Cheltenham’s traditional New Year’s Day fixture is set to beat the frost that saw Wednesday’s meetings being abandoned – and National Hunt enthusiasts should be licking their chops as the meeting is set to stage some exciting and competitive racing.
Read our predictions below for the day’s big three races:
Betbright Novices Chase 1.20pm
Two of this season’s best novice chasers clash in this 2-mile 5-furlong contest and Ptit Zig is fancied to get the better of Champagne West in what should prove a match. Ptit Zig was rated 159 over hurdles and has won all three of his novice chases in fine style. The one doubt is the step up in trip, but his trainer Paul Nicholls took a similar route with Silviniaco Conti.
3 points Ptit Zig @ 11/8 or better
BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase 1.55
Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Caid Du Berlais is challenging for favouritism for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, however it may be Sam’s dad Nigel Twiston-Davies who lifts the trophy courtesy of Splash of Ginge. Splash of Ginge was travelling ominously well when falling at last month’s big meeting and can make amends here. Jockey Ryan Hatch’s 5lb claim means Splash of Ginge is set to carry less than 11-0, which he seemed to enjoy when winning the Tote Gold Trophy over hurdles.
The back-up plan comes in the shape of Martin Keighley’s Champion Court who has been dropped to a mark of 143 by the handicapper, and probably won’t get a better chance of winning a decent prize for his in-form stable.
2 points win Splash of Ginge @ 6/1 or better
1 point each-way Champion Court @ 16/1 or better
Dornan Engineering Hurdle 3.05pm
Likely favourite Vaniteux receives 8lb from the other main contenders, but is hard to weigh-up after finishing third to Vatour and runner-up behind both Garde la Victoire and The new One, all over 2-miles round Cheltenham. He steps up half-a-mile in trip here in a bid to get his head in front but faces some stern opposition.
Barry Geraghty may be riding Vaniteux, but stablemate Beat That boasts the higher-rating after winning at last season’s Aintree and Punchestown Festivals. However, those were both over 3-miles and he may need that trip to show his best.
Cole Harden also has claims, but this may go the way of old favourite and 2012 Champion Hurdler Rock on Ruby. Harry Fry’s charge won last month’s Relkeel Hurdle in great style and he’s yet to finish out of the frame in his hurdle races at Cheltenham.
3 points Rock on Ruby @ 5/2 or better