April has to be one of the greatest months all year for sports.
The NRL is in full swing. The AFL has bounced and by the time the sixth round finishes out the month, or nearly so, all the speculation of the pre-season will be replaced by the reality of which clubs have a legitimate pursuit of silver and which need to raise their game to avoid wood.
All the racing codes have something going basically every day and thoroughbred punters have the biggest month of the year save October and November in terms of high quality races that set the stage for the spring carnival in the months ahead.
Many levels of cricket and soccer offer myriad punting opportunities, with a strong international component added to the mix. In the U.S. all the major sports leagues other than the NFL are jockeying for playoff position. The NBA and the NHL will conclude their regular seasons with teams fighting to maintain high placings or desperately battling for inclusion in the playoffs. Major League Baseball gets underway for the launch of a 162-game marathon that lasts until well into November.
Round two launches top-level Australian Rules Football on the first day of the month. Two key contests are the Dockers v Suns on Saturday, 2 April and the big game of the round is the replay of last year’s Grand Final featuring the Hawks and the Eagles.
Round three games of interest include the Eagles against the team that finished atop the ladder last season, the Dockers, and there will be keen interest in the Bulldogs v Hawks game Sunday, 10 April as fans follow the continued ascension of the Bulldogs to see what they can do against the premiers.
Rounds 4, 5 and 6 will also offer compelling games and thousands of betting markets.
Round five leads off the month of April for the NRL. The Brisbane Broncos are off to a strong start and currently reside in second place. They will meet the seventh ranked Titans on Friday, 1 April as the Broncos come off their epic revenge against the Cowboys. Another game worth attention will be the Bulldogs v Raiders.
Round six action features a key match between the Melbourne Storm and the Bulldogs that will have supporters at AAMI Park drooling. Everyone’s favourite underachievers, the Parramatta Eels, will have to be at their slipperiest in order to best the current number four Canberra Raiders.
Cricket fans need to have several heads in order to follow all the April action. The T20 World Cup takes centre stage, with international teams of men and women vying for bragging rights for their homelands. New Zealand, England and West Indies occupy favourable slots in the eyes of the bookmakers, but India and Australia could have quite a say in the ultimate outcome.
The English Premier League has much on the schedule during April. Eight matches on 2 April alone offer almost 500 markets, so opportunities abound for all manner of punts. Here in Australia, A-League matches dot the calendar, with most games offering 15 or more markets on an ongoing basis.
April represents the continuation of hot racing action from March, with the majority of the G1 action at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse. The prestigious 1600 m open handicap Doncaster Handicap, the 1200 m weight-for-age TJ Smith Stakes, the 2400 m set-weight for three-year-olds Australian Derby and the 1400 m set-weight for two-year-olds Sires Produce Stakes will showcase some of the finest gallopers in the country, both the up-and-comers and the well-established.
Over in WA, Ascot hosts the G2 Karrakatta Plate, the premier two-year-old race of the Perth Racing Autumn Carnival, along with the WA Oaks for three-year-old fillies.
The following weekend is again a big one at Randwick, with four G1 races, including the 2000 m Queen Elizabeth Stakes, 1600 m Queen of the Turf Stakes, the 2400 m Australian Oaks and the highlight of the day, the 3200 m Sydney Cup that has seen champions such as Makybe Diva and Kingston Town run to glory.
With a total of 36 Group Races in April, the classiest horses will be on display in those and other black type events. Of course, the country tracks will have near continuous action and there will be harness and dog racing to occupy any spare moments.
MAJOR US SPORTS
April will see basketball and hockey taking center stage as the best-of series get started to determine the winner of the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in the NBA and the Stanley Cup in the National Hockey League.
Last Year’s NBA Championship winning Golden State Warriors look even better this season, but the San Antonio Spurs are nearly as formidable and since both those team play in the Western Conference, it seems as though the Western Conference finals will be something of a de facto championship, because none of the teams from the Eastern Conference, except for perhaps the King James led Cleveland Cavaliers, belong on the same court with the Warriors or the Spurs, meaning that the actual NBA Finals series might be anti-climactic to some extent.
As for ice hockey, half the league qualifies for the playoffs and eight of those teams are hardly deserving, but the top eight teams need to dispose of them in the preliminary playoff rounds that occupy most of April. The entire series gets underway in mid-April and takes until mid-June to conclude. The Chicago Blackhawks, last year’s champs have slipped in the eyes of the bookmakers this year to fourth-favourite, behind the Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings.
The PGA conducts its first Major of the year, The Masters, at history-steeped Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and if the early part of the year is any indication, Australians look to figure prominently in the quest for the coveted Green Jacket, not to mention the $1.8 million for first place and all the playing privileges the winner receives. Last year it was young Texan Jordan Spieth cashing the check, but Adam Scott is a threat to take his second and Jason Day is a credible competitor as well. With about a fortnight until the first tee shot is hit, Sportsbet has Day, Spieth and McIlroy as $8 favourites with Adam Scott lurking at $10.