2020 New Years’ Day horse racing tips – Nicholls’ 9/4 chance can be punters’ Darling at Exeter

Top trainer Paul Nicholls is yet to finale plans for his Cheltenham Festival battalion.Top trainer Paul Nicholls is yet to finale plans for his Cheltenham Festival battalion.

Brian Healy gives his race-by-race selections and best bets for every UK and Irish horse racing meeting going to post on New Years' Day.

New Years’ Day celebrates with eight UK and Irish horse racing meetings going to post on what promises to be a cracking start to the new decade, and the feature meeting of the day comes from Cheltenham where the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle and Dipper Novices’ Chase take centre-stage on a cracking seven-race card.

There is also jumps racing going to post at Catterick, Exeter, Fakenham and Musselburgh where there is a strong card taking place at the Scottish venue, highlighted by the Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle.

Jumps racing also goes to post in Ireland at both Tramore and Fairyhouse where there is Grade Three action on the card at the former venue; while on the all-weather there is a fixture on the Southwell fibresand.

Catterick (jumps) – 11.55 – 3.20pm (7 races)
Tramore (jumps) – 12.00 – 3.30pm (7 races)
Fakenham (jumps) – 12.05 – 3.30pm (7 races)
Southwell (flat, aw) – 12.10 – 3.40pm (7 races)
Cheltenham (jumps) – 12.15 – 3.50pm (7 races)
Fairyhouse (jumps) – 12.20 – 3.45pm (7 races)
Musselburgh (jumps) – 12.30 – 3.25pm (6 races)
Exeter (jumps) – 12.40 – 4.05pm (7 races)



(12.25) This doesn’t look the strongest of races, so PRESENCE OF MIND (SP) could get off the mark over hurdles at the first attempt, and the Presenting gelding could take some beating.

Olly Murphy’s charge was a winner between the flags prior to making a promising introduction in a Fakenham bumper in October where he found only one too good, and the Presenting gelding stepped up on that effort to open his account under Rules with a defeat of Faivoir at Huntingdon last month.

He scored by a half-length, but the front two pulled clear of the rest and he could have more to offer now his attentions are switched to obstacles and he’s likely to have been well-schooled by his shrewd yard ahead of this outing.

This looks a winnable first outing over timber, and every chance he can make his presence felt to collect the win.

(1.00) ZABEEL STAR (7/2, William Hill) has had just six starts over hurdles, but Karen McLintock’s charge could be worth chancing to get back on the scoresheet here.

The Arcano gelding posted a win in this discipline at Carlisle last October, and he went close to a follow up next time; he also finished runner-up to Golden Town on his last hurdles start at Sedgefield in May, and he arrives here fit from the flat having ran at Wolverhampton earlier in the month.

He hasn’t been at his best on the flat, but he had wind surgery during the autumn and possible his recent outing was just a sighter for his return to hurdling where he remains unexposed and he could still have some scope for better from a mark of 100.

Although he’s been out of sorts on the level, a return to hurdling could spark a revival and he can post a big effort here.

11.55 – Deise Aba
12.25 – Presence Of Mind
1.00 – Zabeel Star
1.35 – Alltimegold
2.10 – Quoteline Direct
2.45 – Reverend Cust
3.20 – Fortia

Catterick race on New Years’ Day.


(1.10) MULTIFACTORIAL (SP) possibly found the ground too testing when disappointing at Fairyhouse latest, but Gordon Elliott’s charge could be worth chancing to bounce back on this slightly less taxing surface having gone close in bumpers on similar ground.

The Stowaway gelding finished runner-up three times in bumpers before scoring at Downpatrick in March, and he returned from a break and switched to hurdles to find only Bay Ambition too strong back at that venue in October on his first try over obstacles.

The runner-up, fourth, fifth and sixth horses from his recent Fairyhouse run have all won since so the form of that contest looks decent now and he could be worth giving another chance to bounce back.

12.00 – Saint Roi
12.35 – Capture The Action
1.10 – Multifactorial
1.35 – Charlotte Wells
2.20 – Al Boum Photo
2.55 – Tintown Robin
3.30 – Highest Benefit


(12.35) VELVET COGNAC (9/2, Bet365) finally got off the mark when going in at Fontwell in November, and although he was beaten next time at Plumpton, Lawney Hill’s charge could be worth chancing to get back on the winning trail.

A winner between the flags before joining Harry Fry, he ran some fair races over hurdles for that trainer before switching to his current yard and being sent chasing where he took his form up a notch although still failed to open his win account.

Back over hurdles for his last few starts, he ran out a three lengths’ winner over Jimmy on his penultimate outing, and he was only beaten a couple of lengths latest behind Timely Gift; the first two have won since, and the runner-up from that race Truckers Cailin reopposes here but is significantly worse off at the weights.

That was over hurdles, but back over fences here in a moderate contest and his slight rise in the handicap is offset by his 7lbs claiming rider so the veteran Grape Tree Road could make his presence felt from a relatively low weight.

(2.20) STONEBRIGG LEGEND (5/4, Coral) goes well at this venue, posting back-to-back wins over course and distance in March, and Sarah Humphrey’s charge can get back on the scoresheet having posted good efforts in defeat at Huntingdon the last twice.

The Midnight Legend mare has finished runner-up in both of those outings, one each over hurdles and fences, and he contests here over the larger obstacles where a 5lbs rise in the weights looks workable and a return to this venue could well see him get back to winning ways.

She pulled clear of the third last time out and could still have some scope for better, and given her course record she could prove a tough nut to crack in what looks a decent opportunity for her to resume winning ways.

12.05 – Wells De Lune
12.35 – Velvet Cognac
1.10 – Haafapiece
1.45 – Perfect Moment
2.20 – Stonebrigg Legend
2.55 – Eva’s Diva
3.30 – Whenitcomestoit

Fakenham Races

Fakenham race on New Years’ Day.


(1.20) HART STOPPER (5/1, Bet365) makes only his second start on fibresand, and Stuart Williams’ charge might be able to get back on the scoresheet in a moderate contest.

The Compton Place gelding was a winner at Yarmouth back in July, and he has made the frame in three of his last four starts following that success, including finding only Ginger Fox too good by a neck at Kempton latest.

Fourth on his only previous attempt on this surface, he is only 3lbs higher in the weights for this latest outing and he should give another good account under Hayley Turner who has a good record on board with two wins from three starts together.

(3.05) ANGEL LANE (5/4, Coral) has taken well to this surface, stepping up on a couple of moderate efforts on turf to finish runner-up here in September, although he was beaten a long way behind a very easy winner.
However, he stepped up again to beat Sociologist when tackling a significantly longer trip earlier this month, and he almost followed up latest when beaten just one length into third behind Rasaasy where he was run down late.

Karl Burke’s Rajsaman filly is only 1lb higher in the weights for this latest outing, and the slight drop back in trip could see her get back to winning ways with the potential for further improvement to come.

12.10 – Jazz Hands
12.45 – Xian Express
1.20 – Hart Stopper
1.55 – Power Link
2.30 – Tagur
3.05 – Angel Lane
3.40- Grisons


(2.00) An excellent and strong renewal of this classy handicap and OK CORRAL (10/1, Ladbrokes) could be worth giving another chance to having shaped as if in need of the run on his reappearance in the recent Ladbrokes Trophy, and with that run under his belt the Mahler gelding can get back on the scoresheet.

Nicky Henderson’s charge won his first two starts over fences last term with the minimum of fuss, scoring at both Plumpton and Warwick, and he can forgiven his failure to complete in the National Hunt Chase in March in what was an attritional contest.

He ought to strip much fitter now with his recent Newbury outing now under his belt, and he remains relatively unexposed over the larger obstacles so could easily have a bigger effort still to come with the drop in distance for this latest run unlikely to faze him.

The handicapper might have taken a chance dropping him 2lbs, and every chance he could step up on his reappearance effort now where his proven stamina could prove an asset here.

(2.35) A few of these perhaps have a question to answer reverting back to hurdling, and it could be worth siding with the progressive SKANDIBURG (6/1, Coral) who found another jolt of progress to strike at Aintree last month, and the Sageburg gelding can continue on his upward curve to follow up here.

Olly Murphy’s charge won three time last term having joined this yard from Dan Skelton, scoring over hurdles at Fakenham and Huntingdon, and there was plenty to like about his reapperance near-miss when denied only by a short-head behind Honest Vic at Market Rasen in October.

However, he showed the benefit of that outing to get off the mark with a defeat of Diomedes Des Mottes latest, scoring by two lengths and showing a good attitude to hold off the runner-up having travelled well through the race.

That race has since thrown up a subsequent winner, and his 6lbs rise in the ratings for that win could prove lenient given he remains with the potential for better so it wouldn’t come as a shock to see him firmly in the mix here.

12.15 – Imperial Alcazar
12.50 – Doing Fine
1.25 – Midnight Shadow
2.00 – Ok Corral
2.35 – Skandiburg
3.10 – Roksana
3.50 – Grand Roi

OK Corral can win at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day.


(12.25) MOUNT IDA (SP) returned from a break following a bumper win at Wexford to beat Kalanisi Og over hurdles at Galway in October, and Gordon Elliott’s charge almost followed up in Listed company latest at Punchestown.

The Yeats mare was beaten less than one length on that occasion behind Minella Melody, and a repeat of that effort in this slightly less taxing grade ought to make her hard to beat.

She remains open to improvement also, and every chance she can get back on the scoresheet here under Davy Russell.

(2.05) MOSSY WHITE (11/2, Coral) got off the mark when scoring at Thurles in November, and Denis Hogan’s charge could be worth chancing to follow up here.

The Scorpion gelding was a point-to-point winner earlier in his career, but he didn’t convince over hurdles last term. He did show moderately better form over fences when returning from a break, although he remained an inconsistent sort over the larger obstacles before opening his account when last seen.

She struck by a short-head on that occasion from Frere Fontaine, with the pair clear of the third, and the runner-up has won since to give that form a boost. He is 5lbs higher here and not certain to be in the same form; but this doesn’t look the strongest of contests and he could be capable of doubling up his tally with a repeat.

12.20 – Aione
12.25 – Mount Ida
1.30 – Dessie’s Diamond
2.05 – Mossy White
2.40 – Milan Native
3.15 – Cheb De Kerviniou
3.45 – Eskylane


(1.05) ARTHURS SECRET (6/1, Ladbrokes) doesn’t always convince with his finishing effort, but Sandy Thompson’s charge could be worth chancing to get back to winning ways, and the Sakhee’s Secret gelding can go close here.

His last win came at Ayr back in February where he ran out a two lengths’ winner over Sun Cloud, and he has largely run with credit since although his weak finishing resurfaced last time out here behind the reopposing Mighty Thunder where he finished around twelve lengths’ third to that rival.

He wasn’t helped by a couple of late mistakes there, but he could turn the table on these revised weights and he is only 1lb higher now than when posting his last win so he could be worth chancing to see things out better this time around and come out on top.

(1.40) CRACKING DESTINY (5/1, William Hill) was a dual-winner for Ian Williams in the first quarter of the year, scoring successes at Wincanton and Leicester, and the Dubai Destination gelding shaped well on his reappearance and first start for new handler Alistair Whillans over two miles here last month when beating the reopposing Sporting Press by an easy ten lengths.

He was giving 7lbs to that rival, but his superiority suggests he can uphold that form on worse terms and the step up in trip for this latest outing is of no issue so every chance he can follow up that last success despite this being a harder race than the one he won last time.

He is however unexposed over this longer trip, posting a win and a place from his two tries at this distance, and with the potential for better still he could be worth chancing to strike again.

12.30 – El Picador
1.05 – Arthurs Secret
1.40 – Cracking Destiny
2.15 – Ashington
2.50 – Lostock Hall
3.25 – Benny’s Secret

Musselburgh are racing on New Years’ Day.


(1.15) DARLING MALTAIX (9/4, Unibet) showed useful form over hurdles in seasons past, winning at Ascot last December with a defeat of Milrow, and Paul Nicholls’ charge looks set to be at least as good over fences judging on his two starts in this discipline.

He possibly just needed his run and the experience when returning to action at Ascot in November, but he posted a creditable fourth behind Doctor Dex nonetheless, and he looked a non-stayer over three miles back there latest behind Pym last month.

He finished fifth there, beaten almost twenty lengths, but the form looks very decent with the front two both scoring wins since and the Voix Du Nord gelding will be suited by this drop in distance where he figures from 3lbs lower in the weights.

Likely to be competitive, he ought to go close and no surprise to see him get off the mark over fences at the third attempt under his excellent 3lbs claiming rider Lorcan Williams.

(2.25) MUFFINS FOR TEA (4/1, Ladbrokes) showed progressive form over fences during the 2017/18 season, making the frame in five of his six starts which included a win over the reopposing The King’s Writ at Taunton, and he rounded off his campaign with a near miss behind Cap Horner back there last March when beaten just over one length.

Colin Tizzard’s charge was absent for more than 600 days following that run before making an encouraging reappearance behind Welsh Grand National winner Potters Corner over hurdles at Chepstow earlier in the month, and if building on that outing then the With The Flow gelding could get back on the scoresheet here.

He returns to chasing from what looks a workable mark given he made the frame when last seen over fences from a higher rating, and likely to strip fitter for his recent reappearance then he could go close..

12.40 – Triple Chief
1.15 – Darling Maltaix
1.50 – Gavrocheka
2.25 – Muffins For Tea
3.00 – Bullionaire
3.35 – King Roland
4.05 – Truckers Pass