Friday, December 28, 2018 – Cheltenham Racecourse welcomes in 2019 with an excellent seven-race programme on New Year’s Day, Tuesday, January 1, featuring three Graded contests and offering £260,000 in prize money. All racehorses become a year older on the day.
Top-class mares Benie Des Dieux and Laurina could have their first starts of the season in the £50,000 G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (3.10pm, 11 entries) over an extended two and a half miles.
Trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, both were successful at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March, with Benie Des Dieux capturing the G1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and Laurina storming to an 18-length victory in the G2 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Entries for Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle also include four-time Cheltenham scorer Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who won this race 12 months ago before finishing third in the G1 Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival™ presented by Magners, and G1 Aintree Hurdle third Clyne (Evan Williams).
The 2017 G1 Ryanair Chase third Aso (Venetia Williams) heads the weights on 11st 12lb for the most valuable race on the card, the £75,000 Download The BetBright App Handicap Chase (2.00pm, 15 entries) over an extended two and half miles.
Aso has been restricted to two starts since April, 2017, but looked right back to his best last time out when landing a handicap chase by 13 lengths at Newbury on November 30.
At the other end of the weights, Dr Richard Newland is looking forward to saddling unexposed French import Dustin Des Mottes (10st 1lb).
A winner on his chase debut at Clairefontaine in June, the five-year-old has run twice for Newland and most recently went down by half a length in a novices’ handicap chase at Ascot on December 21, having jumped markedly left on occasions.
Newland said today:
“Dustin Des Mottes is an intended runner on New Year’s Day. He ran really well at Ascot last time, but just jumped very left-handed, which surprised us. The horse has come out of the race 100 per cent, and we hope that going left-handed will suit him much better. He is stepping up in trip and I could not be 100 per cent certain that he will stay, but he ran as if he was staying on strongly over two miles, one furlong last time out. I hope he is capable of winning a decent race at some point. He is still a novice this season so we will have to see where we get to, but generally speaking he is a very good jumper and hopefully he will be competitive at Cheltenham.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies has won three of the last five renewals of the Download The BetBright App Handicap Chase and has 2018 winner Ballyhill (10st 12lb) and Cogry (10st 10lb), successful at Cheltenham in the G3 CF Roberts 25 Years Of Sponsorship Handicap Chase over three and a quarter miles earlier this month, among his four entries.
The lightly-raced Give Me A Copper (10st 13lb) could make his handicap debut at the age of nine for in-form trainer Paul Nicholls, having been off the track since November, 2017.
Others to note include Wetherby Listed handicap chase winner Born Survivor (Dan Skelton, 10st 11lb) and Happy Diva (Kerry Lee, 10st 8lb), who was brought down when still in contention in the G3 BetVictor Gold Cup at The November Meeting.
The 2017 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs), who was successful in a novice chase at Exeter earlier this month, features among 12 entries for the £35,000 G2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase (1.25pm) over an extended two and a half miles.
His rivals could include the first two home in the G1 Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last season - Black Op (Tom George), who was third to Defi Du Seuil at Exeter, and Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard) - plus On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson), who twice scored at G2 level over hurdles last season.
Crucial Role joined Dan Skelton at the start of the current season and the six-year-old got off the mark over fences at the second time of asking with a facile nine-length victory in a beginners’ chase over two and a half miles at Uttoxeter on December 11.
Warwickshire-based Skelton said:
“Crucial Role is in good form and the BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase is the target for him. I was impressed with his victory at Uttoxeter in what looked a very deep beginners’ chase. He will stay further and likes soft ground.”
Racing gets underway at 12.15pm with the Listed £25,000 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, which has 10 entries headed by the Nicky Henderson-trained duo of I Can’t Explain and Birchdale, who have both made impressive starts to their careers under rules.
Martyn Meade and John Ryan may be better known for their Flat exploits, but both trainers could be represented by Cascova and Book Of Invasions respectively in the closing £25,000 Listed EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Bumper (3.50pm) – a race Classic-winning handler Roger Charlton won in 2011 with Keys.
The racing action is completed by the £25,000 Join The BetBright Racing Club Handicap Chase (12.50pm, 20 entries) and the £25,000 Simplify Horse Racing Selections With BetFinder At BetBright Handicap Hurdle (2.35pm, 27 entries).
More information is available at www.cheltenham.co.uk and through Twitter (@CheltenhamRaces), Facebook www.facebook.com/thehomeofjumpracing and Instagram (@CheltenhamRaces).
If you need any information about racing at Cheltenham, please contact: Sophia Dale, Communications Manager - Jockey Club Racecourses South West 01242 537 683 email@example.com