• Top Tens

Horsing around with footballers

Ben Blackmore March 9, 2012
Dial 999 to get a tenner placed on the nose of Mario Balotelli © PA Photos

With the magnificence of the Cheltenham Festival set to commence on Tuesday, we at ESPN towers have put our thinking caps on to pick out ten horses worth backing.

However, far from being any normal tipping guide, form, fitness and class all go out the window for our special accumulator, which instead picks out ten horses who can be likened to Premier League footballers...

Call The Police - Mario Baloteli
Where better to start than with Manchester City's wild card? This one could literally bring anything to the table at Cheltenham. Not one for staying in his stables, this Italian stallion has been known to wander around female prisons just because he "felt like having a look", while back at the ranch the odd fire has broken out on account of fireworks in the bathroom. Also known to ruin expensive Audis whilst carrying £5,000 in his pocket "because he is rich", this tip is never far away from the authorities - hence the name. It's all or nothing with this one, so get a tenner on the nose.

Get Me Out Of Here - Carlos Tevez
A stable-mate of Call The Police, the price on this Manchester City-trained horse is extremely high, which will quash nearly everybody's interest in him. Recently shown to be overweight and undertrained after going AWOL, he has nevertheless being going through a three-week fitness regime to return him to former glories. Does not enjoy the conditions and harbours a disliking for his trainer, but there can be no doubting his quality nor his desire to take the fight to the opposition. Possibly worth waiting to see if he is willing to warm up on the day before placing your bet.

China Rock - Ledley King
When the Tottenham Hotspur veteran is fit and ready for action there isn't a more reliable horse in training. A rock that the nation would ideally see on the biggest stage, his body is unfortunately about as sturdy as a paper climbing frame. Does not train in the build-up to race week but still more than capable of producing on a one-off basis, the 31-year-old has pace to burn and (on recent evidence at the Emirates) will only buckle when facing his arch rival.

Great Endeavour - Dirk Kuyt
Almost the polar opposite to China Rock, here we have a Liverpool-based charge not blessed with staggering pace but almost unrivalled over long distances. Energy to burn and a fantastic attitude, his owners had to wait over six years for him to deliver a first trophy, but now he is threatening to land more. Willing to cover every blade of grass, the ultimate each way bet.

The Midnight Club - Jermaine Pennant
Not the most trustworthy pick in the bunch, Stoke City's wideboy is nevertheless an unpredictable force. Previously tagged as a colt, it was thought that the former Birmingham and Liverpool-based horse was a more mature prospect nowadays, but that proved to be a false dawn when he was caught out of his stables at 5am on the morning of a race. Excellent on his day, although "his day" only arrives once every few months so take him as an each way shout at best.

Like for like at Arsenal © PA Photos

Kauto Stone - Theo Walcott
Recognised as the poor man's version of Kauto Star, this particular horse already knows that there is a better version of him at his north London stables. Initially emerging as a potential world beater, he has never gone on to reach those heights and increasingly lives in the shadows of his mirror image - who looks the far better technician. Nevertheless he goes down as the quickest pick on our card, and only a lack of race craft will prevent him racing away from the pack.

Divers - Luis Suarez
A true gamble for the risk-taker in you. Brought to the country with a big reputation and at no little cost, this nag is known in Holland for biting his rivals. That won't be the main problem here though, with the horse's tendency to fall the biggest concern. Little encouragement has been needed in the past for him to go down, but when he's on his feet he is capable of pure magic. Expect a stewards enquiry into this one, and watch out for a lack of sportsmanship as he aggravates rival horses.

Gift Of Dgab - Harry Redknapp
The oldest runner on our card, here we have a challenger capable of working miracles. A real charmer away from the track, almost the entire country will be behind the Tottenham favourite come race day. Credited for being able to produce results despite little investment, there was a chance of him being withdrawn due to document issues, but with those now behind him he should be set for a big summer. Should be fine as long as the race doesn't prove too taxing.

Heads On The Ground - Chris Smalling
A young up-and-comer with excellent balance, it was nevertheless an eye-opener when Old Trafford opened its doors to this relatively unknown prospect from London. Versatile and comfortable in a number of scenarios, the fear will be the horse's own bravery. Suffered a sickening collision during a recent outing at Wembley, but should recover in time to renew rivalries with Great Endeavour.

I'm So Lucky - Frank Lampard
Our tenth and final pick has been known for suffering with weight issues throughout his career, but when it comes to fortuitous individuals there are few superior. Often wins races by deflecting off others at crucial moments and recently kicked up a fuss when not used by his former trainer. He also has the tendency to form cliques within his stable. Surrounded by dangerous influences, but not as much of a donkey as his Nigerian stable-mate.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ben Blackmore Close
Ben Blackmore is deputy editor of ESPN.co.uk