A very Happy New Year to all, may it bring us all a little dusting of luck and progression, in life, in love and in horse racing. An already memorable 2018-2019 National Hunt season rumbles forward nicely on the 1st of January with an excellent BetBright sponsored card at Prestbury Park, where action commences at 12.15pm with the Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle…
For the opener, I’ll hazard a bet on Alan King’s improving Mr Pumblechook, a horse who is going the right way and for whom this trip to Cheltenham represents an interesting and confident test for the youngster. He was ran out of it by the smart Kateson at Newbury two starts back, but he jumped and travelled like a promising 5yo in defeat that day. Next time out at Plumpton, he went off at 1/6f in an egg and spoon race, securing an easy but confidence & experience boosting win. He won’t be penalised for that in this Listed race assignment, so has every chance of getting closely involved in the finish.
12.50pm – Join The BetBright Racing Club Handicap Chase
The 12.50pm Join The BetBright Racing Club Handicap Chase over 3m2f can go the way of 8yo chaser ROLLING DYLAN, who finished 3rd over the course and distance behind Cogry here last time out. Philip Hobbs’ inmate handled the track very well and the 2lb rise in the weights shouldn’t be enough to stop him running very well once again.
1.25pm – BetBright Novices’ Chase
At 1.25pm, the Grade 2 BetBright Novices’ Chase looks a mouth-watering match at the top of the market for this 2m4f race on the new course. Black Op was one of the best novice hurdlers around and is built for jumping fences, but he ran a little flat at Exeter last time behind DEFI DU SEUIL and although the latter named Philip Hobbs trained charge carries a penalty now under different conditions, he is taken to confirm that form. Defi Du Seuil’s jumping fell apart after a promising start behind Lalor here in November, where his effort petered out disappointingly late in the day, but he kept it together much better at Exeter last time out and perhaps this step up in trip is exactly what he needs on his return to Cheltenham, a place we know the 2017 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner loves. A class act on his day, I reckon he’ll continue his upward curve. It would be nice to see more Triumph Hurdle winners making it over fences (More Tiger Roll anyone?!) and Defi Du Seuil is a likely type to mop up his fair share of Graded pots in the seasons to come; particularly if 2m4f brings about further improvement and he can step neatly away from a shark infested two mile division.
2.00pm Download The BetBright App Handicap Chase.
ASO was a lovely winner for the column when scoring at 8/1 SP at Newbury last time out and he’s gone up 8lb for that run, now running off a stiff enough perch of 158 on his return to Cheltenham for the 2.00pm Download The BetBright App Handicap Chase. Venetia Williams 8yo is a classy customer though and conditions are just about perfect again bar what would be a welcome shower of rain if any were passing the area, so I’d expect another big run from him. A fluent win here would set him up toward being a legitimate contender in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase back here in March, a race he finished 3rd in as a younger horse.
2.35pm – Simplify Horse Racing Selections With Betfinder At Betbright Handicap Hurdle
The Simplify Horse Racing Selections With Betfinder At Betbright Handicap Hurdle at 2.35pm is a tough and competitive race over three miles, where the Oliver Sherwood trained Jersey Bean brings some of the more notably strong staying handicap form to the table. He has a big chance once more, along with the likes of Trucker’s Lodge and De Name Evades Me. But I think 10yo veteran NAUTICAL NIMWIT can run very well off top weight for Philip Kirby. He went down by a neck to the admirable Monbeg Theatre first time out, before winning in a very good time around Wetherby in early November, beating the excellent yardstick Old Guard in the process. He’s gone up 6lb for that, so runs off 149 today, which presents a fair test for a fairly exposed horse, but he comes out well on the ratings I use, has undeniably solid form this season and is an each way price in an open race.
The Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle is the feature contest of the day, where the Evan Williams trained CLYNE can get the better of Wholestone over this 2m4f trip, which looks ideal for the strong travelling and quality performer. He put in a career best run when 3rd in a Grade 1 behind L’Ami Serge at Aintree and did nothing to suggest he cannot progress again this season, when he was a solid 2nd to Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. He may just fall short of what’s required at the top level in terms of stamina and class combined over three miles. However, 2m4f in a Grade 2 contest looks right up his street and hopefully he can provide a good showing for supporters in the feature contest on first day of the New Year. Come at us 2019!! Let’s hope it’s a good one.
You can read more from Kevin O’Malley and find the latest form, racecards, free tips & news on GG.CO.UK.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.