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Confident Wright is set to rock Blackpool.

Master o Steve D pinpoints best bets Blackpoo of darts avies s the s for ol IT'S a landmark week in Blackpool where Phil Taylor, a 15-time World Matchplay winner and one of the originals, graces the stage at the Winter Gardens for a final time.

Twenty-three years after he took part in the first World Matchplay, many would dearly love the 56-year-old to sign off by lifting the trophy again, especially those who have put their cash on The Power at 25-1. He came close last year, reaching the final for a 16th time. And for all his talk about enjoying his farewell tour under no pressure, he's the ultimate competitor and will be desperate to claim the winner's cheque.

This year, though, with the quality of arrowsmith in the 32-man field as good as it has ever been, punters are looking at other suspects to go all the way with Michael van Gerwen considered a good thing by many.

The world number one, winner of the last two Matchplays, is odds-on to complete the hat-trick with the Scottish duo of Gary Anderson and Peter Wright next in the betting.

Van Gerwen, the reigning world champ and undisputed king of the sport, is hard to dislike and should have no trouble reaching the quarters, where he may well be crossing tungsten with The Power. The Green Machine will carry bags of cash on his shoulders and is absolutely the man to beat.

Of the Scots, Wright is preferred and looks the in-form alternative to van Gerwen.

You need to keep your cool in the furnace of the Winter Gardens and Snakebite can do that.

He came of age in March when he broke his major duck by winning the Coral UK Open in Minehead and clinched his ninth title of a productive 2017 earlier this month when he landed the spoils at the European Open.

Wright, who also made it to the final of the Betway Premier League where he had Van Gerwen on the ropes, has managed to beat the Dutch colossus three times this year, so his confidence has to be through the roof.

As for Anderson, the double world champ is getting accustomed to new darts and while he can still be breathtaking, this isn't a tournament where he has ever truly produced his best.

That also applies to compatriot Robert Thornton, who has lost six times in round one in seven visits, Jelle Klaasen, who has suffered four first-round exits in five attempts, and Kim Huybrechts, who has endured a full house of five first-round exits.

Adrian Lewis had surgery just two weeks ago so it's anyone's guess how he will go, though writing off James Wade on the grounds of indifferent form is always a risk since this tournament seems to bring out the best in the six-time finalist.

Two dark horses to consider in their quarters are Rob Cross and Mensur Suljovic.

Cross has had a stunning breakthrough year with two floor wins and is claiming big scalps galore, none bigger than Van Gerwen who he chinned 6-2 at the European Open.

He's got the game - it's how he copes with the big-stage pressure that will determine whether he can have a decent run, but he looks a class thrower.

Suljovic has become a serial semi-finalist. He is up to number seven in the world and everything points to a last-eight clash with Anderson, who the Austrian can frustrate.

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Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 22, 2017
Words:576
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