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Fascinating action at Cheltenham on New Year's Day



Cheltenham offers the perfect way to see in 2018 on Monday with an excellent seven-race card on New Year's Day, running from 12.15pm through to 3.45pm. There is a record £260,000 in prize money on offer across the seven races (up 23 per cent on 2017).

The richest race of the day is the £75,000 G3 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (2.00pm, nine runners) over an extended two and a half miles.

Dual G2 winner Top Gamble (Kerry Lee/James Bowen (5), 11st 12lb, 5/1 with sponsor BetBright) heads the weights, while the field also includes last year's winner Shantou Flyer (Richard Hobson/Mitchell Bastyan (5), 11st 10lb) and a pair from local handler Nigel Twiston-Davies - the season's G3 BetVictor Gold Cup winner Splash Of Ginge (Tom Bellamy, 10st 11lb, 11/1) and Ballyhill (Jamie Bargary (3), 10st 5lb, 13/2).

Sametegal (Paul Nicholls/Dam Twiston-Davies, 11st 2lb, 100/30 Fav) comes into the race in good form, having finished in the frame in competitive handicap chases at Wetherby and Aintree on his latest two appearances, while another interesting contender is Burtons Well (Venetia Williams/Aidan Coleman, 10st 12lb, 4/1), who ran well when going down by a neck on his seasonal debut at Stratford in October.

BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase, BetBright odds: 100/30 Sametegal; 4/1 Burtons Well; 5/1 Top Gamble; 6/1 Theinval; 13/2 Ballyhill; 8/1 Quite By Chance; 11/1 Splash of Ginge; 14/1 Shantou Flyer, Viconte Du Noyer

Action gets underway at 12.15pm with the £25,000 Listed Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (eight runners) over two and half miles. An intriguing contest looks guaranteed, with Ainchea (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper), Onefortheroadtom (Harry Fry/Barry Geraghty), Tikkanbar (Neil Mulholland/Noel Fehily) and Whatmore (Henry Daly/Andrew Tinkler) all on the scoresheet so far this season.

Tikkanbar was a useful performer in bumpers last season, recording victories at Hereford and Sedgefield. He could not have been more impressive on his hurdling debut at Plumpton on November 20 when he sauntered to a facile 19-length success over Landin, who had run well in G1 company at The Festival and Aintree last season.

Somerset-based Mulholland, who trains the son of Tikkanen for his father Brian, said today: "Tikkanbar is a nice horse. Tomorrow is going to be a big step for him and I am sure we are going to learn a lot more about him.

"He should be fine with the ground tomorrow, as he has won in similar conditions before. It is going to be interesting and this race looks a nice progression for him.

"Dad has been staying over for Christmas, so hopefully we can kill a few birds with one stone tomorrow."

A fascinating contest is in prospect for the £35,000 G2 BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase (1.25pm, five runners) over an extended two and a half miles. Willoughby Court (Ben Pauling/Nico de Boinville, 5/4 Fav with BetBright) landed the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at The Festival in 2017 and has been faultless in two starts over fences, most recently defeating the re-opposing Yanworth (Alan King/Barry Geraghty, 2/1), a dual G1 scorer over hurdles, by three lengths in a G2 contest at Newbury on December 1.

Further spice is added with the presence of Ballyandy (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies, 9/2), a G3 winner over hurdles and successful on his only start over fences at Perth, course winner Sizing Tennessee (Colin Tizzard/Bryan Cooper, 14/1) and Ami Desbois (Graeme McPherson/Paddy Brennan, 11/1), who is two from two over fences.

BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase, BetBright odds: 5/4 Willoughby Court; 2/1 Yanworth; 9/2 Ballyandy; 11/1 Ami Desbois; 14/1 Sizing Tennessee

There is further G2 action with the £50,000 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (3.10pm, eight runners) over two and a half miles.

Last year's winner Agrapart (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly) goes to post once again with the field also including Old Guard (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost), who enjoyed the biggest success of his career in the 2015 G2 Unibet International at Cheltenham, Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob), a G2 winner at Cheltenham last season and the mare Colin's Sister (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan), who got the better of Wholestone by two lengths in a G2 contest at Wetherby in November.

Arthur's Gift (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Tom Humphries (7), 11st 6lb, 100/30) was successful at The International on December 15 and is among eight declared runners for the £25,000 BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle (2.35pm) over three miles. BetBright's 3/1 favourite is Red Rising (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton, 11st), a nine-length scorer at Southwell on December 5.

BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle, BetBright odds: 3/1 Red Rising; 100/30 Arthur's Gift; 9/2 Lovenormoney; 15/2 Skipthecuddles; 8/1 Boyhood, Buckle Street; 10/1 Whataknight; 11/1 Supreme Steel

Monday's action is completed by the £25,000 Watch Live Racing On betbright.com Handicap Chase (12.50pm, five runners) and the concluding £25,000 Listed EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Bumper (3.45pm, 13 runners).

Gates open at 10.30am and, aside from the action on the track, there is lots to keep all members of the family amused. The ROA Family Fun Zone will have special visits from Paddington Bear, to coincide with the release of the latest film.

Latest Going

The going at Cheltenham is currently: Heavy, Soft in places

There has been 53 millimetres of rain/snow in the past nine days, including two millimetres overnight. There is expected to be a further five to six millimetres of rain through today.

New Year's Day is forecast to be dry and bright, with temperatures of up to seven degrees Celsius.

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