The month of February has punting markets galore.
First off, we must, at the risk of forgetting later, make mention of the NFL Super Bowl, which will be Monday morning, February 6. Sportsbet has almost 200 markets open for the biggest gridiron game of the year between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The Las Vegas Sportsbooks report that when the Patriots won it all against the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, almost $US116 million was riding on the outcome, second only to the $US119.4 million that was in play in 2014 when the Seattle Seahawks sledged the Denver Broncos in 2014.
Since we are focusing for the moment on U.S. sports, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League are in the midst of their home and away seasons and will be for the next several months.
The US PGA Tour will be back in full swing (sorry) in February, where four lucky and proficient professional golfers will walk away with $1 million-plus top prizes every week, beginning with the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona, proceeding to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, followed by the Genesis Open and concluding with the Honda Classic. The latter three are held at various California venues. Tiger Woods will be back on a regular basis, looking to reclaim the top spot currently occupied by Jason Day.
Enough of that then. There are plenty of domestic markets that will offer betting markets as a means of keeping punter interest levels stoked.
Autumn thoroughbred racing moves into high gear in February. Group 1 racing returns with the 1400 m C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield, where weight for age conditions ensures a field of proven winners. Flemington gets into the act with its own weight for age offering, the 1000 m Group 1 Lightning Stakes. There are three Group 1 races at the Heath on February 25, with the Blue Diamond Stakes assembling a field of the best two-year-olds that might include Black Caviar’s first foal Oscierta. The 1400 m Futurity Stakes has featured wins by some of the most legendary horses in the history of Australian racing, such as three-time consecutive winners Ajax and Manikato, along with Phar Lap.
The other race on the card at Caulfield that day is the Oakleigh Plate. February Group 1 racing for February concludes with the Chipping Norton Stakes at Warwick Farm; it is a weight for age classic made famous by Tie The Knot’s four consecutive wins 1999 – 2002, the last coming when he was a grizzled seven-year-old. Last year’s was won by super mare Winx.
Plenty of Group 2 and three races as well, 36 to be precise, along with the regular menu of trots and greyhounds, so racing punters might find themselves approaching March in a state of sleep deprivation.
Cricket punters, we would be remiss if we did not mention that with a few days left in January, the BBL final is on tap, with the Perth Scorchers going against the Sydney Sixers.
There are so many One Day Internationals, International Twenty20 matches, Sheffield Shield matches getting underway on February 1, a late-month India v Australia Test Series, that we find ourselves unable to lay them all out.
Basketball fans, along with the NBA, have many good opportunities to take in the markets offered by Australia’s NBL, which is having a banner year and producing some high quality play. There are typically around 100 markets going at any one time with match betting and props for men’s and women’s basketball.
Racing fans of the internal combustion variety will find plenty of markets already open, including futures for the 2017 Formula 1 season that launches in late March, commencing in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix. Somewhere, sometime, petrol is being ignited and rubber is being burned, so all punters need do is click on motor racing to find all manner of wagers.
Something new for 2017, something over which we are feeling downright giddy, is the inaugural season of the AFLW, the women’s version of the AFL. This will get underway on February 3, with the Collingwood and Carlton sides having the honour of taking the first bounce. Interest was so high that the first game had to be moved from Olympic to IKON Park to handle the swell of spectators. There will be eight teams playing over a seven-week home and away season, with the Grand Final scheduled for March 25. The venue for that game has yet to be determined, but we hope to see interest so high that the MCG is the only option.
We know there are soccer fans out there, but those of you who stake that claim know that the game is essentially a year-round affair. The English Premier League is still at the top of the heap, but there are matches of exceptional quality being played across the world. Far too many to mention and our scrolling fingers nearly developed blisters just trying to get a handle on the number of markets. Round 18 of the Hyundai A-League inaugurates February and the Hyundai A-League is having a banner year, with the level of play ascending to greater heights that will soon have the international poachers salivating. Sydney FC is leading the 10-team league and has not dropped a game yet this season.
It is currently winter in the northern hemisphere, but for reasons we have never been able to fathom, the Australian bookmakers do not seem to give anything other than short shrift to Alpine sports. Perhaps it is because Aussies are too busy sweltering during the southern hemisphere summer to give much thought to sliding downhill on frozen ice crystals, but we hope to see some shift in attitude, at least for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea, if not sooner.