HAPPY NEW YEAR! Cheltenham offers the perfect way to see in 2018 with an excellent seven-race card on New Year’s Day with the highlight the clash between Willoughby Court and Yanworth. There is a record £260,000 in prize money on offer across the seven races (up 23 per cent on 2017). The richest race of the day is the £75,000 G3 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (2.00, nine runners) over an extended two-and-a-half miles.
Dual Grade Two winner Top Gamble heads the weights, while the field also includes last year’s winner Shantou Flyer and a pair from local handler Nigel Twiston-Davies – the BetVictor Gold Cup winner SPLASH OF GINGE, who will love the heavy ground, and Ballyhill.
Sametegal comes into the race in good form, having finished in the frame in competitive handicap chases at Wetherby and Aintree on his latest two appearances, while another interesting contender is Burtons Well, who ran well when going down by a neck on his seasonal debut at Stratford in October.
The action gets underway at 12.15pm with the £25,000 Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (eight runners) over two and a half miles. An intriguing contest looks guaranteed, with AINCHEA (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper), Onefortheroadtom (Harry Fry/Barry Geraghty), Tikkanbar (Neil Mulholland/Noel Fehily) and Whatmore (Henry Daly/Andrew Tinkler) all on the scoresheet so far this season.
Tikkanbar was a useful performer in bumpers last season, recording victories at Hereford and Sedgefield. He could not have been more impressive on his hurdling debut at Plumpton on November 20 when he sauntered to a facile 19-length success over Landin, who had run well in G1 company at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree last season.
Yanworth rematch with Willoughby Court
A fascinating contest is in prospect for the £35,000 G2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase (1.25). Willoughby Court landed the G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2017 and has been faultless in two starts over fences, most recently defeating the re-opposing YANWORTH, seventh in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, by three lengths in a G2 contest at Newbury on December 1. Further spice is added with the presence of Ballyandy, a G3 winner over hurdles and successful on his only start over fences at Perth, course winner Sizing Tennessee and Ami Desbois, who is two from two over fences. Conditions look ripe for Yanworth to exact revenge as long as his jumping holds together.
There is further G2 action with the £50,000 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (3.10) over two and a half miles. Last year’s winner Agrapart goes to post again with the field also including Old Guard, Wholestone and COLIN’S SISTER. She who got the better of Wholestone by two lengths in a G2 contest at Wetherby in November.
ARTHUR’S GIFT was successful at on December 15 and is among eight runners for the £25,000 BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle (2.35). Favourite is Red Rising, a nine-length scorer at Southwell on December 5.
The action is completed by the £25,000 Watch Live Racing On betbright.com Handicap Chase (12.50) and the concluding £25,000 Listed EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Bumper (3.45).ng
The going at Cheltenham is currently: Heavy, Soft in places