Kick Off The New Year With 3 Fancies At Cheltenham

December 31, 2018

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There’s no better way for racing fans to blow away the cobwebs on New Year’s Day than one last festive treat from Cheltenham.

Miraculous recoveries from the tiredness that has set in because of the big night of partying soon subside when your selection comes bounding up the hill.

Jumps racing’s HQ hosts a seven-day card on the first day of 2019 with plenty of clues on offer for the main meeting in March.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out our top three bets for the opening day of the year at Cheltenham.

Black Op (1:25pm @ Cheltenham)

We start with a selection in the Dipper Novices’ Chase, a race which has added the likes of Yanworth, Whisper and Seeyouatmidnight to its roll of honour in the last few years.

It’s a spectacle that is usually won by a horse with a bright future and that could well be the case for Black Op this Tuesday afternoon.

He was highly regarded as a hurdler after finishing runner-up to Samcro in the Ballymore last season, before going on to win the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.

He has since made his debut over fences and although he wasn’t spectacular in finishing 3rd behind Defi Du Seuil at Exeter, it was his first outing of the season and they could have been some rustiness to shake off.

He certainly finished a little tired and the fact is was soft (heavy in places) wouldn’t have helped if he was lacking in race fitness. That certainly shouldn’t be an issue at Cheltenham and considering he has finished 2nd on both visits there, he should be bang in the frame once again.

Chameron (2:35pm @ Cheltenham)

The owners of Chameron had a Christmas to remember with their colours carried to King George glory thanks to Clan Des Obeaux on Boxing Day, and although the celebrations are likely to be still ongoing, they could have reason to go up a level on New Year’s Day.

Chameron won twice as a hurdler in France, including a race worth over £20k for the winner, but since his move to Paul Nicholls in November 2016, he has only ever been seen as a chaser.

2nd in a four-runner race at Exeter is the best he could muster over fences, with a fall at Chepstow and an unseat at Ludlow the other two marks on his card.

However, connections have decided to revert to hurdles for this hot handicap at Cheltenham and also up him in trip. It’s a decision that could bring about a change in fortune, and at double-figure prices, it might just be worth giving Chameron your following.

Wholestone (3:10pm @ Cheltenham)

Wholestone is a horse that has been ultra-consistent at the very top level for the double green of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, and although he’s quite often the bridesmaid, he could well start 2019 with a bang at Cheltenham.

A winner of this Grade 2 last year, Cheltenham is a course that really brings out the best in him, with 5 of his 7 career wins coming at the track. In fact, eight runs at Prestbury Park have yet to see him finish out of the places, which makes him something of an each-way punter’s best friend.

He started the season with success over 2m4f at Aintree, and after disappointing in the Long Distance Hurdle last time, it certainly makes sense to revert back to the shorter trip. In saying that, it will likely prove trickier than it did at Aintree, but Wholestone has proven stamina in the tank and that often goes into overdrive at Cheltenham.

It’s important not to underestimate a good course record, which means you quite simply rule Wholestone out at your peril.

Author: Luke

As a qualified sports journalist, Luke has worked with nationally-recognised outlets covering events from the World Cup to the Grand National. Luke is one of the few men who has to admit that their father was the better footballer, but at least he can take comfort from the fact he got to see his Dad score at Wembley. When Luke isn’t talking football, you’ll normally find him following his other passion, horse racing and has his own horses in training with Paul Nicholls and Mark Johnston.

Twitter @lukeparky2

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