Relkeel Hurdle 2022 Tips: Mcfabulous to retain Grade 2 crown at Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls has trained the winner of the Relkeel Hurdle twice.
Paul Nicholls has trained the winner of the Relkeel Hurdle twice.

Cheltenham will host a quality National Hunt card on New Year's Day, and the feature race is the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle, and our man Steve Chambers previews the race here and picks out his best bet...

Paul Nicholls will be hoping he ventures into the Cheltenham winner's enclosure a lot during 2022, with the countdown to the Cheltenham Festival in March starting to build up momentum, and the Ditcheat handler can visit the number 1 position on Saturday afternoon as MCFABULOUS can bound to glory in the Relkeel Hurdle.

Last year's January 1st meeting was abandoned at Cheltenham, so the Relkeel was switched to Kempton a week later, but that was no trouble for Mcfabulous, who bounded to a two-and-a-quarter length victory over On The Blind Side, and that pair are set to lock horns once again. Excelling over this 2m 4f distance, Mcfabulous may not be one of those that has the speed for the Champion Hurdle or the stamina for the Stayers' Hurdle, but over the intermediate distance of two-and-a-half miles he oozes his class, and he can strike here.

With conditions soft at Kempton last year, Mcfabulous is likely to face similar going in the 2022 renewal, and while he was last seen disappointing in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle in April, a drop back to Grade 2 company should see him put up his best in a race lacking significant depth.

This will be his seasonal reappearance, so he will come on for the run, but he won first time out when winning the 2020 Persian War Novices' Hurdle at Chepstow, so he runs well fresh and this has all the makings of him emulating Oscar Whisky by winning back-to-back Relkeel renewals.

The biggest danger to Mcfabulous most certainly looks to be the Olly Murphy-trained Brewin'upastorm, who produced a scintillating performance on his first run of the season at Aintree, as he cruised well clear of the classy If The Cap Fits to kick off the campaign on a winning note. But, the piece of form the fans of this nine-year-old will be bigging up is the National Spirit Hurdle form from Fontwell Park last season, as Murphy's raider beat Mcfabulous by five-and-a-half lengths.

Finishing ahead of Mcfabulous in the Aintree Hurdle as well, Brewin'upastorm looks to have the measure of the Nicholls raider, but he's failed to complete on two of his three visits to Cheltenham, and his other saw him finishing fourth in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle back in 2019. So, while that is decent form with the likes of Champ and Galvin featuring in it, it could be that he isn't his best around the undulations of Cheltenham, and with the soft ground set to make this a stiff enough test then he may just struggle to get the better of the smooth travelling Mcfabulous.

One that will relish a return to Cheltenham is the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Guard Your Dreams, who was last seen bounding to International Hurdle glory in December. A winner in a handicap hurdle over 2m 4f at Cheltenham earlier in the season shows that the step up from two miles won't be a problem, and if he can improve from that International run then he has to come into calculations.

Of the others, On The Blind Side has significant form to turn around with Mcfabulous, and he's unlikely to be capable, while Stormy Ireland was well beaten by Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, and while this is far easier, she will find it tough, despite receiving weight from her male adversaries.

Dans Le Vent completes the line-up for Evan Williams, and the eight-year-old was last seen winning a valuable Haydock prize, but that was over three miles, and the nine-year-old is unlikely to have the pace to deal with his rivals here, in a race that can see Mcfabulous retain his crown.

Relkeel Hurdle
Mcfabulous silk

Mcfabulous

placed
Stayers' Hurdle Odds
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