It’s the final day of 2022 and it brings with it the remaining UK Grade 1 race of the calendar year at Newbury.
The Challow Novices’ Hurdle (3.00) is the standout race today, while further action comes from Uttoxeter, Warwick and Punchestown over jumps and on the all-weather at Lingfield Park.
Our fancies include Paul Nicholls’ latest contender for glory in the big race at Newbury.
Newbury 3.00 – Hermes Allen @ EVS
Newbury 1.50 – Lady Adare @ 6/1
Warwick 2.10 – Smuggler’s Blues @ 9/2
It’s a mild surprise that HERMES ALLEN (EVS) is not odds on for the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury this afternoon.
The €350,000 purchase made an easy winning start to his career at Stratford in October, winning by a wide margin, and he confirmed the promise of that effort when repeating the dose in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham’s November Meeting over 2m5f.
He made all in both those starts and, particularly at Cheltenham against some solid opposition, it was hard not to be impressed at the manner in which he cruised away from the field. He didn’t take much persuading from Harry Cobden that afternoon and was nine-lengths clear at the line.
Assuming the ground here, forecast to be good-to-soft, is no barrier (both wins on good) he looks the one to be on as Nicholls goes for his third straight success in a contest he loves to aim one of his leading novices at. Hermes Allen is on the Betfred Betfinder’s Most Napped table for the New Year’s Eve racing and can justify that position.
Trainer Harry Fry has shown his ability to prepare a mare with Love Envoi over the past 12 month and his exciting and unbeaten LADY ADARE (6/1) makes her seasonal comeback at Newbury in their 2m4½f handicap hurdle today.
Lady Adare won her bumper at Newcastle in March 2021 and went 3-3 over hurdles last season. She scored easily on return at Uttoxeter (2m, good to soft) in October and, following wind surgery, added wins at Newcastle and Taunton in January/February of this year – latterly when upped to 2m3f and scoring by a wide margin.
This is going to be a more stern examination of her credentials but, with Lorcan Murtagh taking off 3lb, an opening mark of 130 isn’t prohibitive and she can thrive on this seasonal bow.
A Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase (2.10) at Warwick in which SMUGGLER’S BLUES (9/2) is taken to extend his record at the track to 2-2.
Tom George’s ten-year-old won off 4lb lower here (3m1f, good to soft) last winter and should find this trip ideal now in the hands of Finn Lambert.
The selection might well have won last-time-out at Wincanton had he cleared the second last fence. He’s a decent alternative to the Dan Skelton-trained favourite Go Steady, a convincing winner at Lingfield earlier in the month over 2m4f but with something to prove stamina-wise at this longer trip given his previous exploits.