2022 kicks off with a great card at Cheltenham as well some good action at Musselburgh too. Here are Nick Luck’s thoughts and fancies…

Cheltenham

FANTASTIKAS is a decent each-way bet at 11/1 in a surprisingly appealing Dipper Novices Chase that opens up ITV’s New Year’s Day offering (1.25pm). He’s one of the higher rated here, yet has six above him in the betting, despite arriving in good form and being extremely consistent. He’s a sound jumper with a good cruising speed and should be very comfortable making the pace down in trip. The three-runner race in which he was second was a fair race on form and on the clock, and he gets a little weight from the favourite here, too.

GALAHAD QUEST (15/2) and ESPOIR DE TEILLEE (18/1) will both be getting some of my money in the feature handicap (2.00pm). For one so inexperienced, the former ran a superb race in the Paddy Power in November, putting in some nice late work. The New Course and softer ground will help him enormously. Espoir De Teillee has a slightly patchier profile, but he’s lightly raced for a horse of his age, ran a career best from off the pace at Newbury, and will creep round here under Danny Mullins for a slice of the late action.

WHATSUPWITHYOU has figured in this column a few times, but it’s time for him to pay us back at 16/1 (2.35pm). Simply, he’s run his two best races at this course with cut in the ground, is professionally ridden again, and surely needs this trip nowadays. In addition, he’s back over hurdles having made fences look a bit of an effort, despite running perfectly okay at Fontwell when we last saw him. The yard is in good form.

ON THE BLIND SIDE is another big-priced one at 14/1 in the Relkeel Hurdle (3.10pm). There are more talented and/or progressive horses in here, but this is a smart one on his day, and can be forgiven for his run in the Long Walk last time – that stiff test at Ascot is just a bit much for him stamina-wise. Previously, at Newbury, he did best of those ridden up with an overly strong pace, and is capable of a big strike at this level. Most importantly, Stormy Ireland should ensure a good gallop for him to sit just behind, and he’ll keep finding plenty on track where he’s shown good form.

Musselburgh

VOIX DE REVE is hiding in plain sight in the first TV race at Musselburgh (1.40pm) at 14/1. His recent form figures are rubbish, but he just hasn’t been set any kind of a realistic task for ages. As luck would have it, that means his mark has eased a good few pounds, to the point where he’s a fair bit lower than when an excellent second on this card last year and an even better second here the following month (big price both times).

CHRISTOPHER WOOD gets the vote at 6/1 in the race he won last year (2.10pm). Massively better off at the weights from either of their last two meetings with the admirable Tommy’s Oscar, he’s also a pound lower than when he bolted up in the 2021 renewal. There is plenty of pace for him to aim at here as well, which will suit.

NIETZSCHE has been given a real chance by the handicapper to win another race in the Auld Reekie (2.50pm) at 11/2. He won a pretty competitive little race (small field) at Ayr’s Scottish National meeting and showed a distinct return to form at Taunton last time, probably finding 2 1/4 miles round there a bit sharp for him these days. This will be more up his street.