Athletics Betting: Not such a Bolt out of the blue
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking Bolt - his 9.82 season-opener in Kingston showed he has lost none of his ability
Jack Houghton believes the fastest man in the world will have to be better than he was in Ostrava to beat Rome field.
The headline act in Rome is Usain Bolt: an athlete I've always managed to be on the wrong side of from a betting point-of-view. Prior to Beijing, I didn't believe his fast early-season times would be reproduced in a major championship, and, ever since, I've always laid him because his odds seemed to be too short given the nature of the event.
Always, that is, with the exception of Daegu, where I eventually thought it time to believe he was superhuman, right before he made a very human mistake.
Okay, he hasn't cost me a lot of money - laying (1.20) shots who go on to win isn't an expensive hobby - but I'm painfully aware that I seem doomed to always get Usain Bolt wrong.
It is with a certain amount of trepidation, then, that I recommend a lay of him in Rome at around (1.34).
It is still early in the season, and Bolt is keen to make clear to anyone that will listen that his only focus is Olympic glory, not pot-hunting on the European grand-prix circuit, so he might not be fully primed for Rome. It's also worth remembering that, at this meeting last year, Bolt only just nudged aside Asafa Powell, and wasn't that far ahead of Christophe Lemaitre in third - athletes who reoppose this year. On top of all that, it's hard to forget Bolt's performance in Ostrava last week, where he came out of the blocks with all the intent of a gelatinous geriatric, recording a pedestrian 10.04. He's blamed that lacklustre run on an unexplained lethargy, but whatever the reason, it's certain that a similar performance on Thursday night will see him beaten.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking Bolt - his 9.82 season-opener in Kingston showed he has lost none of his ability - but at the prices this week, I'd rather be a layer than a backer.
Elsewhere on the card, the women's 800m looks fascinating.
With Pamela Jelimo, Mariya Savinova, Caster Semenya, Janeth Jepkosgei and Fantu Magiso Manedo running - athletes likely to be fighting for the medals in this event in London - organisers would have struggled to assemble a stronger field, and yet I fully expect Jelimo to win comfortably, establishing an early-season dominance that she can carry through to the Olympics. The market is fairly illiquid at the time of writing, but I'll be looking to get 3pts on at Betfair odds of around (1.70), which should be achievable given the depth of this field.
In the women's 5,000m I make Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot a (1.45) shot, with Meseret Defar around (3.02). There wasn't much between them over 3,000m in Doha, and I'll be watching the early betting exchanges to see where the value is.