Friday 24 January 2020

Murtagh can retain his crown

THE betting pre-season suggested that the Irish jockeys' title would be a three-man race and that has proven to be the case.

The layers could not agree who should have been the jolly at the time, but they presently make Fran Berry narrow favourite over Pat Smullen, with Johnny Murtagh relegated to 9/2 with Paddy Power. That seems about right, so Bet365's quote of 8/1 about Murtagh does not.

Last season, Murtagh was in command of the title for quite some time before it eventually became mathematically impossible for him not to win it. His strike-rate in finishing five ahead of Smullen and a whopping 21 clear of Berry was 23 per cent.

With no racing in Ireland this weekend, Berry is at the summit with 52 winners. Smullen has 51, Murtagh one less. Murtagh's strike-rate, however, is yet again 23 per cent.

The Meathman rides considerably fewer horses in Ireland than the other top Irish pilots, but that did not prevent him from landing the title last year and it is hard to know if Berry will be able to make up the difference from last year by the end of this.

Coolmore's jockey is presently sidelined by a six-day ban, which may have prompted Bet365 to take him on so boldly, but its significance is negligible. Indeed, he benefits from there being no racing today or yesterday and he would have been riding at Goodwood over Galway in any event.

Assuming the 40-year-old stays in touch, he will get serious about retaining his title as the season progresses and Aidan O'Brien -- among others -- will be only too pleased to make a contribution, particularly at Dundalk.


Johnny Murtagh to win Irish jockeys' title, 1pt win at 8/1 (Betfair)

The match prices for today's All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals seem about right. Galway would be shorter than 9/5 to beat Tipperary, had their last three games not ruthlessly exposed some of their weaknesses. Against that, Tipp may well have regressed since last season.

Everyone outside of Cork and even some Rebels fans will be hoping that Antrim make a fight of it at Croke Park. The day's best bet is arguably a punt on at least three goals in the match at 8/11 with Ladbrokes.

This price is very much at odds with what the other bookmakers are offering and should be taken. Antrim's full-back line will struggle not to concede a few majors, but there is every chance that their forwards could notch one too.


Over 2.5 goals in Cork-Antrim, 2pts at 8/11 (Ladbrokes)

SHAMROCK ROVERS salvaged an otherwise disappointing European campaign for Airtricity League clubs by surprising Bnei Yehudi in Tel-Aviv on Thursday. Back in Dublin, Sporting Fingal played with real panache against Maritimo, ultimately going out but scoring four goals in the process over the two legs.

Even Giovanni Trapattoni gives Shamrock Rovers a chance against Juventus and the Hoops look capable of getting a result in Tallaght before a partisan crowd. The Old Lady only recently returned from their summer holidays and they will not be at their best next Thursday.

Moreover, the prospect of a stalemate will surely not upset the Italian giants, who will be confident of winning in Italy. They can be taken on for win purposes in the first leg at around 1/4 on Betfair.

The repercussions of Rovers and Bohemians' contrasting fortunes in Europe this year could be considerable and the Hoops could again be on the brink of dominance in the domestic game. That the fans effectively run the club would appeal to more than mere romantics, particularly when compared to the grotesque spending of oil profits in a bid to buy success across the Irish Sea.


Lay Juventus to beat Shamrock Rovers, 5pts at 1.26 approx (1.3pt liability, Betfair)


Profit to €10 stake: €201.38

Still running: €85

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