By William Hill
Last Updated: 31st December 2019
What better way to kick off the New Year than with a trip to Cheltenham? Prestbury Park hosts a competitive seven-race card with the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle the highlight. Here is our look at the best of the action.
Magic Saint can make it a magic New Year’s Day
Although it might look one of the more competitive races on paper on Wednesday’s card, Magic Saint is a confident selection in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase.
The Paul Nicholls-trained runner is having his third start since undergoing wind surgery in the summer and the procedure seems to have worked the trick with two good performances so far this term. Having been campaigned largely over two miles before that, he was stepped up to 2m4f for the BetVictor Gold Cup where he travelled well for the most part and just got tired towards the end. Given that was his first start after the wind operation, plenty of improvement was expected and he duly showed that when winning a valuable handicap at Newbury over two miles on his next start.
Magic Saint just got the better of Bun Doran there and that looks very solid form with Ben Doran a recent winner of the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Sandown, where he had the likes of Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres in behind. He’s up eight pounds for that win and this is probably a stronger race, but with both Kalashnikov and Saint Calvados standing their ground, he runs off a lovely racing weight of 11st5lbs. Magic Saint did a look a touch outpaced at points at Newbury over two miles, so the step up to 2m4f looks a good decision and he should go very well at 13/2.
Janika can give Henderson first win in Relkeel since 2012
A select group of six go to the post for the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle, with three of them Cheltenham Festival winners. Nicky Henderson hasn’t won the race since 2012, but he looks to have a good chance of gaining another win with Janika, who is interestingly switched to hurdles here. Having joined the Henderson yard in 2018, the seven-year-old has run exclusively over fences and has run well on every occasion, including being narrowly denied in the Plate at last year’s Festival by Siruh Du Lac.
Janika rated 20 pounds better over fences than when he joined Henderson and such a lofty mark saw him run in the Tingle Creek last time, where he was far from disgraced in fourth. He’s been dropped a pound for that, but a mark of 165 leaves his options somewhat limited over fences and connections have decided to run him over hurdles here – his first run over the smaller obstacles since December 2017. The fact he hasn’t run over them for such a long period of time is a slight concern, but this a horse who never runs a bad race and he’s still the highest rated of these over hurdles off a mark of 158.
The majority of Janika’s rivals are on recovery missions and have plenty of questions to answer and so Emitom is feared the most. However, he’s having a first start of the season and will surely come on for the run, so Janika is the one to back at 2/1.