The greatest prize
Ed Chamberlin blogs on England's chances of hosting the 2018 World Cup and the next Ashes instalment.
Last Updated: 01/12/10 9:10am
The blog is up early this week as I'm heading to Zurich on Tuesday to present Sky Sports' coverage of the announcement of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts.
Sky Bet have Russia favourites at 8/11 to win the vote, England at 5/2. Spain and Portugal 3/1 and the Netherlands and Belgium bid big outsiders at 40/1.
Is the World Cup coming home for the first time in 52 years? With corruption investigations, resignations, television exposes and a high-profile row with the Russians it is not looking too hopeful but with these votes you never know what is going to happen.
I remember doing all my prep ahead of the 2012 Olympic announcement expecting Paris to be awarded the Games only for Jacques Rogge to announce 'Lonn-don'. I still hold out hope that Sepp Blatter may open the envelope on Thursday afternoon and say 'Inn-gland'.
You'll be able to follow the story and every twist and turn with me in Zurich and a star-studded panel in the Sky Sports News studio in London from 2pm on Thursday.
Last week's results were probably the best in the two years that I have been writing this blog.
Both the dark horses I highlighted - Tocca Ferro at 7/2 and Kid Cassidy (13/8) - won at Newbury's Winter Festival, while Burton Port hit the bar in the Hennessy.
As I feared, the Springboks bought England back down to earth at Twickenham but the most satisfactory result of the lot was West Ham's 3-1 win against Wigan to land our 'bet of the weekend' because I was given heaps of good natured abuse about it on my Twitter page (@skysports_ed) .
One unnamed punter wrote "forget West Ham Ed. No chance. The bet of the weekend is Blackburn to beat Man Utd". Judge.
Like many cricket fans I'm sure, I felt physically and mentally exhausted after watching the compelling first Ashes Test in Brisbane. Only four to go.
The cricket is compulsive viewing through the night because these two sides are so evenly matched, meaning there are constant shifts in momentum and the rest of the series looks hard to predict. That's reflected in Sky Bet's series prices which have Australia and England both at 11/8 and a drawn series at 10/3. I'm still hopeful for my prediction of a 2-2 draw (now 8/1) but will need some better bowling and 'sportier' wickets.
The next match starts late on Thursday night in Adelaide, live on Sky Sports HD1, and Sky Bet have both sides at 9/4 and the draw at 11/10, which looks pretty short.
I think England will take more from the Brisbane Test as their bowling attack looks the more menacing and more of their batsmen look in form. We must not get carried away, as many did before Brisbane, because we are up against a tough side you have two great batsmen in top form - Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.
My one worry is my usual one in this blog - do England have the balance in their side to win an Ashes series? I would still love to see England play five bowlers. I fear it won't be long before the workload on our three frontline quicks starts to tell toll as those long sessions on flat pitches with a soft Kookaburra will take their toll and have them on their knees by Christmas. In those periods a game can also easily slip away against tired seamers or our fill-in bowlers. Andrew Strauss could do with more options.
Hennessy Day at Newbury was freezing cold with red hot racing. I think we may have seen the 2011 Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup winner last Saturday. Just like this time last year I followed Binocular over another cliff. Walking in to the racecourse one esteemed Racing Post journalist warned me that of you study Binocular's form closely, he never wins when it's cold. I laughed. It turns out that he's probably spot on as it's becoming increasingly clear that reigning champion is a spring horse and will get better when it gets warmer. How about a switch to Godolphin? He's 7/2 with Sky Bet to retain his crown and I'd fancy him to get his revenge on Peddlers Cross (6/1).
Denman ran a great race in the Hennessy and as soon as Paul Nicholls said he would put him away now and come back in March for the Gold Cup I thought he had to be the bet at 8/1 with Sky Bet. Denman has to be fresh, which he hasn't been for the last two years in the Gold Cup following mis-haps, and I'd fancy him to turn the tables on the young pretenders from Saturday - Diamond Harry (12/1) and Burton Port (16/1) - at Cheltenham
I was thrilled to see two of the three dark horses I put up at the start of the season Kid Cassidy and Tocca Ferro bolt up at Newbury. Kid Cassidy looked like a machine on Friday and really impressed his jockey, while Tocca Ferro continues to improve at a rate of knots. They didn't go fast enough for him on Saturday and he doesn't do a tap in front so still looks a fair way in front of the handicapper and looks tailor-made for the Tote Gold Trophy. He is going to be a serious chaser.
Sky Bet's title odds: 6/4 Chelsea, 7/4 Man Utd, 9/2 Arsenal, 10/1 Man City, 20/1 Tottenham, 100/1 Liverpool, 750/1 bar
Chelsea continue on the slide and are now 6/4 with Sky Bet to win the title, having been odds on only a couple of weeks ago, with Man Utd shortening again from 9/4 to 7/4 after their seven goals against Blackburn. Arsenal are unchanged at 9/2, Man City yo-yo again out to 10/1 and Tottenham's odds have been slashed to just 20/1.
Last weekend was the first in Premier League history to see every team score and none keep a clean sheet. A total of 41 goals equalled the PL record and there were thrills, spills and great goals all round the country.
West Ham made it six out of eight winning "bets of the weekend" and hopefully we can continue that run on Saturday. I shall be checking the team news, stats and odds from Zurich later in the week and post the NAP on Twitter, where you can also get all the market movers and prices @skybet. My Super 6 selections will also be on www.skybet.com