New Year’s Day Horseracing preview  

Soft ground forecast at Cheltenham for a terrific seven-race card to begin the New Year.

Nicky Henderson has an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdle division with Jonbon – 9/4 with William Hill – and Constitution Hill – 4s – heading the market for the Festival curtain raiser the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.  

Henderson steps I Am Maximus (12.15) up in trip to 2m 4f for the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle this afternoon and I think he will appreciate the additional half-mile. My Drogo misses the Dipper later in the card through injury but the promising I Am Maximus remains the only horse to have beaten Dan Skelton’s novice chaser when he has completed the course.

I Am Maximus jumped left when disappointing on his hurdles debut at Exeter but made no mistake at Newbury last time and he can take this step up in class to listed company in his stride.

Henry Daly’s unbeaten hurdler Hillcrest looks the obvious danger in an informative opener. I Am Maximus is currently 16/1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle back here in March and 11/8 for todays opener.  

The Venetia Williams’ trained L’Homme Presse (1.25) has won both starts so far this season on right-handed tracks – Exeter and Ascot – but jumped out to his left on his latest start and should appreciate the switch to a left-handed track. The race fell apart at Ascot last time when Irish raider Pencilfulloflead came down at halfway, but he could do no more than beat what was put in front of him.  

The selection 7/4 with William Hill – must give 5lbs to the progressive mare The Glancing Queen and that won’t be easy, but I feel he can take this step up in class in his stride. The Colin Tizzard stable have had a miserable couple of weeks, and, at the time of writing, they have not had a winner from their last 50 runners.  Oscar Elite went out like a light at Huntingdon last time and is best watched at present.

The handicapper has seen fit to drop Gustavian (12.40 Exeter) a couple of pounds for what was an eye-catching chase debut at Uttoxeter. The selection – 13/8 from 9/4 10Bet – was given a poor ride by Aidan Coleman on that occasion, and he finished the race full of running having been caught out of his ground when the pace quickened.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls drops Broken Halo back down in trip and he is vying for favouritism with Anthony Honeyball’s novice. In receipt of 8lbs from Gustavian, Broken Halo is another well treated novice chaser and this winning pointer will soon be breaking his own duck over the larger obstacles. He is one to have on our side going forward.   

Keep Rolling (3.00) finished 4l behind Silver In Disguise when runner up at Chepstow back in February but he is taken to reverse the form for Philip Hobbs on 8lbs better terms. Jockey Micheal Nolan has not ridden a winner since coming back from a bad injury, but he won’t have many better opportunities. The selection is 7/4 with MansionBet.

In the last at Musselburgh, I am expecting a big run from Coolbane Boy (3.20) despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs. The selection was still travelling when blundering three out over today’s C&D when last seen back in October although he was taken out of a novice hurdle at Newcastle because of travel problems at the end of November.

The selection – 7/2 with MansionBet – had bits of form in his native Ireland that suggest he could be well handicapped from a mark of 120.

I am not convinced the yard of Olly Murphy are firing on all cylinders, but I will be disappointed if Captain Biggles (12.15 Ayr Sunday) does not go one better than when runner up at Carlisle on his seasonal reappearance. The selection is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time today as he bids to end a frustrating run of seconds. He is hardly one of the stable stars, but he has always been thought capable of winning races over jumps.

Happy New Year

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