What are the best bets at Cheltenham on New Year's Day?
A new year and what a way to see it in with a cracking seven-race card at Cheltenham. Here’s what might happen (or may not).
12.10: Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, 2m4f56yds
Champers On Ice didn’t impress with his hurdling technique when winning at Newbury last time and this 3m chaser in the making is opposable under the maximum penalty. Dan Skelton’s Captain Chaos is harder to dismiss but he too is penalised and the 6lb he gives to PRESELI ROCK could prove decisive, though an each-way bet is advised. Rebecca Curtis’ charge failed by a mere short head on his hurdles debut at Ffos Las, where the third was 17 lengths adrift, and this longer trip should see him in an even better light. What’s more his stable is in far better form now.
12.45: Watch Live Racing On BetBright.com Handicap Chase, 3m2f70yds
Most of these are out of form and the sensible choice is to go with the sole last-time-out winner, the David Pipe-trained ALTERNATIF. Only six, he has his best days ahead of him and won far more cosily at Fontwell than his one-length winning margin over Pete The Feat would suggest. The handicapper could only raise him 4lb for that and with his stamina and ability to act on the forecast heavy ground proven, he can follow up in this better race.
1.20: BetBright Realfansonly Novices’ Chase (Registered As The Dipper Novices’ Chase) (Grade 2), 2m4f166yds
A cracking novice chase with all bar one of the seven runners winning last time out. The conditions are sure to have a bearing on the outcome and a couple of these – Volnay De Thaix and Aubusson – might not want the ground this soft. Blaklion jumped stickily when winning here last time and stable form is the worry for Le Mercurey, so THREE MUSKETEERS is almost the selection by default. Dan Skelton’s charge was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles and promises to be just as good over the larger obstacles, judging by an impressive four-and-a-half length success over Activial at Newbury last time. The handicapper must have been impressed too as he has been given a lofty rating of 155 and connections are eyeing up a tilt at the JLT in March, so this Grade 2 prize should be well within his compass.
1.55: BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (Grade 3), 2m4f166yds
It’s hard to rule out any of the 11 runners with confidence and, while others have stronger claims on recent form, it could be worth siding with relative outsider THOMAS CRAPPER, who invariably saves his best for this track. Ignoring his latest unplaced effort at the October meeting, when he was badly hampered by a faller, his form figures read 31182032, culminating in a runner-up finish in the Listed 2m4f Handicap Chase run at the festival in March. He’s just 4lb higher this afternoon with a lovely racing weight of 10st 4lb, meaning he gets weight from all bar one of his rivals, and has a win on heavy to his name. Moreover the early 20/1 about him provides plenty of scope for an each-way bet.
2.30: BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle, 2m7f213yds
This is just as competitive but the booking of the Nico de Boinville for the Tom Lacey-trained bottom-weight SINGLEFARMPAYMENT very much takes the eye. The newly-turned six-year-old twice finished runner-up in handicaps over shorter earlier this season before comfortably getting off the mark over hurdles at Southwell last time, when stepping up to this trip for the first time. There should be more to come from him now he’s found his best trip and, while this is a step up in grade, he’s likely progressive enough to cope.
3.05: Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2), 2m4f56yds
A top-class renewal with World Hurdle winner Cole Harden and Whisper, who finished fifth in the Cheltenham race before winning the Grade 1 staying hurdle at Aintree, attempting to give weight away all round. Of the pair, Whisper is possibly better over this shorter trip but neither ran up to their best when reappearing in the Newbury race won by Thistlecrack and we may not see the best of them until the spring festivals. Whisper’s stablemate Top Notch, who is in receipt of 6lb, has been put in as favourite and backers at 5/2 are banking on him lasting home on his first try over this trip. At such short odds I’d rather not take the risk and will be having a few quid instead on the Dan Skelton-trained VIRGILIO, who is seeking a four-timer after three straight wins in handicap company. This is a big step up of course but he was hugely impressive at Aintree last month on his first run since May, and his in-form trainer was quick to nominate this race as his next target. The weight he receives from the principles could just give him the edge.
3.40: EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Standard Open NH Flat Race (Listed), 1m5f209yds
The Paul Nicholls-trained Capeland looked promising when winning his only start in France (on heavy) and he’s likely to go off favourite here. However, the stable is going through an unusual quiet spell and at the odds I’d rather take a chance on the unraced and well-bred ONE OF US, especially if the market speaks in his favour. His trainer Nick Williams does well with his bumper runners – six winners from 30 runners (20%) in the last five seasons – and the booking of Richard Johnson, who is 1-2 on the stable bumper runners, takes the eye.
Free bet offer – back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the six races shown live on Channel 4* with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50 per customer per race) on the next race shown live on Channel 4.
*1.20, 1.55, 2.30 & 3.05 Cheltenham, 1.35 & 2.10 Musselburgh
12.10 Preseli Rock each-way @ 12/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 1.2.3)
12.45 Alternatif @ 5/2 Hills
1.20 Three Mukseteers @ 3/1 Hills
1.55 Thomas Crapper each-way @ 20/1 bet365 (¼ odds 1.2.3)
2.30 Singlefarmpayment @ 8/1 bet365
3.05 Virgilio @ 6/1 Paddy Power
3.40 One Of Us each-way @ 12/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 1.2.3)
Happy New Year all and good luck!