Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

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The Independent Online

Just as spring establishes itself, with sunny evenings and bright mornings, the top 32 snooker players will, from today, seek out the darkness of a Sheffield bunker.

It seems perverse to have snooker's showpiece event, the World Championship, at such a time, as it's always felt like a winter sport, whose climax should be at Christmas. This won't stop thousands of devotees flocking to the Crucible Theatre where outside events - volcanic dust falls, changes of government – will pass unheeded as the green baize takes hold.

Remarkably, two old champions are still in the field, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis. Between 1981 and 1999 they won 13 titles between them. Now power rotates between Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins who have three championships each.

O'Sullivan is the 4-1 favourite, with Higgins at 5-1 (Victor Chandler), but nobody knows which Ronnie will turn up – the "Rocket" or the "Damp Squib" who recently lost in the first round of the China Open. I'm ignoring both for last year's tip, runner-up Shaun Murphy (14-1 generally), and Mark Selby (9-1, sportingbet) who is overdue a big win – £5 each-way on both.

There's a stack of fortune-changing football matches this weekend and three are local derbies – Manchester City (15-8, Chandler) can beat United; Chelsea (evens, Skybet) can beat Spurs; and Roma (evens) can beat Lazio. £10 on each selection.

*Congratulations to A P, J P and J J – Messrs McCoy, McManus and O'Neill on their Grand National success. My horses also had familiar initials: F, U, B, PU – fell, unseated, brought down, and pulled up.

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