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26th May 2024 3:12 pm

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

Ryder, Arc and Cyprus – work, work, work

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The Trustees of The Kneesup Foundation (World Peace through Gastronomy motto: Edere et bibere, et gaudeamus) have tasked me to fly to Cyprus to see if The Hon and I can help bring together this tiny, divided island through the simple act of redistributing the last few centimes left us by the crooks of this world. By touring around the Island, and eating in the various Tavernas, Tea Houses and Street stalls of this charming island, perhaps some tiny spark of friendship between Greece and Turkey might be ignited. The Hon and I will do our best.

Naturally, this will mean that I am unable to make any recommendations regarding sporting wagers, during my peace-keeping tour, as I shall be at the mercy of foreign technology.

I was in Cyprus once before in 1972, when I had to recuperate after another unresolved peace issue. I was ordered to fly from RNH Mtarfa in Malta to Cyprus in order to join an unnamed unit that had been briefed to bring me back to full fitness quickly. Suffice it to say that the Army thought it frightfully funny that I spent every day for two weeks, running uphill in 35C in ever-increasing amounts of kit – but not with the Army. Instead, they sent me to run with the Commandos, who once they finished laughing at my bleeding eyes, would tell me that one day I, too, would be a man like them. I never, ever ran downhill; I never, ever saw anything past the gates; and I can’t even remember if they had a Naafi. I do remember thinking that I might ritually disembowel myself with a canteen spoon, which would at least provide the green bereted buggers with a bit of a laugh. The island must have changed surely?

The Hon also mentioned that she had noticed that as regards peace-keeping I had been in Cyprus and Northern Ireland in 72, Kuwait and Iran in 74, and Guatemala in 75. All these places over the next few years suffered from political “hiccups”, but as I suggested en passant, that was simply a statistical happenstance.

Talking of mathematical aberrations, some thoughts on upcoming events.

RYDER CUP

The 44th Ryder Cup descends upon Rome on Friday with the European team seeking revenge for its 2021 defeat. The Europeans field a formidable squad, and the market is almost Evens the pair – albeit that as I write the favourites have flip-flopped!

Most of the superstars you see in a regular PGA Tour event are playing, including Americans Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele and even LIV star Brooks Koepka. The European side’s biggest names include Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

The course is Marco Simone, a par-71 that has hosted the Italian Open for the last three years, which Robert MacIntyre and Nicolai Hojgaard have both won. It’s a hilly course, 170 feet from the low point in the middle of the front nine to the high point on the back, requiring stamina from players and fans alike,  and with a venue filled with tight fairways and penal rough, a test similar to a U.S. Open with added volatility could unfold. Viktor Hovland suggested there would be very few ties from hole to hole.

Whatever bets you make, remember that not every player will play in every session. Rory McIlroy could see all five sessions, while someone like MacIntyre may only see two. If you are looking for the top points scorer, MacIntyre is rightfully listed last as this is almost common knowledge. These are my selections:

PLAYER TO GET MAX FIVE POINTS:

XANDER SCHAUFFELE 28/1 888, WillHill, Skybet ½ pt.

XS is playing with PATRICK CANTLAY (6/1 to be the top US scorer) in foursomes and will be guaranteed at least four sessions. I expect Schauffele and Cantlay to roll in foursomes and collect two points and at least one more in four-ball. If he plays well, there is a definite chance for him to play all five sessions.

TOP US ROOKIE:

WYNDHAM CLARK 11/4 Coral, Bet Victor 5 pts

WC has had two wins and six top-25 finishes in his last 10 starts on the PGA Tour leading up to The Ryder Cup. He finished on top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Open in June and he secured a T-3 finish in his last start at the Tour Championship. He’s got an all-around game that will work well in a team event and the 29-year-old’s stats as he arrives in Rome, show him ranked 11th in driving distance (313.5), 12th in strokes gained: total (1.201), 22nd in putting average (1.727), and 22nd in one-putt percentage (42.48%).

TOP USA POINT SCORER:

PATRICK CANTLAY 6/1 PaddyPower 5 pts

It’s reasonable to think that PC will get five sessions, and he is solid across a broad range of stats. I know Scottie Scheffler is better than him tee to green, but Cantlay is much stronger with a putter.

WINNER:

EUROPE 11/10 Betfred 10 pts

Playing at home gives a definite edge. (Back France in the RWC quick!). They have set up a course that suits the team’s strengths.

If I was going to have a punt on the Europeans, other than to win, I might have a go at top Event Rookie as being LUDVIG ABERG. However, I’m not that excited by 7/2 in a tricky market, where Brian Harman could just as easily become a team hero, as could Nicolai Hojgaard.

ARC DE TRIOMPHE ANTE-POST THOUGHTS

As regards the market, ACE IMPACT is the current 3/1 favourite with HUKUM generally 9/2. I expect them to be closer on Sunday. BAY BRIDGE is expected to be backed before the off, while the Gosden’s FREE WIND will shorten even more once the housewives have clocked that he’s ridden by Frankie. Reports suggest there hasn’t been much demand for CONTINUOUS, but that will change with his supplementation today. If you think that the might of Japanese bloodstock is a Tsunami in the making across the world’s major races – get an industry price – do not back him on the PMU – where he will be much shorter from the sheer weight of tourist money.

What wins? A three-year-old is a good starting point, and to my mind, the French 3yos have been superior this year to both English and Irish crops. FEED THE FLAME has had a pretty standard Arc prep. It is not unusual for an Arc winner to lose their last race, and FTF’s connections were not unduly put out by his defeat in the Prix Niel by FANTASTIC MOON. FTF also won the G1 Grand Prix de Paris, won by Saumarez, Peintre Celebre, Bago and Rail Link before taking the Arc. His fractions in that race were eye-catching but he is damnded tricky to ride on occasions witness his ride in the Prix Niel. He was too far back for the way the race unfolded and the drawn-out nature of the finish blunted his turn of foot, but he still went quicker than FANTASTIC MOON  through each of the final four sections, his penultimate split of 11.10sec being marginally the quickest of the race, and that was without feeling the whip. There is enough depth of form to keep HUKUM vying for favouritism. Arguably his King George is the best piece of form on offer and his beating of Pyledriver in the Coronation Cup, or Desert Crown over 1m2f in the Brigadier Gerard after a layoff was top drawer. BAY BRIDGE who, don’t forget, won last year’s Champion Stakes is probably too big at 14s, but that is possibly a reflection of Stoutey’s form. One thing is certain, however. FANTASTIC MOON has never been off the podium in any Group race in his career – and he has never raced in anything other than Group races. Of course, my old bookie would often tell me that no Germans ever had any class in anything, but that is patent tosh because he has an RP mark of 130 which is certainly good enough to win any Arc in the last ten years. He could win this easily – but he will almost certainly be placed and 14/1 from William Hill will show you a profit.

FANTASTIC MOON 5 pts e/w

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