curran brothers rapidly improving and with recent success in the IPL, and with Mark Wood to be unleashed in partnership with Archer, there are few weak links. It is only the second spin option that offers concern, with Moeen Ali in much need of game time and confidence.
If the 2016 side can get to within touching distance of the trophy, at the beginning of the Morgan inspired renaissance, then the well oiled, confident and experienced side of 2021 must have a huge chance of going one better and proving themselves the greatest white-ball team since the advent of T20.
In my eyes there would be no more fitting winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award than Morgan. At 66/1 I can’t resist a small bet, even in a year with so much going on. A solid tournament with the bat, with his hands on the trophy and the memory fresh in the minds of viewers just three week before the award ceremony, and 66/1 will look great value.
2pts England to win the T20 World Cup @ 7/2
0.5pts Eion Morgan to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021 @ 66/1
Donnelly’s Delight At The Cheltenham Festival
After bearing the brunt of the criticism in March, the Cheltenham Festival won’t be treated generously if and when crowds return. If it is to be only owners permitted, which looks likely at this stage, I would like to be in leading owners Joe and Marie Donnelly’s shoes for the week.
The highlight of the week for them is undoubtedly Al Boum Photo as he goes for three straight wins in the Gold Cup. Shishkin looks to cement his place at the very top table of jumps attractions in winning the Arkle, and in Melon, Asterion Forlonge, The Big Getaway, Ramillies and Gaillard Du Mesnil the Donnelly's have a formidable team to go to war with.
The one that interests me most at the current prices is Melon @ 10/1 for the Ryanair Chase. Just touched off by Samcro in the Marsh last year, second in both the 2018 and the 2019 Champion Hurdle’s, and second in the Supreme in 2017, He certainly deserves a big one.
Having hit the front too soon before fading over 3 miles in the Savills chase at Christmas, the hottest race of the year to date, a strongly run race over 2.5 miles at a track he obviously loves should be ideal to finally break his Festival duck. Patrick Mullins who rode him in the Savills commented that it was his jumping that was his biggest asset, making lengths at each fence. This won't obviously suit the demands of the Gold Cup trip, with a premium on conserving energy, and bowling along at the front of the Ryanair should be ideal. He is an underestimated horse.
Over the past 5 seasons, the Donnelly’s have enjoyed 28 winners from 73 runners in Ireland, at a 38% strike rate, and 10 from 24 in Britain at a strike rate of 42%. An extraordinary run of form that looks set to continue.
1pt win Melon for the Ryanair Chase @ 10/1
A Second Green Jacket for Patrick Reed
Just a few months on from Dustin Johnson’s triumph and we will be back at Augusta National in April, with the azaleas out and the course set up as one would expect for a Masters.
The front six in the betting (Johnson, McIlroy, Dechambeau, Rahm, Thomas and Koepke) don’t appeal between 7/1 and 12/1. A win or a solid build-up might mean you beat the market by two or three points, but the generous each way terms available in the run up to the event temper any need to back them now. This despite the obvious likelihood that the winner is amongst them.
The one that appeals to me now is 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed @ 28/1.
Although one assumes that Johnson bashed his way around Augusta in November and made use of the rain softened conditions, the importance of his short game and getting up and down when in trouble to continue his momentum was evident throughout.
In my mind there is no better ‘touch’ chipper and putter than Reed, particularly on challenging greens. Highlighted by the fact that he led the field in strokes gained putting on the notoriously tricky Winged Foot greens at the recent US Open. His range of wedge play, and soft hands are a huge asset at Augusta and providing he can fine tune his driver over the coming months, which let him down in the November version when creeping in contention, and more recently in Dubai during his quest for the European Order of Merit title, then another assault on a Green Jacket will be no surprise.
There have been 17 multiple Masters Champions, with nine of them winning a second Green Jacket within three years of their first. Bubba Watson the last to do so in 2012/2014. Reed rates a solid bet to join that illustrious list.
1pt e/w P Reed to win the Masters @ 28/1 (Place terms ⅕ the odds the first 6)
- 1pt win Melon for the Ryanair Chase @ 10/1
- 1pt e/w P Reed for the Masters @ 28/1 (Place terms ⅕ the odds the first 6)
- 2pts win England to win the T20 World Cup @ 7/2
- 0.5 pt win Eion Morgan Sports Personality of the Year @ 66/1
Bets are rated from 0.5pts to 5pts
Profit & Loss to date: 0