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Diamond League Athletics: Outsiders are way to profit in Shanghai

Leonard Kosencha Kirwa: the 18-year-old could surprise Kiprop

"Just as we kept the outlay small in Doha, it is likely wise to maintain that strategy in Shanghai as we feel our way into this season of outdoor athletics: the information we have is growing, but it is still scant compared to what we will know as the summer moves in to full motion."

There are a plethora of stars who make their way to Shanghai this Saturday, writes Jack Houghton, but profit can be had by focusing attention on the lesser-feted athletes.

Although recommended stakes were only small, we managed to start the Diamond League off with a profit in Doha last week. Sure, Rooney looked overmatched in the 400m, but Pamela Jelimo delivered the spoils in the women's 800m, beating the 19-year-old Fantu Manedo Megiso (put up as the main danger), and setting up a rivalry for the season that will likely hit its zenith in London in August.

And just as we kept the outlay small in Doha, it is likely wise to maintain that strategy in Shanghai as we feel our way into this season of outdoor athletics: the information we have is growing, but it is still scant compared to what we will know as the summer moves in to full motion.

In Shanghai, the most anticipated event is likely to be the men's 110m Hurdles - especially by the local crowd, who will want to see if Liu Xiang can improve on his 13.09 in Kawasaki a fortnight ago. He will certainly need to be in decent form if he is to take the win, because, with the exception of Dayron Robles, who is currently out with a minor injured, the Shanghai field looks incredibly strong. Jason Richardson, Aries Merritt and David Oliver are all in with a realistic chance of taking gold in the Olympics, and to have this field assembled so early in the year is remarkable. It does mean, though, that from a betting point-of-view at least, it's hard to find an angle that is anymore than guesswork.

The men's 400m Hurdles, though, is a much more attractive betting proposition. Most of the attention will be focused on former world champion Bershawn Jackson and double-Olympic champion Angelo Taylor, but it's worth remembering that, despite their bedazzling trophy cabinets, they both bombed in the World Championships last year.

LJ van Zyl, on the other hand, delivered on a host of fast times he ran last season, picking up bronze in Daegu, despite running the final from lane eight. Of most interest, though, is van Zyl's tendency to run fast times in the early part of seasons. His world-leading time of 47.66 from last year was set in February, and repeated in May, so it would be no surprise to see him put down a decent mark in Shanghai. At the time of writing, the market is still fairly illiquid, but any price over 2.9015/8 should be considered value.

The race I'm looking forward to most, though, is the men's 800m. Asbel Kiprop - dominant over 1500m in recent major championships - comes down in distance to face a whole host of athletes who make their living over two laps. Given his athletic status, and the fact that he has regularly kicked off his season's campaign in May with a blistering 800m time, it is likely he will be well supported, but at long odds-on, there is value in finding someone with recent form who can take advantage of his ring-rustiness.

Fitting that bill, I will be splitting my stake between David Mutua, who looked solid when fifth behind David Rudisha in Doha last week, and the 18-year-old Kenyan sensation, Leonard Kosencha Kirwa, who ran a sub-1.45 in Daegu midweek.

The Diamond League meeting from Shanghai will be shown live on the BBC's Red Button on Saturday, from 1300 hrs (BST).

Recommendations:
1pt back LJ van Zyl at 2.9015/8 in men's 400m Hurdles.
1pt back David Mutua at 10.09/1 in men's 800m.
1pt back Leonard Kosencha Kirwa at 4.84/1 in men's 800m.

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18 May 2012

Athletics

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