For me in this past 12 months you would struggle to find a horse better than Thistlecrack over hurdles winning 5/5 in the past 12 months including big wins at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree. He will make a step in his career this Tuesday however running his first ever race over fences at Chepstow. The entire world of Horse Racing will have eyes on Thistlecrack on his first time over fences and I’m sure that a lot of people will have a bet on him whether that be to win or laying him on one of the numerous betting exchanges. Depending on what odds he goes off at. Trainer Colin Tizzard has made it no secret that he want’s his 8 year old thoroughbred to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year which is my favourite race of the year alongside the Grand National of course. It is a testament to Thistlecrack’s ability over fences that he is already 7/1 favourite for the Gold Cup despite never being seen jumping fences however if he can jump well and run the way he does over hurdles you may very well be looking at the next Gold Cup winner. 7/1 for the Gold Cup could be the bet of the century depending on how well he looks after Tuesday as i suspect he will drop to around 3/1 if he wins comfortably on Tuesday and may even go off as an odds on favourite by the time the race comes around depending on the field. If I were to back Thistlecrack on Tuesday though the odds would have to be above even money as I can never bring myself to bet on an unknown quantity however I think he will win easily as trainer Colin Tizzard has said that he jumps fences very well behind closed doors but nobody knows what will happen but by Tuesday afternoon we may have seen the Gold Cup winner.
My top 10 contenders for the Grand Prix title:
1. Michael Van Gerwen.
Even though I said that this won’t be as clear cut as other competitions in my previous post you still can’t look past Mighty Mike. This year he played the greatest darts match that the world has ever seen beating Michael Smith 7-1 in the premier league on his way to a world record 123.4 3 dart average the likes of which has never been seen before. Looking to bounce back from his Champions League defeat MVG is my pick to win this competition.
2. Phil Taylor
What more can you say? This countries most decorated sportsman 16 time world champion, 11 time winner of this competition. In recent times I have always been against Taylor as I want to see some new blood picking up the trophies, however last weekend I was firmly behind him as he deserved to be the inaugural Champions League winner as he is the undisputed greatest of all time.
3. Gary Anderson.
This man has completely changed his game in the past couple of years having become one of the most prolific double hitters in the game having previously struggled on them. The back to back world champions has a massive chance here and should easily make it to the semi final.
4. James Wade
A two time winner of this competition and for good reason. James Wade is an incredible player at this format as his doubling is better than his scoring so if his opponent stumbles at hitting the double to get started he will punish them heavily.
5. Raymond Van Barneveld
Similarly to Wade, Barney is a fantastic double hitter so if he can consistently get his first dart in he should progress to at least the quarter finals where he should meet The Machine himself in a game that could be a stormer.
6. Peter Wright.
My favourite player doesn’t have the best of chances in this tournament he needs to book up his ideas when it comes to hitting the doubles especially in this format but the draw has been kind to him giving him Brendan Dolan then either Robbie Green or Dave Chisnall. But i predict he will be eliminated in the QF by Phil Taylor.
7. Robert Thornton
Kind of strange to see the defending champion at odds of 66/1 Thornton has been looking forward to defending his crown all year long and I think he will produce his best at this tournament. As he showed in the Premier League when he is at his best he can take legs from anybody after getting a shock 6-6 draw with World number 1 Michael Van Gerwen.
8. Adrian Lewis
Why so low down? To say Lewis’ year has had a downward trajectory would be an understatement after reaching the World Championship final and the Premier League semis I had tipped Lewis to win a major this year. However as of late Lewis has been awful. As much as he will argue that he is doing well with people on twitter the fact of the matter is that he is bang out of form, being beaten in minor tournaments by relative nobodies such as Steve West and Ricky Williams he seriously needs to improve if he wants to win this tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him eliminated in the first round by Jelle Klaassen.
9. Jelle Klaasen
Impressed me massively at the World Championships but has endured a huge dip in form since. Being beaten by Steve Beaton at the Matchplay being one of the worst performances I have ever seen from Jelle Klaassen would be a huge contender if he gets past Lewis in the first round and regains his form.
10. Joe Cullen
Realistically Joe Cullen is not the 10th most likely player to win this competition it is probably Michael Smith or Dave Chisnall. However I have included Cullen because I have been very impressed with his performances this year including a whitewash of Gary Anderson, beating Stephen Bunting and taking Peter Wright very close. Cullen has a bright future in my opinion and if he can find his best darts this weekend he could reach the Quarter Finals
The World Grand Prix is the PDC event that can produce the biggest shock due to its Double In, Double out format. Meaning that there are so many more contenders for this crown than there is during any other tournament which means that for once this won’t just be contested between Van Gerwen, Taylor and Anderson as most PDC events are. Last year produced a shock winner in Robert Thornton a man who rarely challenges for major trophies with his best ever World Championship finish being the quarter finals in 2015.
However if there is one thing I would say about this tournament is that you can write off the 180 merchants of the darting world players like; Michael Smith, Dave Chisnall and Simon Whitlock who are in my opinion great players in an ordinary format however with the Grand Prix you have to hit a double to start and these boys aren’t the best at consistently hitting doubles. As highlighted by Smith and Chisnall’s disappointing Premier League campaigns with both being eliminated on judgement night despite being incredibly good scorers throughout the competition. These men will struggle as their opponent may already be down to a sub 300 score by the time they get started.
The Grand Prix in previous years has allowed players who usually wouldn’t get a sniff at a major final to progress incredibly far. For example Brendan Dolan who reached the 2011 final has never reached another major final as well as the current champion Robert Thornton who only has a UK Open title to his name.
The player who could be the dark horse this year in my opinion is Joe Cullen a man who I watched beat world champion Gary Anderson 6-0 in the German Darts Masters in a very impressive display is a newcomer to the Grand Prix however his draw has been quite kind to him meeting Simon Whitlock in the first round a player who has been on a decline and doesn’t perform brilliantly in the Grand Prix format then in the second round should he progress he will meet either Alan Norris or Michael Smith two men who are in a similar vein as Whitlock where they don’t play at there best in the format. In the quarter finals if all goes to plan Cullen would meet MVG where he would probably be beaten but do not write him off completely. Personally I believe that Van Gerwen will go on to win the entire tournament however I will fully write up my top 10 contenders in a future blog post.
I am a Sports Journalism Student at Leeds Trinity University, I will be using this blog to write about a range of sports stories and my views on them. My sports of expertise I would say are Football, Darts, UFC and Horse Racing. This blog will be used for my academic studies as well as some of my own personal articles. Within these sports I will primarily be writing about English, European and International football. In darts I will mostly be talking about the PDC not the BDO as it is a much higher standard and is more widely followed around the world.