Happpp…eee New Year!

The ITV cameras will be at Cheltenham on Sunday for their traditional New Year’s Day fixture, and also at Musselburgh. Six cracking races with which to see in the new year.

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ITV live races schedule; Cheltenham 1.20, 1.55, 2.30, and 3.05. Musselburgh 1.35, 2.45

Let’s take a wee look in greater detail at the delights on offer this afternoon.

Cheltenham 1.20

The Dipper Novices Chase, Grade 2, 2m 4 1/2 f

Some smart young ‘chasers look to add a prestigious Cheltenham victory to their CV.

Monmiral, for the all-powerful UK team of Nicholls/Cobden, heads the market at around 5/4. He kept Jonbon honest at Warwick, but was no match for that outstanding horse at the finish. No disgrace there.

He’s multiple-engaged for the Festival in March, and a performance of substance and quality is required here to fuel those dreams.

Thunder Rock (around a 9/4 shot) arrives in great heart after winning a decent Ascot novice readily. Another with a Festival entry, he’s the highest-rated in the field (150) and must have a fabulous chance.

They dominate the betting and could well do similar in the race. Thunder Rock has tackled this kind of trip more frequently than his main rival in the past, and that might just be a factor.

That, and the added bit of market value, tips the scales for me in his favour. Should be an absolute belter.

Selection – Thunder Rock to win


Musselburgh 1.35

Auld Reekie Chase, 2m 4f

Could there be a race-name with a more authentic ‘New Year’ flavour? Decent-sized field, nice prize, wide-open.

It’s 7/2 the field territory, and that brings in Minella Drama for the powerful McCain/Hughes combo, and Coopers Cross for the Coulthards.

‘Minella’ ran well behind Hitman at Haydock and shoulders top weight here of 12st. ‘Coopers’ gets over stone and is in decent order having won at Carlisle in Oct after a break, and finishing a respectable third at Aintree in much hotter company.

A bad mistake 3 out hampered his chances there, and I like him.

Iain Jardine saddles a couple – Half Shot (11/2) and Gold Des Bois (7/1). Both are no strangers to the winners’ enclosure. Baron De Midleton (around 6s) represents Brian Ellison, and has shown much-improved form on the last two occasions. Testing ground is evidently no problem, and a claimer reduces the featherweight burden by a further 7lb. Interesting.

The outstanding Lucinda Russell saddles a 33/1 outsider in Antey, and on any side of the border she is a force to be reckoned with. Might be an each-way play.

Selection – Coopers Cross to win, Antey e/w


Cheltenham 1.55

New Year’s Day Handicap Chase, 2m 4f

Proper each-way fare, and we’re five places for this one. 5s the field too. Lovely stuff.

Venetia Williams is invariably one to note over the larger obstacles when the ground is more on the wintery side. Good to soft is the prediction as I write, so no-one should be too inconvenienced – but always check for the very latest info.

She runs topweight Brave Seasca, shouldering a 9lb hike after an impressive win at Aintree on seasonal reappearance. Looks a tough ask, fell heavily here in last term’s Arkle, but is evidently held in high regard. Interesting, and around a 15/2 chance as I write.

Nicholls/Cobden are represented by Il Ridoto (5s), who ran well on reappearance in November’s Paddy Power Gold Cup. Only just turning 6 today (typically precocious French-bred, already with lots of experience), I’m looking to this gelding for a strong performance today.

Another combo you ignore at your peril is the Skelton axis. They saddle Midnight River, just ahead of Il Ridoto in the aforementioned PP. He was staying on nicely in what was probably a career-best effort.

Other notables include War Lord for the Tizzards, Shakem Up’Arry (Redknapp-owned, Pauling-trained), and Fantastic Lady for Henderson/de Boinville. A fascinating clash awaits, and I’m chancing that Venetia’s charge can give the weight.

Selection – Brave Seasca to win, Fantastic Lady e/w


Cheltenham 2.30

Relkeel Hurdle, Grade 2, 2m 4f

A Nicky Henderson mare heads the betting, just, at around 11/4. Marie’s Rock hasn’t run since winning at the Punchestown Festival in April, and she’s very smart. Pocketed the Mares’ Hurdle here in March, too.

A couple of wind ops seem to have worked the oracle, and she’s an absolute superstar for owners Middleham Park Racing.

Nigel Twiston-Davies trains just over Cleeve Hill at Naunton, and loves to have a winner here. Mind you, who doesn’t. He runs I Like To Move It, trading at around 4/1. Dotted up here in the Greatwood over half a mile shorter, and will surely take the beating today.

Nicky H runs First Street, (4/1), impressive winner of the Gerry Fielden at Newbury. Another with  added furlongs to cope with.

Another of great note is Knappers Hill for Nicholls/Cobden (around 9/2). Arrives in career-best form and like several of the principals here has a Champion Hurdle entry.

This is a serious horserace, honouring a serious racehorse – Relkeel, a winner here on several occasions. Can’t wait.

Selection – I Like To Move It to win


Musselburgh 2.45

Fitzdares Hogmameigh Handicap Hurdle, nearly 2m

A four places each-way race and another that has a very competitive look to it.

Al Zaraqaan is a son of Golden Horn no less, and has rattled up a four-timer over timber, punctuated by a modest showing on the all-weather at Lingfield.

He’s stepping up here for me and the one I like is Homme Public, trained by the Sherwood/Guerriero partnership.

Solid third in a Sandown Class 2 handicap last time, just behind Playful Saint who cruised home at Leicester the other day. At around 4/1 for me he’s value to take this good prize.

Selection – Homme Public to win, Sizing Mauritius e/w


Cheltenham 3.05

Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle, 3m

4s the field, and another extra place race (4 places e/w).

Some important yards do battle here. In no particular order – Nicholls, Henderson, Hobbs, Skelton and Pipe amongst them.

Don’t see too many P Nicholls’ runners carrying 10st 2lb, but that’s what we have here in the shape of Jet Of Magic. The handicap is a little skewed given top-weight Thomas Darby runs off 152 and the next-highest rated is Call Me Lord, on 144. Several then carrying tempting 10st-something relative featherweights.

The 6-yr-old gelding (around a 4/1 chance) has shown marked improvement since joining the Ditcheat maestro and might have a bit more up his sleeve yet.

Another I like is Abuffalosoldier. Won a nice race over this trip at Newbury last time and Brendan Powell steps in for the ride, with James Bowen claimed by Nicky H (Call Me Lord). Poor horses don’t tend to win at Newbury – and it was a career-best effort.

I’m intrigued by Bridge North, around an 11/1 chance. Ran a stinker when joint-fav at Sandown last time but his trainer Henry Daly is a master with stayers and a return to form over a better surface could see e/w support rewarded.

Selections – Jet Of Magic to win, Bridge North e/w.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Betfred, have a great day’s racing, and as always, take care.


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