Steve Hughes has three picks for Cheltenham’s New Years Day card
A traditional busy New Year’s programme is highlighted with a good card at Cheltenham and I have selections from three races. Bob Mahler was placed for the each-way bet on Sunday (6/1).
Cheltenham 12.50: Singlefarmpayment
For a horse who idles badly when he hits the front it is perhaps surprising that Singlefarmpayment has never sported headgear before that is designed to help concentrate him. Today he wears cheekpieces for the first time and maybe that will encourage him to go by all his rivals.
A regular wearer of a hood, that has been left off for his two races this season, where he has finished a fair fourth on both occasions. The latter was here last month where he was only 3l behind Cogry on ground softer than ideal. Four pounds better off today, I am hopeful that the new headgear might just sharpen him up enough to make the difference.
Certainly his course record is excellent reading 11B22P524204 including a win over hurdles on this card four years ago. Versatile regarding ground conditions, the handicapper has given him a chance, dropping him 6lbs since a fine eighth in the Grand National.
Cheltenham 2.00: Cepage
Another horse to be building up a fine track record is Cepage and the gelding can finally gain a deserved first win at the track here.
Three of his last four runs have been at Cheltenham with finishing positions of 424. That includes a fourth off top weight in a similar race at the last meeting where he was beaten less than 3l despite an awful jumping error at the first in the back straight. Without that mistake he would surely have gone close and with Kalashnikov in the race he at least gets a lower weight to carry today.
Whilst he handles testing going, he is one horse hailing from the Venetia Williams yard that will handle drier conditions as exemplified by his fine second to Frodon in the 2018 renewal of the Caspian Caviar. Still lightly raced at the age of eight I am sure he has a bit more in the locker yet.
Cheltenham 3.10: Summerville Boy
A horse who had his finest hour here at the 2018 Festival, Summerville Boy has not really progressed from that since. However the Relkeel Hurdle offers him a suitable opportunity to return to the big time.
A promising chasing debut, winning at Uttoxeter was not followed up when he fell in the first Grade 1 novice chase of the season at Sandown last month. Never the most fluent of jumpers, he is immediately switched back to hurdling today. That could yet prove to be an inspired move.
Whilst almost all his best form is at 2m, including that Supreme Hurdle win, he shapes like he should stay 2m4f and even improve for the extra distance. A stress fracture ruined his season last time around, yet he was still only beaten 6l in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. In receipt of weight from a few rivals, this looks the easiest test he has had over the smaller obstacles for some time.
0.75pts each-way – Singlefarmpayment – 12.50 Cheltenham – 9/2 general
1pt each-way – Cepage – 2.00 Cheltenham – 17/2 William Hill (¼ odds 1st 5)
1pt win – Summerville Boy – 3.10 Cheltenham – 15/2 general