A brand new decade kicks off with some great racing action from Cheltenham and Musselburgh today, with, thankfully, ground conditions more amenable than of late.

Most valuable race on the Cheltenham card is the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at 2.00, which sees Kalashnikov attempt to defy a rating of 161, the horse having been raised 6lbs for being touched off by our selection Old Grangewood at Newbury at the end of November. With that horse being shoved up 7lbs, it could be that they are both handicapped out of this and we prefer two others which could be well in.

Our primary selection is Poker Play from the David Pipe yard. This 7-y-o has had just three spins over fences but started this season with a smooth win in a Novice chase at Ffos Las last November. ‘Nothing startling in that’ we hear you cry, but what has happened since puts a different perspective on it.

The second, receiving 7lbs and beaten 5 lengths is now rated 138 and the third, beaten 7 lengths is now a 147 rated beastie. Throw in the 4th, which cantered home by half the track next time out and you begin to see that, off 138, Poker Play might be handicapped to run a big race. Just run once since that win, when failing to see out 3m+ on this track and has been put by for this – and why not.

At 14-1, this is a cracking each way investment.

Our other pick is the Oirish challenger Ex Patriot, which couldn’t quite coe with Battleoverdoyen last time out, but nothing else has managed to go with that horse either, so no disgrace to be a solid third. EP can run in this handicap off its Oirish mark, which is a favourable one and we must back this one too at 7-1.

Coverage starts with the Paddy Power…Dipper Novices’ Chase at 1.25 and Champ is the 4-9 favourite to continue to marmalise the opposition. Whilst we don’t think a 5lb pull for 6 lengths is technically enough, we will venture a small each way bet on Deyrann De Carjac at 15-2, on the grounds that you never know your luck.

The Paddy Power…Handicap Hurdle at 2.35 has a field of 13, with Skandiburg the 9-2 favourite. Last seen winning a similar event at Aintree in November, Ollie Murphy has aimed at this race since and is well worth an each way punt at the price.

We also have to have a small wager on Who’s My Jockey, the answer being Ben Jones. Debuting for the Richard Hobson yard, this 7-y-o boasts some solid hurdle form and, if ready to go, could outrun its 16-1 price.

At 3.10, the Dorman Engineering Relkeel Hurdle sees the return to hurdling of Nicky Henderson‘s 166 rated chaser Janika and there is little doubt that a run anywhere near that rating will be good enough. Trust the trainer and have a win bet at 11-4.

Up at Musselburgh, two races are being shown, the first being the Betway ‘Auld Reekie’ Handicap Chase at 1.40. We think that Charlie Mann‘s runner Fixed Rate warrants the selection here, after an excellent come back run and recommend an each way bet at 5-1.

We also can’t resist a minor investment on Western Miller, which, if in the mood, could make them all go under Tom Buckley and at 33-1 is over priced.

The Betway Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle at 2.15 concludes the telly coverage and our strong fancy for this is the winner in 2018, Sir Chauvelin. Not seen over hurdles for yonks, this Jim Goldie runner has improved leaps and bounds on the Flat, knocking its mark up to 101 and you betcha ‘young’ Jim has had this race in mind for some time. Take the 11-2 on offer and enjoy.

Let’s hope the New Year is, indeed, a happy one.


Poker Play 2.00 Cheltenham 1.5pts e/w @ 14-1 (4 places)

Ex Patriot 2.00 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 7-1 (4 places)

Deyrann De Carjac 1.25 Cheltenham 1pt e/w @ 15-2 (2 places)

Skandiburg 2.35 Cheltenham 1.5pt e/w @ 9-2 (4 places)

Who’s My Jockey 2.35 Cheltenham 0.5pts e/w @ 16-1 (4 places)  

Janika 3.10 Chelenham 2pts win @11-4

Fixed Rate 1.40 Musselburgh 1pt e/w @ 5-1 (4 places)

Western Miller 1.40 Musselburgh 0.5pts e/w @ 33-1 (4 places)

Sir Chauvelin 2.15 Musselburgh 2pts e/w @ 11-2

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