Cheltenham Tips: Three bets for the New Year's Day action at Prestbury Park

Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners
Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners

Cheltenham host its traditional New Year's Day card on Saturday afternoon, and our in-house tipster Steve Chambers picks out his three best bets on the card here...

12:15 Cheltenham - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

Nicky Henderson's abundance of top class novice hurdlers means I AM MAXIMUS has slipped under the radar a little, but he could well be the Seven Barrows team's premier contender for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on day two of the Cheltenham Festival in March, and he lines up in a trial for the 2m 5f Grade 1 on Saturday.

With the likes of Jonbon and Constitution Hill producing sumptuous performances in recent weeks and showing their Supreme Novices' Hurdle credentials, it's I Am Maximus' turn to try and strut his stuff, and the step up in trip this weekend should play to his strengths. He had top class bumper form, as he won a Listed NH Flat race at Cheltenham earlier in his career, where he beat a certain My Drogo, but he disappointed a little on hurdling debut when third at Exeter.

Sent to Newbury next time out over two miles, he was a warm odds-on favourite for the event, but duly beat Raymond Tusk by six lengths to record his first win over timber. Having been eye-balled in the closing stages, I Am Maximus picked up impressively for pressure, and shaped like a notable step up in trip would bring him on bundles. He will have some lively adversaries in the shape of Henry Daly's hat-trick-seeking Hillcrest and Dan Skelton's Get A Tonic, but the 16/1 available for the Ballymore about I Am Maximus will be significantly shorter after New Year's Day, as he can bound to glory here.

12:15 Cheltenham - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
I Am Maximus silk

I Am Maximus


14:35 Cheltenham - Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle

Dan Skelton's SPIRITOFTHEGAMES has certainly been an expensive horse to follow in recent times, but he's been given a significant chance by the handicapper in the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle at 14:35, and he could warrant excellent each-way value at double-figured odds.

A regular at Cheltenham in recent campaigns, he had previously finished fifth in a County Hurdle off a mark of 139, while he's also been placed in a number of competitive handicap chases off similar marks. Eighth in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival in March showed that he can perform with significant credit when tackling the undulations of GL50, and that festival run came off a mark of 141.

He will take his chance on Saturday off a significant 6lb lower mark, and a mark of 135 looks extremely attractive - if he can recapture his best form in a competitive betting heat. Last seen pulling up over fences in the Rehearsal Chase, a return to the smaller obstacles should see him in a much better light, and if he can produce his A game then he looks a leading player.

14:35 Cheltenham - Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle
Spiritofthegames silk

Spiritofthegames (EW)


15:10 Cheltenham - Relkeel Hurdle

Seven will go to post for the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle, which is the feature race on New Year's Day, and it will see last year's winner MCFABULOUS attempt to retain his crown for Paul Nicholls. With the New Year's fixture being abandoned last season then the Relkeel was switched to Kempton Park, and the Ditcheat raider was imperious en route to victory and can strike once again.

He will face a much tougher test in this year's renewal as he locks horns with the Olly Murphy-trained Brewin'upastorm, who is the likely favourite and the nine-year-old has winning form over Mcfabulous. The pair clashed in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell Park last season, and Brewin'upastorm won by over five lengths. Impressive on his comeback run at Aintree earlier in the season, Murphy's raider is sure to be a leading player here, but he may just struggle to replicate his Aintree run and frank the Fontwell form.

Mcfabulous has shown to really excel over this intermediate trip, and while he disappointed in the Aintree Hurdle in April, he's a lot better than that effort, and the Nicholls team are sure to have him firing on all cylinders here. None of the field are likely to turn into serious Stayers' Hurdle contenders, but this is an intriguing renewal which can go the way of the Ditcheat yard.

15:10 Cheltenham - Relkeel Hurdle
Mcfabulous silk


Cheltenham Festival Odds
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