From myself and my colleagues at Best of Bets, a very Happy New Year! Let’s get of to the perfect start, with a profitable New Year’s Day racing. And after celebrating Hogmanay in the centre of Edinburgh, these selections could do the trick of buying a few more rounds at the hotel bar. It’s brand New Year, but the same old Four To Follow.
Leaving Me Stumped
1:30 – Handicap Chase – Stumptown @ 3/1 (General)
For the first ‘Premier’ raceday, it’s a pretty awful turnout. But there’s value to be found and Stumptown at 3/1 is an absolute steal. Gavin Cromwell is the top trainer at Cheltenham so far after seven meetings with six winners, returning a +15.07 profit to £1 stakes. Form like that can’t go unnoticed, and since Stumptown’s run in the Hennessey Gold Cup, Cromwell may well have had this race in mind. Heavy ground is yet to be mastered, but Cromwell will have him well set for the race.
New Year, Same Star
2:05 – New Year’s Day Handicap Chase (Premier) – Stage Star @ 11/10 (William Hill)
It’s a dismal turnout for the big handicap of the day, but at least there’s some quality headliner. Stage Star romped home in the November Gold Cup, but with five opponents it looks an open and shut case. Some may say heavy ground is against him, but he loves the soft ground and has never tried the heavy stuff. He’s been on the drift, but I feel he won’t be by race time.
Big Bob V The Rock
3:15 – Relkeel Hurdle (Grade Two) – Bob Olinger @ 13/8 (William Hill)
Whilst there’s only four runners, it looks a quality renewal of the Relkeel. Two Grade One winners in Bob Olinger and Marie’s Rock go head-to-head. Marie’s Rock has the most to prove after disappointing last time out in the Long Distance Hurdle, but a drop in trip should help. But Bob Olinger is fierce opposition. His reappearance record is astonishing, and whilst it hasn’t been 50 days, it’s been long enough. Rachael Blackmore will want to leave with a winner at Cheltenham, and her best chance is here.
A Wee Tot
2:20 – Auld Reekie Handicap Chase – Half Shot @ 5/1 (General)
Half Shot looks to make it a quick-fire double having won just under three miles at Kelso last time out. It’s a little odd that trainer Iain Jardine drops him back in trip but it’s clear he can handle going further and soft ground. Despite going up seven pounds, he’s well handicapped and poses a real threat to the Skelton-trained favourite Frere D’Armes.
And with a cracking chance of finishing in behind is Cracking Destiny. He’s won over two-and-a-half miles and over the course and today he can put the two together. His win over two miles in mid-December was impressive but the handicapper has been fair by raising him only by five pounds. He sneaks in at bottom weight and could be the surprise package in the race at 11/2 (William Hill).
The very best of luck!