Heavy ground is the order of the day at the two main meetings this afternoon, with the proceedings at Newbury holding our attention.

The Grade 1 Betfred Challow Novices’ Hurdle at 3.00 is the most valuable race on the card and has attracted a field of 6 promising youngsters.

Three horses are vying for favouritism and Poetic Rhythm at 3-1 is going to be our choice. Fergal O’Brien’s 6-y-o opened its hurdling account with a victory in a Grade 2 at Chepstow on seasonal reappearance in October and followed up with an excellent 3rd in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham the following month. The form of that race could not have worked out better, with both first and second winning good races since and it could just be that this horse is better than its official mark of 147 suggests.

A win bet is recommended.

At 2.25, the historic Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase takes place with, currently, a field of 9. At 5-1 the field, this race has an open look to it, but we think Wuff will do the biz for Tom George. Leaving aside the stupid name, this rather large beastie has been something of a talking horse so far, regularly going off favourite and promptly getting stuffed. However the signs are there of a late maturer and, following an excellent tune-up second at Bangor, we should be with it today at an each way 6-1.

The 1.15 race is a Chase over two miles for novices, but the title is annoying enough to prevent me printing it. That being said, we suggest backing Remiluc, trained by Chris Gordon, at 5-2. This 8-y-o has less experience over fences than its three rivals, but is much improved over hurdles and can run off a 12lb lower mark over the larger obstacles.

Stands up – wins.

The Betfred Wishing You A Very Happy New Year Handicap Hurdle (Nearly didn’t print that one, either) at 1.50 has Brave Eagle and Diable De Sivola as joint favs at 7-2, but, in the hope that the famous ‘dead eight’ stays a ‘dead eight’ we recommend an each way bet on Wilde Blue Yonder at 9-1.

Plagued with injury problems, this 8-y-o has not been seen on a racecourse for 615 days and there was a further two years missing before that. However, when all moving parts are working, this is a Grade 1 standard animal and runs here off a lowly 133, so, with the trainer (Alan King) reporting good work at home, we’ll take a chance at an artisan’s price.

See in the New Year in style – back with Cheltenham in 2018.


Poetic Rhythm 3.00 Newbury win @ 3-1 William Hill
Wuff 2.25 Newbury e/w @ 6-1 Ladbrokes (4 places)
Remiluc 1.15 Newbury win @ 5-2 PaddyPower
Wilde Blue Yonder 1.50 Newbury e/w @ 9-1 Coral


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