What better way could there be to kick off 2022 than with some high class National Hunt racing? There are excellent cards throughout Britain and Ireland on Saturday and although local restrictions will limit the number of fans who can turn up in person at some of those venues, the ITV Racing cameras will broadcast the best of the action for those at home.
Cheltenham is the anchor racecourse for ITV with four races, while three contests at Scotland’s Musselburgh and the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore over in Ireland fill out the schedule for a day of racing not to be missed. In the search for some profit to start the New Year right, we’ve picked out the best bets from each of the live races in our Saturday Racing Tips.
1:25 Paddy Power Novices’ Chase (Registered As The Dipper Novices’ Chase)
Grade 2, 2m4½f
The Cheltenham Festival is the meeting at which every owner and trainer wants to have a winner. Sadly, Cheltenham just doesn’t suit every horse, sometimes simply because it is left handed. That should not be an issue for the Dipper Novices’ Chase favourite, L’Homme Presse. He won on his last two starts at right-handed tracks despite noticeably jumping out to his left at times so there is a strong argument to be made that he will be even better for going left handed on New Year’s Day.
It was the way that L’Homme Presse pulled clear from his rivals over fences that was the most impressive part of his most recent win at Ascot. That’s despite his tendency to go left capping his jumping advantage. Venetia Williams knows exactly how to nurture a high class, improving horse and Charlie Deutsch has quickly formed a strong bond as L’Homme Presse’s jockey so that team should be successful again in the opener at what looks like a nice price (13/8).
1:40 Betway Hair Of The Dog Handicap Hurdle
Class 3, 2m4f
Anybody who has spent time around horses knows that they each have their own characters. That makes them great fun to be around but doesn’t always translate into consistent performances on the track. Strong Glance is an example of a horse with bags of character who rarely makes life straightforward for his jockey on race day.
The first two races of the season were both good cases in point. Lewis Stones partnered Strong Glance twice at Wincanton, the first time he was unseated and the second he was powerless as the horse ran out. Fergus Gregory had a much better time of it when riding Strong Glance into second place at Hereford three weeks ago and he’ll be feeling confident about his chances of going one better at Musselburgh. Strong Glance is off a workable mark of 129 and is available at a fair price of 7/2.
2:00 Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap
Grade 3, 2m4½f
Many of the racegoers attending Cheltenham on Saturday will have made New Year’s resolutions for 2022. Some may have even started a bit early but not as early as Riders Onthe Storm who has the look of a horse who has resolved to get back to his best.
Last season was a trying one for the nine-year-old. Riders Onthe Storm’s new owners took him to Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard which initially looked like a masterstroke as he reeled off a hat-trick of wins but the magic soon wore off. A disappointing final four races saw Riders Onthe Storm on the move again, with Richard Hobson taking charge. An impressive run for second place at the start of December hinted that this latest change could have a revitalising effect and another step forward would surely see Riders Onthe Storm outrun his odds of 12/1 in the Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap. As such, an each way bet here is certainly tempting.
2:10 Betway Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 1m7½f
This has been a tough season for many horses who enjoy soft ground as the weather has not been kind. On the flip side, horses who are best suited to good to soft ground have been able to keep performing well deeper into the winter than they usually would. Just ask trainer Ann Hamilton and all connected to Tommy’s Oscar.
After failing to get 2m4f at Carlisle on soft ground in October, Tommy’s Oscar was back to his very best in his next two starts at Haydock and Doncaster respectively. A pair of handicap wins has seen him shoot up the ratings from 139 to 150 but he handled top weight impressively last time out and can do so again on similar good to soft ground at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day. Tommy’s Oscar has been duelling with First impression for favouritism in the early betting and will need to fight off John Quinn’s 127-rated charge on the track, but that is a challenge which is well within his grasp at the nice price of 5/2.
2:20 Savills New Year’s Day Chase
Grade 3, 2m6f
The sole live ITV race from over in Tramore on Saturday is one not to be missed. As in the last three years the Savills New Year’s Day Chase is the first outing of the season for the brilliant Al Boum Photo before he attempts to win the Gold Cup. His failure to complete a hat-trick of wins in the most prestigious chase of all has prompted Willie Mullins to suggest that he will run more than once before heading to Cheltenham this time around but his now traditional run at Tramore will still play a key role in his preparations.
Al Boum Photo has five rivals to take on here but somewhat disaapointingly, only one of them is not a stable mate. The Gordon Elliot-trained Hardline is a hardy performer but he’ll need Al Boum Photo to be seriously underprepared to have any chance of winning. At 1/3 many will feel there is little point in backing Al Boum Photo even if he is highly likely to win. Instead, consider an each way bet on 11/1 shot Brahma Bull who doesn’t have the favourite’s pace but has as much stamina as any of these and could well plug on for second place and a welcome return from the bookies.
2:35 Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 3m
Experience is a key element to success at Cheltenham. The undulating track, presence of big crowds and regularly strong fields sees many horses wilt when they get their chance to run at Prestbury Park. Kansas City Chief has proven time and time again that he has all the tools required to run well at Cheltenham and at the grand old age of 13 he is certainly not lacking in experience. The veteran also isn’t lacking in enthusiasm as some excellent runs this season have proven.
The final major box tick for Kansas City Chief is that he has a very good record in January. True, the ground isn’t as soft as it usually is at this time of year but soft ground at Cheltenham is exactly what Neil Mulholland’s charge wants so 9/1 is more than fair.
2:50 Betway “Auld Reekie” Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4½f
After fields of 11 and 14 in the 2021 and 2020 editions of the Auld Reekie Handicap respectively, just five remain standing after the final declarations stage of this year’s edition. That’s a disappointment for the organisers at Musselburgh but it presents connections of Gold Des Bois with a cracking opportunity as he is primed to run a big race at 3/1.
The eight-year-old was kept busy throughout the summer and is one of those horses who has been able to keep going due to the relative lack of rain. Better ground has kept Gold Des Bois competitive since Raymond Anderson Green bought him in September but his three starts for Iain Jardine have proven frustrating with a hat-trick of second places. The step up in trip to 2m4½f looks a wise move for this free running horse, who will aim to take the legs and running out of his rivals and finally secure the win he has been threatening.
3:10 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m4½f
In another rather small field we have six horses set to go to post for the final live race of New Year’s Day. The Relkeel Hurdle hasn’t always been the easiest to predict but half of the last 10 winners were sent off as either the favourite or joint favourite and Brewin’upastorm can become the latest contender at the head of the market to get the job done.
For all that his reversion back to hurdles from fences was necessary after a confidence-sapping fall in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, there is no doubt that the smaller obstacles bring out the best in him. After finishing his season fifth in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, Olly Murphy sent him out in relatively calm waters back at Aintree in November. His performance when winning that Class 2 hurdle was one of a horse capable of winning at the top level so Brewin’upastorm can put his Cheltenham woes firmly behind him with victory in the Relkeel Hurdle at odds of 6/4.