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From the Dragon’s Mouth: James Lovell Column

Some people often ask me why bookies would want to share tips or offer betting picks. Why risk a big pay-out?

Well, this may or may not surprise you, but here’s the thing. We don’t know everything! If we did, then we would have all retired years ago!

We think we might be in the know, but we’re not. Sport is unpredictable. So, it’s as well to join in the fun, hold hands together, and leap into the great unknown.

Take last week, for example. Like most rugby fans in Wales, we assumed the firm favourite to be named as the Wales captain for the Six Nations was Dan Biggar.

After all, he’d done the job before, is a Warren Gatland go-to guy, and he was fully fit again after missing with injuries back in the autumn.

But on the morning of the announcement, there was a flurry of activity with people putting money on Ken Owens.

It’s a difficult market to manage, because we are less informed than others and the upshot was that we took a bit of a slap on the bum!

It stung for a while, too! But it’s part of the fun of the fair. It might not have hurt for so long had there been more going on last week, but it was quiet.

Not many of the big gamblers came out to play and that may have been a combination of frozen grounds writing off a lot of sport, and general January blues.

I was very happy, though, to see a winner for Tim Vaughan, our sponsored stable, the other day at Ffos Las with a horse called Bob Marley. Keep on jammin’ Bob!

This week, though, looks a bit more lively.

I’m off to Cheltenham on Saturday, where the big race is the Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase at 1.20pm.

There are only six runners and the favourite is Energumene. He won the Champion Chase last year and I’m really looking forward to seeing him run again.

Here’s my tips for this week.

  • In the 1.50pm at Cheltenham, there’s a horse called Stolen Silver, trained by Welsh trainer Sam Thomas. He ran second on New Year’s Day and although Sam’s had an in-and-out season so far, he had a big win last week and I feel the stable is just coming into form.

Stolen Silver rallied on New Year’s Day, he likes the course, and I can see him staying on up the hill and finishing strongly.

  • In the 3.00 race at Cheltenham – The Cleeve Hurdle – there’s a horse I’ll be taking on. Paisley Park has won the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham before and is currently even money.

As a bookie, you always want to take on short-priced favourites and this horse is now 11 years old and maybe getting a bit long in the tooth.

He’s maybe not a straightforward animal, anyway, and although he’s a bit of a people’s favourite that makes me want to take against him.

There’ll be plenty of people cheering him, but I won’t be cheering him if he wins!

He did me a favour by winning at Kempton on Boxing Day when I was there, but he’s getting on a bit and I reckon people will be backing with their hearts rather than their heads. There’s better value elsewhere in the race.

In the football this weekend, Llanelli host Barry Town in the Cymru South. It’s third versus first, with Barry Town leading the table.

I am fully on the Barry Town bus this year. They have won 14 games in a row, they have signed some new players over the past few weeks, and just seem to be heading back to their glory days of old.

They beat Llanelli 3-1 away from home and I just think Barry are an unstoppable train at present.

  • In the rugby, then worth a look is Cardiff’s trip to Leinster in the URC this week.

Now, ordinarily, no-one bets against Leinster at home, but they’ve looked a bit unconvincing at times this season. They’ll be without a bus-load of international players who will be away with Ireland, so with the momentum behind them the Welsh regions have at present then Cardiff can maybe cause a surprise.

That would be a massive boost for Welsh rugby ahead of the Wales v Ireland opener in the Six Nations next week!

Have a great sporting weekend!


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