High-class performers on show at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day

The year 2015 begins on a bright note at Cheltenham Racecourse tomorrow with a tremendous seven-race programme at the Home of Jump Racing.

Caid Du Berlais (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies) landed the Paddy Power Gold Cup during The Open at Cheltenham on November 15 and tops the 13 declared runners for the richest race of the day, the £50,000 Grade Three BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (1.55pm) over two miles and five furlongs. The champion trainer is also set to be represented by top-weight Rolling Aces (Sean Bowen), a Grade Two winner. Venetia Williams has her team in fine form and runs Tenor Nivernais (Aidan Coleman), successful at Kempton Park in November after 20 months off the course.

The 2012 Stan James Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily) tops the billing in the £25,000 Dornan Engineering Hurdle (3.05pm, seven runners) over an extended two and a half miles. Successful last time out at Cheltenham in the Grade Two Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle on December 13, Rock On Ruby is set to face some strong opposition with Grade One Punchestown winner Beat That (Nicky Henderson/Andrew Tinkler) and Vaniteux (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty), a staying-on second behind The New One in the Grade Two StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 13, also lining up. Another leading contender is Cole Harden (Warren Greatrex/Gavin Sheehan), runner-up to Beat That in a Grade One contest at Aintree in April and a Grade Two winner at Wetherby this season.

Olofi (Tom George/Paddy Brennan) has won twice at Cheltenham, with his biggest victory coming in the 2012 renewal of the Grade Three StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle at The Open. After missing most of last season, the grey has run twice at Cheltenham this season, most recently finishing just over 10 lengths third behind the The New One and Vaniteux in the Grade Two StanJames.com International Hurdle.

Tom George said today: “It was a tough shout for Olofi last time out and it will be a tough shout again tomorrow. However, he loves Cheltenham and I think he will enjoy the smaller field.

“We wanted to step him up in trip and tomorrow’s race will be a good way of deciding whether we need to be going a bit further with him now. Wayne Hutchinson, who rode him last time, thought that the horse would be suited by going a bit further.

“He is getting older now and we thought tomorrow’s race was a good opportunity. We know the course suits him so that is not going to be an excuse and we think it is worth having a go.”

The £32,000 Grade Two BetBright Novices’ Chase (1.20pm, seven runners) over two miles and five furlongs looks set to be an intriguing contest with the field including Champagne West (Philip Hobbs/Tom O’Brien), who is unbeaten in two starts over fences both of which have come at Cheltenham. Ptit Zig (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies), successful in Grade One company over hurdles, has also made the perfect start to his chasing career with three straight victories, including a Grade Two event at Ascot, while the lightly-raced Ned Stark (Alan King/Denis O’Regan) has triumphed on both his two starts over fences.

New Year’s Day at Cheltenham gets underway with the £10,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (12.10pm, eight runners) over an extended two and a half miles. Zeroeshadesofgrey (Neil King/Trevor Whelan) has been very impressive in winning all his three hurdle starts, including a facile 33-length success last time out at Doncaster, while Different Gravey (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) and Robinsfirth (Colin Tizzard/Brendan Powell) both won well on their respective hurdling debuts.

The remaining races on the card are the £20,000 BetBright On Mobile Handicap Chase (12.45pm, 13 runners), the £20,000 BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle (2.30pm, 10 runners) and the concluding £20,000 Listed EBF Cheltenham Pony Club Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.40pm, 16 runners).

Going and Weather

The Going remains Good to Soft.

The course is covered with frost covers.

Some light rain is forecast from mid-afternoon today.

Simon Claisse, Regional Head of Racing, South West & Clerk of the Course, Cheltenham, said today: “The weather is becoming milder and we are forecast only minimal frost overnight into tomorrow.

“But we are keeping the frost covers down until the morning and are looking forward to forward to a splendid day’s racing.

“The going is still Good to Soft and it is all systems go for New Year’s Day.

“I am very happy with the declared runners for tomorrow’s racing.”

Further information about New Year’s Day

Accompanied children aged under 18 receive FREE entry at every Cheltenham raceday except during The Festival.

There will be lots of activities for children on New Year’s Day. Characters from the popular Moshi Monsters will be appearing – Poppet and Katsuma have taken a short break from their latest mission on the streets of Monstro City to visit Cheltenham Racecourse and will be appearing at intervals during the afternoon.

Additional family fun is provided in the Brightwells Sales Arena – Meerkats, Mouse Farm and lots of furry friends to meet (including a Skunk), face painting, inflatable games and magician.

These activities are in the Club/Tattersalls enclosures and cannot be accessed with a Best Mate enclosure ticket.

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