It’s time to relax in front of the tv and enjoy a feast of racing from Cheltenham & Musselburgh on New Year’s Day – a real hangover cure for racing fans.
ITV have six live races and we start at Cheltenham, where it’s unreal to think the ground is still so decent on January 1. So much so, that some of Willie Mullins’ big guns have not travelled over from Ireland to run.
A really good novice chase to kick things off. Defi Du Seuil gets the nod here after a really taking run last time at Exeter where he beat subsequent Grade 1 runner-up Topofthegame (who lost all chance at the start by forfeiting 30 lengths) and Black Op who finished third.
The ground is more in Defi Du Seuil’s favour than Black Op who looks like he wants a real test of stamina on soft ground to show his best.
On The Blind Side has schooled well for his chase debut and has always been thought of as a chaser.
Lostintranslation did well to stand up the last time he ran against Le Bague au Roi. He broke the fence and if putting in an error-free round can’t be ruled out.
Aso posted a fantastic comeback win at Newbury and has been raised 8 lbs, which is not enough to stop him. The worry I have though is this is his second run after a long lay-off and could bring the ‘bounce factor’ into play. This can happen a lot to horses having their second run after a lay-off, they under-perform as the first run takes its toll.
He’s had five weeks to recover though and the one who could take advantage if he doesn’t run to form is likely favourite Happy Diva. She’s getting a lot of weight in this contest helped by a good claimer in Richard Patrick who takes a further 3 lbs off.
Vive Le Roi has won three of his last four races for Tony Carroll and it is amazing to think this horse won a selling hurdle in the summer at Stratford – and nobody bidded for him at the auction!
He has been climbing up the weights but the form of his win at Newbury is really strong as the second and fourth have both won since then. He is hard to get away from.
However, I like Jersey Bean for Oliver Sherwood. Some of his form is strong and the horse that beat him at Market Rasen has won again since.
The Relkeel Hurdle is going to be run on different ground than last year – but it could still be the same result. I’m taking Wholestone to win it again.
He had no problem on quicker ground when victorious at Aintree earlier this season so that’s a positive.
Midnight Shadow looks the improver even though he struggled last time. He will like the better ground.
Paul Nicholls’ Old Guard is a legend and loves it around Cheltenham. He ran poorly in this last year, but that was very different ground.
Last year’s winner and second face off here again in Knockgraffon and Upsilon Bleu. Knockgraffon has been struggling of late and had a wind operation. If that works he will win again.
He is rated 4 lbs lower than he was last year and Upsilon Bleu whom he beat then, has to give him weight this time around. Forth Bridge has a chance but does finish second a lot.
Chica Buena did us a favour when bolting up at Aintree and I was really taken with her that day. She has already won a handicap at this track and she sets a very good standard.
One that I really like as a e/w selection is Scheu Time trained in Ireland by James Nash.
He’s a shrewd operator and the fact he is sending this horse over from Ireland makes me sit up and take notice.
Good luck & Happy New Year!
* Odds correct at time of publishing