The best advice for any punter this weekend is to look for horses that are certain to stay because ground conditions threaten to be truly awful. Flashy breeding may well out at Ascot and Goodwood when the sun shines and the champagne flows, but in
the depths of winter when the mud is flying, grim determination from jockey and horse are the qualities that count.
Cheltenham’s New Year’s day meeting has a touch of class lacking elsewhere and there is no better way to clear the head than to take the Cotswolds air and cheer your selection up the famous hill. The big betting race of the day is the Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase and there are plenty of battle-hardened Cheltenham regulars in with a chance.
However, most of this field has questions to answer. Top-weight Fondmort would be a fancy on better ground but hasn’t won a race for two years. Of more interest is Mark Pitman’s Too Forward. He is one of the few in the race clearly on an upward curve. The way he won a competitive handicap with plenty in hand at Newbury last time suggests there is more to come. The ground shouldn’t be a problem and his stamina is proven up to three miles.
Earlier on the card, in the Unicoin Homes “Dipper” Novices’ Chase, Robert Alner’s The Listener looks like a good thing on his favoured surface, having looked foot-perfect in his two chases so far.
At Lingfield today, Claymore is a strong fancy. He has had jumping problems but the fences there are as fair as any, he loves soft ground and stays further than two miles.
Lingfield (Saturday) 2:20 – Claymore (win)
Cheltenham (Sunday) 2:10 – The Listener (win)
Cheltenham (Sunday) 3:20 – Too Forward (win)