A Happy New Year to all of you. It’s hard to know what 2022 will bring. We can only hope that its better than the previous two years.
The stark difference’s how England, Wales & Scotland are handling the virus have been evident in the last week. Last Monday’s Welsh Grand National was held behind closed doors. On Saturday Musselburgh’s popular New Year’s Day meeting was also held without any paying spectators in attendance. Meanwhile In England, free from restrictions for now, Cheltenham saw its biggest crowd outside the festival. What a contrast between the three countries.
It's a Bank Holiday today but you wouldn't think so looking at today's cards. I appreciate we have had plenty of racing over the last week or so but this poor fare to offer on a day when many will be off work.
Inside today’s main piece I look back at four of the weekend’s big performances. Plus, I have selection from this afternoon’s fixture at Southwell.
There was the usual big and enthusiastic crowd for Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day fixture. A good card and mild weather. What’s not to like?
The first race on the Cheltenham card was the Listed Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. Hillcrest made all to beat favourite I Am Maximus with the front pair pulling nicely clear of the field. The winner is now 3-3-3 over hurdles. He must be one of the biggest horses in training and you would think there is plenty more to come from him with experience. He’s a real old-fashioned galloper and relished the Cheltenham hill. He’a a very nice long-term prospect, especially when he goes over fences.
The standout performance of the weekend was L'Homme Presse’s win in the Grade 2 Novices’ Chase. The Venetia Williams trained 7-year-old had looked a nice prospect when winning his previous start at Ascot. He took his form to higher level in winning Saturday race. He jumped well for a novice and had no issues with the track which will stand him in good stead come the festival.
Runner-up Glancing Queen moved with menace two out. However, the winner jumped the last far better than the mare and he found plenty on the run-in to win going away. It was an excellent run from the second who won’t often come up against a horse as good as the winner. This will stand her in good stead for the Mares’ Chase back here in March
L'Homme Presseis now a best priced 10/1 for the Turner’s Novice Chase at the festival. He seems likely to face Bob Olinger and maybe Bravemansgame there. I think he’s got solid each way claims in the race given he’s now proven over fences here.
Stormy Island was another festive winner for Willie Mullins. The mare made all and took advantage of favourite Brewin'upastorm crashing out at the last. He was challenging the eventual winner coming to the last and may well have gone onto win if he had stood up. Stormy Island may not be the biggest but she’s got plenty of heart and is tough to pass. So, who knows?
Al Boum Photo
The return to soft ground saw the annual reappearance of Al Boum Photo in the Savills New Year's Day Chase at Tramore. He faced just three rivals all stablemates. It was an ideal return from the 10-year-old who jumped the last well and only had to be pushed out to win from Burrows Saint. This was his fourth successive win in the race.
Twice a Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo won’t be far away again this year. However, you must go back to 1998 for the last horse aged ten or older to win the race. Which shows the sort of task he faces in March!
The weeks begins with jumps cards at Musselburgh & Southwell. There are also all-weather cards at Lingfield and Wolverhampton. There are couple that interest me today.
3:10 – Two of Elmono’s five career wins have come at the track. Indeed, his form figures in 2m 7 ½/ 3m handicap chases around here are 211. He’s been out of form since winning at Cartmel in August 2020 which means he’s now 10lb below his last winning mark. Has had a wind surgery since finishing 4th of 6 here 65-days ago. Shame there are just seven runners, as he would have been worth an each way play here.
3:20 – Classic Tune has just turned 12 and hasn’t really fired on either start this season. However, he’s now 5lb below when a surprise (40/1) C&D handicap hurdle in December 2020. It’s hard to say where he’s at ability wise but he’s a big enough price to take a chance with. He’s 28/1 with Sky Bet (not BOG) who are paying six places. Ladbrokes & Coral have him at 25/1 (BOG) and are paying 5 places. He's one of those selections that will either go close or fall out the back of the telly.
3:20 – Classic Tune
Good luck with your Monday’s bets.