By far my favourite annual event to punt on is Eurovision. It’s a rare event where bookmakers are extremely competitive and yet it is possible to have a big edge over them. I don’t think many horse-racing punters can beat the sum knowledge of a big bookmakers trading room. The chips are stacked in the bookmakers favour, even seasoned punters will acknowledge that. However with Eurovision you can study the videos and live performances, take into account valuable opinions (from knowledgeable people who thankfully don’t punt), and develop a knowledge on scoring systems and trends that mean you can punt with a hand stacked in your favour.
Closer to the event there will be a huge variety of markets where there will be plenty of wrong prices to avail of, but at the moment the outright market is the only real game in town. Bookmakers are offering 1/4 the odds 4 places but realistically there are only ten to twelve runners that can win. Once we get to see rehearsals that number will be down to somewhere between four and eight and yet there will still be 4 places available. That doesn’t mean the four places will be filled by just favourites but I would say it’s likely three of the first four places will come from the top 6 in the betting. Therefore it is a glorious each way punting proposition.
For the purposes of this blog I’m going to focus on the top ten in the betting at the moment and rule them in or out. We can then have a brief look at the outsiders.
In case you’re wondering about Ireland or the UK, both are atrocious in their own little way. Ireland won’t qualify from its very strong semi-final and the UK will finish in the bottom five or six.
Just one small point: Eurovision voting is based 50/50 on televoting and jury voting from each country. So there will be a lot of references to this. To win Eurovision you need to do very well with both.
Ruled Out (in order of betting market best price)
- Czech Republic (7/1) – derivative, dislikeable and dated Justin Timberlake tripe. There is no vocal range and live performances are not encouraging. Jurors won’t like this and televoters will see through Mikolas in a heartbeat.
- Australia (14/1) – it sounds like fucking Steps. That’s enough of a reason to rule it out. I have a feeling they might rescue it with a brilliant stage show and hit top 5 but the song is so weak and so dated it cannot win.
- Bulgaria (16/1) – no chorus and too disjointed with so many performers.
- Norway (22/1) – that’s not how you write a song. No amount of energy and stagecraft can hide how bad this song is.
- Netherlands (22/1) – this is only so high in the betting because Netherlands surprised with a country number in 2014. The difference here is this song sounds like Bon Jovi and a Nashville song generating algorithm had a baby.
The main contenders
This elimination process has left me with the following; each of which I will deal with in turn: Israel (15/8), Estonia (11/2), Belgium (12/1), Sweden (16/1) and France (22/1).
The Israeli song was one of the last announced and the betting markets grabbed Netta as favourite with both hands as the market struggled to take shape. I wonder if it was announced in February would it be in its current market position? Personally I doubt it. It is definitely a strong song with good hooks and it can certainly win. However it is a terrible price and there are loads of reasons to take it on. Firtsly Netta’s performances can be very aggressive and she could alienate a lot of televoters instantly. Her other major problem is her vocals. When it comes to the juries vocals are EVERYTHING. From viewing her live performances the vocals can be sketchy at times and Toy is a song that doesn’t give much opportunity to give an expansive vocal performance that jurors like to see. It could be odds on come the final and I’ll be getting my laying boots firmly strapped on.
The Estonian entry is an average operatic number with an amazing vocal performance. It looks nailed on for a strong jury showing but it’s too short in the betting at the moment to merit consideration. The entire performance is likely too old fashioned for televoters. It’s one to watch closely in rehearsals however.
Belgium should have won last year but a really weak staging let down the best song in the competition and they finished 4th. This year they come with a “Bond” number with a very competent performance. My main concern is a better Bond song won in 2014 and there are better songs in this competition. I wouldn’t put you off an each way bet if you fancy it but I don’t think it has enough gravitas to win the contest.
The Swedes tend to send a competent male pop-robot and this year is no different. The contemporary sound and likely show-stopping staging will give this song every chance of a strong showing but the breathy vocals and clinical nature of the song are off-putting for me and there isn’t enough of a hook in the chorus to grab televoters. I could see this song winning or finishing tenth but at the moment I am veering towards the latter. Rehearsals may change my views.
And so we come to France. Mercy was the second song revealed for the competition way back in the depths of January and I strongly feel it went under the radar. The song is contemporary electro-pop with excellent vocals. It sounds modern, unique amongst the competition, and importantly it has a strong political message about refugees crossing the Mediterranean (I suggest you watch this for yourself before you back it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T3EGaIwIbA).
When commentators discuss the songs message on the night it will no doubt hit home with voters. More important is the song itself and its structure lends itself perfectly to becoming a fan favourite. The serious message of the song fits in beautifully with the slow-tempo build-up to the chorus. As well as the likeable more up-tempo chorus the song has a memorable hook where it builds to a crescendo of repetitions of Mercy. Fans in Lisbon will know the catchy hand action that goes along with this part of the song and it will look powerful in the large hall. I see no problems with the song scoring well with juries as it is packed with integrity, intensity and it’s a chart friendly number.
The one major worry is the outfits and staging. The black clothing worn in national finals is drab and the male performer who sombrely strums the guitar distracts and drags down the performance. If France can tweak these issues, potentially turning the weaknesses to strengths, then they are a massive price at 22/1. I have had a big each way bet and I could easily envisage a scenario whereby Israel wins semi-final one and goes off 8-11 with France a coming force at second favourite on the night.
One of the outsiders will spring from nowhere and hit the top 5. The realisation that the market has missed a contender may happen at rehearsals or it may happen at the semi-finals. Two I would flag up are Portugal (66-1 each way or 180 win on Betfair), and Switzerland (500-1 each way). Portugal come with another smokey, jazz number and given that is what they won with last year it has been overlooked. I think it’s one of the stronger songs and rehearsals will be fascinating to see how it’s received. I have had a small win bet at 180 and a moderate each way bet at 66-1. The Swiss song sounds like a Pink chart-hit to my ears and I find the tempo and cadence uplifting. The problem is the female lead’s outfit choice and performance doesn’t fit the song. If you decide to back it I suggest a €1 each way stake. That’s about all it’s worth.
The dream double
Landing the Grand National / Eurovision double is my holy grail. With the shape of the race this year I am looking for a big-priced, low weighted, guaranteed stayer. Beeves ran up a sequence of staying chases last summer without going up too much in the handicap and returned for this campaign with two runs that culminated in a moderate run in the cross country chase at Cheltenham. If that experiment is forgiven he could well outrun his 100/1 odds. He has been over the National fences before, finishing a far from disgraced 8th of 22 in the Becher on his seasonal reappearance in 2016. He led for most of the race before understandably tiring but he showed plenty of relish for the unique challenge of the Aintree obstacles. A €2 each way double returns around €5,000 with Betfair and Paddy Power when the duo inevitably romp to victory!
To sum up……
For those of you rightly scrolling to the end for the selections:
- France 22/1 each way is a fantastic bet
- Portugal 66/1 is best of the outsiders
- Beeves for the Nash at 100/1 with a nice 2,323/1 each way double with France
Come Eurovision week I will be writing for the Racing Post. You will be able to find my thoughts there. Inevitably I will be tipping something I probably ruled out above.