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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Michael Smith can keep his cool on the oche

Corey Cadby also dangerous

Michael Smith ran Rob Cross close at Alexandra Palace
1 of 1

Tournament preview
ITV4, midday Friday

Snow has threatened to wipe out this year’s first major, but Michael van Gerwen and the game’s other top stars have slipped and skidded their way to Minehead to give the Coral UK Open their best shot.

Mighty Mike missed out 12 months ago because of an injury and watched rival Peter Wright go all the way.

This year, Storm Emma looked like it was going to derail the world number one's bid for a third UK Open title - the Premier League event in Exeter was called off - but, as of Thursday night, the FA Cup of darts is on at Butlin’s.

Several stars – among them James Wilson and Willie O’Connor – have been beaten by the weather while many fans were last night questioning the wisdom of the organisers going ahead with the three-day tournament as planned given that the Somerset resort is right on the border of one of the Met Office’s red no-go areas.

Van Gerwen, inevitably, goes off the odds-on favourite, but one thing we know about this competition is that there will be shocks galore.

Gerwyn Price was a 150-1 finalist last year while Robert Thornton won the title at that price. Two other arrowsmiths – Shayne Burgess and Gary Mawson – have made finals at even bigger prices.

The reason for the anarchic feel is that there is a ‘floor’ atmosphere at the event with several boards in use, enabling camera-shy darters to flourish away from the main televised boards. And there is also an open draw from round three onwards so even the 32 top players who come into the event at that stage are offered no protection.

But you’ve only got to look at the roll call of previous winners to realise that the cream still manages to rise to the top and Van Gerwen is, therefore, hard to oppose. We’ve also seen enough flashes of brilliance in the Premier League from the likes of Rob Cross, Gary Anderson and Wright to know that the next three in the betting all have claims.

But then come some seriously interesting alternatives who, with a splash of good fortune in the draw, would consider themselves genuine contenders.

Michael Smith is the obvious one. He has won four out of four on his Premier League return and reached two finals in the six qualifiers, winning one with Van Gerwen among his victims.

Bully Boy is producing on the big stage these days and is only going to get better.

It may also be worth giving Kim Huybrechts a chance at three-figure odds.

The Hurricane endured a miserable 2017 but family issues were the backdrop to his tough year and a first-round exit at Alexandra Palace was almost inevitable.

The new year has brought a new sense of optimism, however, and Huybrechts has started with a bang. In the ten ranking events he has played in this winter he has made the board final every time, going on to reach one quarter-final and one semi.

The Belgian’s head looks to be in a good place and that makes him dangerous.

Also dangerous is Corey Cadby, the bright young thing of Aussie darts and a player who has won on the tour this season.

A prodigious young talent and utterly fearless, Cadby thrives on the atmosphere of the big stage and has beaten all the top stars.

M Smith
1pt e-w 28-1 BoyleSports
C Cadby
1pt e-w 28-1 general
K Huybrechts
1pt e-w 100-1 general

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Smith has won four out of four on his Premier League return
E.W. Terms
Sky bet