Steve Hughes previews the traditional New Years Day card at Cheltenham
Cheltenham highlights a typically busy New Years Day with some top class action over jumps. I have selections from three races, including the featured Dipper Novice Chase.
Cheltenham 1.25: Lostintranslation
A horse who looks every inch a chaser, Lostintranslation has yet to win in two starts, but has taken on top class company to date and might be able to steal this small field contest.
He has had the misfortune to run into La Bague Au Roi on both his previous chase outings at Newbury in November – that mare proving to be the leading novice chaser in Britain to date having landed the Kauto Star at Kempton last week However he jumped well and galloped right to the line on each occasion.
I liked the way he went in the Supreme at the Festival here, although he did only finish seventh. He was at his best though when racing prominently, notably when making all at Newbury. In a small field today, he might be able to get an easy lead and could prove hard to catch in the circumstances.
Cheltenham 2.35: Shalakar
Trainer Venetia Williams has really hit form of late (6-25 in the past fortnight) and her Shalakar might have plenty of room for improvement on his first go at 3m.
The 5yo was a decent performer on the flat in France and won over as far as 1m7f at Chantilly as a 3yo, meaning he is clearly endowed with plenty of stamina. His first five runs over hurdles were all over 2m and frankly he looked a little one pace finishing third on four consecutive occasions.
However he was a wide margin winner at Ludlow at the first attempt beyond the trip over 2m5f in April. Since then he has been placed in two handicaps this autumn, again looking in need of a greater test of stamina. His breeding suggests this drier ground will be of no issue and he could still be well in off 127 if the extra distance does prove of benefit to him.
Cheltenham 3.10: Wholestone
Last season Wholestone came into this race off a poor run in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, but won decisively and history may well repeat itself this afternoon.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has an excellent record at this track, winning four times in eight starts (finishing second or third in the other races), but his last two wins here have been at this intermediate 2m4f trip and I think a strongly run 3m is too stiff a test of stamina.
He was not short of pace when winning at Aintree in November and relatively quick ground over 2m4f. He travelled well for the most part at Newbury, but faded tamely and the only logical explanation is that 3m on a stiff track is too much of a test. He is the highest rated of these horses and might simply prove too classy.
1pt win – Lostintranslation – 1.25 Cheltenham – 100/30 Bet365
1pt each-way – Shalakar – 2.35 Cheltenham – 7/1 general (William Hill 1/5 odds first 6)
2pts win – Wholestone – 3.10 Cheltenham – 11/8 general