What better way to kick off 2023 than with Cheltenham’s traditional New Year’s Day fixture and here Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway returns with his best bets for Sunday’s feature.
The New Year’s Day Handicap Chase (1.55) is the most competitive race on the card at Prestbury Park on Sunday and Simply The Betts might be capable of springing a surprise.
The 10-year-old has dropped to the same mark as when landing the Plate over course and distance at the festival two years ago and he has loads of good form on the New course.
He wound up last season with a good second to Stolen Silver in a Grade 2 over course and distance and made an encouraging reappearance when seventh here on the Old course in November. He travelled well for a long way that day, but faded late as if in need of the run.
Paul Nicholls appeared to be lining him up for a crack at the December Gold Cup back on the New course, but that was abandoned and it might prove a blessing in disguise as Simply The Betts will probably be better suited by this ground, which is unlikely to be worse than good.
Hunter chasing later in the season will be on the agenda, but there is every chance that he can land a big one before going that route for corinthian rider David Maxwell, who claims 3lb.
There aren’t many more versatile horses in training than Dashel Drasher and he looks overpriced to stamp his class on the email@example.com Relkeel Hurdle (2.30).
Dashel Drasher is a Grade 1 winner over fences and he proved he is capable of high-class hurdles form too when comfortably landing a hot-looking four-runner event at Aintree on his seasonal reappearance in November. He made all in tenacious fashion, showing lots of pace.
He returned to chasing at Aintree last time in the Many Clouds Chase and ran another stormer. Dashel Drasher split Grand National hero Noble Yeats and last season’s Grade 1 novice chase winner Ahoy Senor, with Sounds Russian well held behind them in fourth.
Sounds Russian almost won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Monday, so that form looks rock solid, and Dashel Drasher has a big chance if he can repeat it over hurdles here.
He could easily end up in the Stayers’ Hurdle come March and can take a step towards that.
The 3m handicap hurdle (3.05) is an ultra-competitive race, but Call Me Lord holds a class edge on his best form, which includes a win in the International Hurdle at this course three years ago. If he can repeat that Grade 2 form here he should prove extremely difficult to beat.
Call Me Lord has returned to form this season too. He won a Pertemps qualifier at Kempton on his seasonal reappearance in November and should have scored again at Sandown last time. He was beaten a nose, but rider Ben Bromley dropped his hands and that was costly.
He proved that day that he is well suited by a stiff test of stamina as he came up the Sandown hill readily over 2m71/2f and the undulating nature of this track shouldn’t pose any problems.
He is up 2lb for that near-miss, but James Bowen takes over from 7lb claimer Bromley in the saddle and it will take a smart performance to lower Call Me Lord’s colours if he is on form.