The home of jumps racing in Great Britain welcomes in the new year in fine style with a seven-race card.
We get to see not only the Dipper, a Grade 2 for the novice chasers, but also the fantastic Relkeel Hurdle as well as another competitive premier handicap chase.
We have a value selection for all seven races, beginning with the maiden hurdle just after midday.
12.10 Maiden Hurdle – Class 2 – WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT
Many of those entered in this extended 2½-mile hurdle race don’t leave us too much to go on in terms of proper form, but there is just enough to suggest that backing Weveallbeencaught wouldn’t be the worst idea of the afternoon.
The logical dangers are Nicky Henderson’s Firestep and Milton Harris’s Gentle Slopes, but Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner achieved at least as much if not more in bumpers and would have improved a little by now.
He has also already reached a very fair level over hurdles having run third around here in a Grade 2 behind Hermes Allen, a horse expected to go right to the very top in good time.
12.45 Handicap Chase – Class 2 – FARINET
This is an interesting race, run over 3¼ miles of the New Course which may take some getting. That said, we could be looking at fairly quick ground so speed may play a part too.
Poppa Poutine and good old Spiritofthegames will be popular, as will Rapper and Found On who each have place chances. Don’t be put off by the latter having been pulled up on his latest run.
The key piece of form though is the Welsh Grand National Trial, run at the beginning of December. There, Venetia Williams’ Farinet beat Secret Reprieve and while both horses may come on and there is a weight difference now, Farinet may take some stopping.
The former French runner should be a good half a stone ahead of his handicap mark right now, perhaps even more, something jockey Charlie Deutsch should be able to take full advantage of.
1.20 Dipper Novices’ Chase – Grade 2 – THUNDER ROCK
Known these days as the Paddy Power Novices’ Chase, the Dipper remains an important stepping-stone for young chasers, Gold Cup second-favourite L’Homme Presse in fact having won it last year.
This time around, the biggest chunk of the betting market is being taken out by Paul Nicholls’ Monmiral.
He was second on his steeplechase debut to Jonbon which perhaps accounts for his odds, but he is by no means head and shoulders above this field.
True, Beauport has it all to do at the weights, but Thunder Rock has looked very good in two chases so far and it’s he who looks the best value in the race to grab the win for Olly Murphy.
1.55 Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase – Class 1 Premier Handicap – STOLEN SILVER
This is the race still known to many as the Fairlawne Handicap Chase and while its name may have changed, it still provides plenty of excitement and a maximum field.
Regular readers of the blog will know that we’ve been quite big on Stolen Silver.
Sam Thomas’s horse is the one who ran away with the Silver Trophy over this precise course and distance back in April on good ground. There appeared to be a lot more to come from him and indeed he was sent off a strong favourite for the Paddy Power Gold Cup back here in November.
He unseated there and was found to be lame. He has been given time to recover and now we can expect a better horse than before, one who may well go on to prove that under jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
In behind, watch out for strong performances from Shakem Up’Arry, Brave Seasca and Fantastic Lady while the betting may also offer some late clues for each-way value punters.
2.30 Relkeel Hurdle – Grade 2 – I LIKE TO MOVE IT
A lovely race, one worthy not only of its Grade Two title but also of being placed in any punter’s notebook with the Cheltenham Festival in mind.
Whether they prefer two miles or a little further, this one is run over two and a half, the form of the main contenders here is rock solid.
Marie’s Rock is a Grade One festival winner who gets 5lbs here, but while she also won at Punchestown her form overall falls just a tiny bit short unless she has improved more.
First Street has more gears to find for the Nicky Henderson team, while Knappers Hill was a good winner of the Elite Hurdle and he’s now on a five-timer over hurdles.
The one we like best however is Greatwood Hurdle winner I Like To Move It.
He has the pace, but looks as though this step up in trip will suit also. His form level is good enough, as is his rating, but the point is that he is improving and he gets a couple of pounds from Knappers Hill. He can win this for the Twiston-Davies team.
3.05 Handicap Hurdle – Class 2 – WILDE ABOUT OSCAR
They could be going off at better than 4/1 the field here, emphasising the fact that at first glance this is a tough to solve handicap hurdle.
There is a key form line we should perhaps concentrate on however, that being a race at Sandown in which Dolphin Square, Call Me Lord and Wilde About Oscar were the first three home.
The better pace shown over time has been shown Dan Skelton’s Wilde About Oscar and he was also staying best of all towards the line when they all met at Sandown.
Given the chance to improve a little and now facing the Cheltenham hill to see out his finish, he gets the nod to reverse form with the other two although we shouldn’t forget about Jet Of Magic, Abuffalosoldier and Thomas Darby.
3.40 Junior National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race – SHINJI
These bumper horses go straight to Listed level for the meeting closer, a race in which they tackle the shortish 1¾-mile trip.
The final race is also reserved for juveniles, with all of the maximum 16-runner field having officially turned four on the day of the meeting.
We liked five against the field here; Dancing In Brazil, Dino Bellagio, Fiercely Proud, Meatloaf and Shinji.
While Dancing In Brazil is tempting for the Alan King yard, the way Shinji won on debut left us all wondering how much more there was in the tank.
He is the second-youngest of our five being an early April foal too, meaning he may improve more than others, and that win was also some 47 days ago once again meaning he has had time to come on a little.