Cheltenham New Years’ Day tips – Race-by-race selections for Wednesday’s big fixture

Brian Healy gives his race-by-race Cheltenham New Year tips for Wednesday's classy fixture including the Dipper Novices' Chase and Relkeel Hurdle.

A classy racecard at Cheltenham dominates the first day of horse racing action of a new year and decade, and a seven-race card sees Grade Two action with both the Dipper Novices’ Chase and Relkeel Hurdle going to post on an unmissable afternoon which also includes some competitive handicap action.

12:15 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4½f
12:50 – Markel Insurance Handicap Chase Cl2 (5yo+ 0-145) 3m2½f
1:25 – Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f
2:00 – Paddy Power Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f
2:35 – Paddy Power 69 Sleeps To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 3m
3:10 – Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f
3:50 – EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Listed Race) Cl1 (4yo) 1m6f

The ITV Racing cameras will be on hand to cover the pick of the action from Prestbury Park, as well as from Musselburgh, and Brian Healy has race-by-race selections for Cheltneham’s classy racecard on New Years’ Day.

12:15 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4½f

IMPERIAL ALCAZAR (4/1, Ladbrokes) could be worth chancing to get back on the winning trail, and Fergal O’Brien’s charge has already shown a useful level of form in bumpers and over hurdles.

The Vinnie Roe gelding made the frame in all three starts in bumpers, which include a pair of Listed contests, and he made a winning reappearance on his first foray over timber when beating Coconut Splash by a nose at Aintree in October over this trip.

Although beaten next time over a longer trip at Newcastle behind Prince Kayf, he was only denied by one length and arguably unlucky having been squeezed for room close home. The front three had pulled some way clear of the rest, and there could be better still to come from him.

He hasn’t fully convinced with his jumping thus far, but there is definite ability still to be channeled if he can brush up in that department and the application of a tongue-tie might help so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him post a big effort here with improvement forthcoming.

12:15 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4½f

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IMPERIAL ALCAZAR 4 /1
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Fergal O'Brien can saddle a Chepstow winner on Wednesday

Fergal O’Brien can saddle a New Years’ Day winner at Cheltenham.

12:50 – Markel Insurance Handicap Chase Cl2 (5yo+ 0-145) 3m2½f

The admirable Cogry can be dismissed easily, but he does need a career best effort from 4lbs higher than his last win here, and it could be worth chancing on DOING FINE (4/1, Paddy Power) to get back on the scoreboard for Neil Mulholland.

The veteran Presenting gelding has proven to be a largely consistent sort in recent seasons, but he has found it hard to get his head in front although he did manage to take advantage of a reduced handicap rating to snap his losing streak at Fontwell back in October where he beat Plantagenet by eight lengths.

That was his first success since winning here in April 2017, and he was far from disgraced on his next outing at this venue later in October where he finished seven lengths’ fourth behind Petite Power, keeping on well but no match for the winner.

That form has been boosted, and the handicapper has eased him 1lb in the weights following that outing; while the presence of a good 7lbs claimer can further ease his burden at the weights. He looks weighted then for a big run, and if his jumping holds up then he could go close from his low weight.

12:50 – Markel Insurance Handicap Chase (Class 2) (5yo+ 0-145)

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DOING FINE 4 /1
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1:25 – Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

Deyrann De Carjac could finish closer to Champ now he meets that rival on better terms, but while he’s failed to win in his three chase starts to date, it could be worth giving another chance to MIDNIGHT SHADOW (9/2, William Hill) who probably has a bigger run in him and Sue Smith’s charge can give a good account of himself here.

The Midnight Legend gelding is a course winner over hurdles, winning the Relkeel Hurdle on this card twelve months ago having beaten Ch’tibello the time before at Aintree, although he couldn’t land a blow when stepped up to three miles in the Cleeve Hurdle and he probably didn’t get home.

He looked in need of the run on his chase debut behind Brewin’upastorm at Carlisle in October, but he would have won next time up at the same track but for crumpling and falling at the last when still travelling well. His latest run behind Keeper Hill at Haydock over slightly further than this trip wasn’t a bad effort although he found less than expected under pressure which is a slight concern here; but he went like the best horse through the race, and he can still improve in this sphere.

With winning form at this venue in the book already – albeit over hurdles – and proven in the conditions, he is only rated 3lbs below Champ but gets 5lbs from that rival and he could go close here.

1:25 – Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

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MIDNIGHT SHADOW 9 /2
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Midnight Shadow can win the Dipper Novices’ Chase.

2:00 – Paddy Power Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

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.

2:00 – Paddy Power Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

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OK CORRAL 10 /1
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2:35 – Paddy Power 69 Sleeps To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 3m

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.

2:35 – Paddy Power 69 Sleeps To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 3m

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SKANDIBURG 6 /1
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3:10 – Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

ROKSANA (5/1, Unibet) might have found the exertions of the Coral Hurdle coming too soon after her earlier near-miss behind Top Notch at Aintree on her reappearance in November where she had a hard race behind Nicky Henderson’s versatile star.

Dan Skelton’s charge won the Mares’ Hurdle here in March, albeit fortuitously having benefitted from the fall of Benie Des Dieux, and she lost little caste in defeat upped to three miles for her next run at Aintree in the Liverpool Hurdle where she found only If The Cap Fits too strong.

That one won at Ascot latest, but the Dubai Destination mare weakened out of the race quickly once headed having jumped the third-last hurdle in front. That outing came just two weeks on from her Aintree outing, and she might have been feeling the effects of that contest.

She’s had more of a break between runs this time, and she could be worth forgiving that Ascot outing back at this venue, and she can do better this time around if returning to her best.

3:10 – Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

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ROKSANA 5 /1
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Roksana can bounce back to form to win the Relkeel Hurdle.

3:50 – EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Listed Race) Cl1 (4yo) 1m6f

GRAND ROI (13/8, William Hill) looked a very useful prospect when slamming the reopposing Audacity by 15 lengths on his UK debut at Wincanton earlier in the month, and Nicky Henderson’s charge can follow up that success here.

The Spanish Moon gelding failed to score during his time in France, but he looked a different proposition for the Seven Barrows maestro, travelling well throughout and readily drawing clear from the front having made all the running.

That experience certainly won’t have been lost on him, and he looks sure to improve for the run so every chance he can follow up here and confirm himself as a very nice prospect for his leading yard which has a decent record with its’ runners in bumper races.

3:50 – EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo)

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GRAND ROI 13 /8
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CHELTENHAM NEW YEARS’ DAY TIPS – RACE-BY-RACE SELECTIONS

12:15 – IMPERIAL ALCAZAR (4/1, Ladbrokes)
12:50 – DOING FINE (4/1, Paddy Power)
1:25 – MIDNIGHT SHADOW (9/2, William Hill)
2:00 – OK CORRAL (10/1, Ladbrokes)
2:35 – SKANDIBURG (6/1, Coral)
3:10 – ROKSANA (5/1, Unibet)
3:50 – GRAND ROI (13/8, William Hill)

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