BASKING in a stunning 10/1 winner on Wednesday, Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) is back with thoughts on the New Years Day card at Cheltenham.
12:10 Cheltenham | Channel 4
We all want to get the year off to a profitable start and what better way than to have the winner of the first race of the year? Cheltenham provides us with 2016's first opportunity to do that and it's a hot looking novice hurdle. I think this race will throw up winners galore for the rest of the season but one of them comes in here looking a sure-fire future graded winner.
Hawkhurst should have won last time out where he was one of the most controversial losers of 2015. Sam Twiston-Davies came in for a lot of criticism that day when he came off Hawkhurst on the flat with the race at his mercy and it's over to JP McManus's retained jockey to try put things right this time out.
However this is a big step up in class for Hawkhurst and with the Paul Nichols yard struggling for winners it will take some effort for him to win here.
Drumlee Sunset is another horse who's race came to an end in unusual circumstances two races ago when he unseated at the start but he is a horse I like a lot. He ran a more promising race last time out but he is still a horse with potential rather than a horse I want to be betting in this.
The horse I like here is the favourite Captain Chaos. A winner of his first two starts in a bumper and a maiden hurdle he fell just short when stepped up to Graded level last time out.
The winner that day label Des Obeaux is thought of by his trainer Alan King as a Cheltenham Festival horse and the form of that race looks solid.
He done his best work late on there and the softer ground and stiffer track will suit him. Though it's a decent looking field here he looks like he's ahead of them on current form and I expect him to win this race.
13:20 Cheltenham | Channel 4
The Dipper Chase, a Grade 2 for novices over 2 miles 5 furlongs and it is a very competitive field with only seven runners and 3/1 the field. Every horse lining up has a chance and it's one of the bigger priced runners who catches my eye.
Volnay De Thiax was up with the best of these over hurdles but he wasn't overly impressive first time out over fences. He managed to win that day after an uninspiring round of jumping and with improvement likely he could go far over the larger obstacles. However unless the improvement happens immediately he won't be winning here and I'll happily take him on.
Seeyouatmidnight was another top hurdler who ran in Grade 1's at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals and after a below par debut over fences he won well last time out. He will handle the heavy ground here but this race is better than the one he won last time out and at the moment I'm taking him on.
Now I've just turned down two horses with winning form to back one who has flopped on his previous two races which may seem crazy but I have my reasons.
The horse I fancy, or shall I say taking a chance on, is Minella Rocco. Last season he won both career starts looking like a young horse destined for the very top.
He made his chase debut in November where despite starting odds on he came last of three. Last time out he ran at today's course where a bad mistake at the fourth put an end to his chances and he was quickly pulled up.
Now his chase career so far is nothing to write home about, but he is still a horse of immense potential, and if he brushes up on his jumping he can get competitive here.
At 12/1 he makes a lot of appeal as an each way bet here and if this was ran last season on hurdles form he would probably be a short price favourite. Though you don't get rich backing out of form horses I can see reasons for backing him here and I intend to do so.
12:10 Cheltenham – Captain Chaos to win (9/4 BetVictor)
13:20 Cheltenham – Minella Rocco each way (12/1 William Hill)
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