A fantastic New Year’s Day of action is on the cards at Cheltenham, potentially in front of a 30,000-strong crowd.
What the ultimate effects of that big crowd will be are yet to be discovered, but watching from afar and taking a punt on our seven selections could be the best way to start your year!
12.15 (Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – GET A TONIC
A fascinating start to the seven-race card. The likely strong favourite here is I Am Maximus for the Nicky Henderson stable. A winner at the second time of asking over hurdles, the now six-year-old scored nicely from Raymond Tusk and previously beat My Drogo in a bumper race.
At a glance that all reads like strong form so his position in the market is understandable, though a look at the form of the horses he’s beaten recently shows that he is potentially at no higher a level than Hillcrest and Get A Tonic who are preferred at the odds.
It was a close call between the two initially for us, but ultimately Get A Tonic’s speed figures on soft ground are more impressive meaning she may just get through this surface a little faster than Hillcrest.
The other factor was that both horses are officially rated 128, yet the mare Get A Tonic gets the 7lb weight pull which could prove to be very crucial for the Skelton team.
12.50 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – DESTINEE ROYALE
It’s close at the top of the market for this 3¼-mile event between Honest Vic, Destinee Royale, The Wolf and Undersupervision.
Honest Vic is in good form but carries comfortably the most weight among the main contenders and may just struggle in these conditions.
The Wolf and Undersupervision could be pretty closely matched at the weights, but the one that stands out the most for us is Venetia Williams’ Destinee Royale who is worth backing.
Having her first run for 283 days, which isn’t a big negative, Destinee Royale has easily the most potential in these conditions. Despite being a beaten favourite back in March, she was going over 3½ miles there and may have had a problem, but her form before that is the best on offer here versus the official ratings.
A comfortable winner at Wetherby over three miles in February, she is capable of a good deal more now just with natural improvement and so looks the best handicapped horse in the line-up.
1.25 (Dipper Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – MILLERS BANK
The Dipper, as it is still known to many despite sponsorship, may yet provide us with a big Festival clue. It seems as though four can be taken against the field this time around with all worth watching between now and March.
Of the quartet, it could be rather close all things considered between Fantastikas, The Glancing Queen and probable favourite L’Homme Presse, but while the form of the latter looks the strongest at a glance, he does give away 3lbs and there is plenty to like about Millers Bank against him.
Alex Hales’ runner was as impressive as any of these on his chase debut in late October, while he looked well set to win at Grade 2 level in November at Newbury but for falling two from home.
Assuming he can handle the softer going, which we think he will, he could simply prove to be the best horse in this line-up and is good value too.
2.00 (Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – ADMIRAL BARRATRY
Another big 2½-mile Grade 3 handicap chase at Cheltenham, one in which the Racing Post Gold Cup winner and runner-up, Coole Cody and Zanza, are bound to be popular.
Alnadam and the much-improved mare Vienna Court are also respected, but there is a lot to like about Lucy Wadham’s Admiral Barratry at bigger odds. An easy winner last time out, he has plenty more to give and handles these conditions well.
2.35 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – TAMAR BRIDGE
Famous last words and all that, but Tamar Bridge is a pretty confident selection in this three-mile handicap hurdle.
He’s at the top of our ratings and the top of the betting anyway after winning his last three hurdle races, but it also appears that the race conditions today may bring plenty more improvement out of him.
His form is very good, but he has little speed and so it appears he’s been winning despite the 2½-mile trip and not because of it. This three-mile distance on soft ground is sure to bring the best out of him, which makes him well handicapped ahead of Whatsupwithyou, Pileon, Ask Dillon and My Bobby Dazzler.
3.10 (Relkeel Hurdle – Grade 2) – McFABULOUS
Former chaser Brewin’upastorm is all the rage here and it’s easy to see why after a recent impressive handicap win.
He’s very much in our thoughts, as is Guard Your Dreams and Stormy Ireland, but it could be close between the three which leaves us looking for the potential standout runner.
There is one, and it’s McFabulous for Paul Nicholls. Always thought of as a potential star after winning a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree in 2019, he’s reached a mark of 158 over hurdles, the same as the favourite, and has now had a break after wind surgery.
There’s no doubt that he has more to give in the future than his main market rival, conditions look good for him and he can add to his tally of three Grade 2 career wins before moving up to the top level once more.
3.50 (Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – BEYOND BOUNDARIES
This one-mile, six-furlong bumper is an intriguing end to the card. Given the nature of the race, one in which we know little about the contenders, it’s always possible that something unexpected comes out of the pack and so we always recommend you check the betting in the moments before the off.
On what we know right now however, three horses stand out. Poetic Music first of all is two from two for Fergal O’Brien, will have been expertly prepared no doubt and may improve for the step up in trip having won last time over a mile-and-a-half.
Iliade Allen is the other last-time-out winner of interest, however newcomer Beyond Boundaries is fascinating and is worth chancing at the odds.
Representing top Flat connections Andrew Balding and King Power Racing, Beyond Boundaries is a full brother to Western Australia who reached a peak rating of 110 on the level. If he were to make a belated debut in the mid-80’s for a Flat runner, which is eminently possible, that would perhaps make him too good for this field.