Cheltenham New Year's Day clashes to savour

Trevor Whelan riding Lil Rockerfeller

Lil Rockerfeller: out to gain first victory of the season in Relkeel Hurdle

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

 By Peter Scargill 11:31AM 30 DEC 2016 

A NEW YEAR and an exciting start to 2017 as Cheltenham hosts its high-quality New Year’s Day card. Following field declarations on Friday afternoon, here are some of the big clashes we can all look forward to:

Clan Des Obeaux v Briery Belle
Grade 2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase (1.25)

Clan Des Obeaux left his rider Sean Bowen lost for words after winning at Newbury last month and he tackles four rivals as he attempts to enhance his reputation here.

Two of those – O O Seven and Whisper – are saddled by Nicky Henderson, but it might be the mare Briery Belle who gives Clan Des Obeaux the most to think about.

Withdrawn from a mares’ Listed chase earlier this week, Briery Belle has won four of her last five starts and has won both starts over fences.

However, despite her credentials it would still be seen as a major upset if the mare could turn over Clan Des Obeaux, who is 12-1 for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Village Vic v the field
Grade 3 BetBright For Best Festival Betting Handicap Chase (2.00)

Super tough and super consistent, Village Vic has been denied late on in both the BetVictor Gold Cup and Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham this season.

Jockey Richard Johnson will no doubt look to get the Philip Hobbs-trained runner quickly into his smooth jumping and galloping rhythm up front and hope to keep enough up his sleeve to repel the inevitable late surge from something up the final climb.

Leading that charge could be As De Mee, winner of the Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree, while the likes of Top Gamble, Vaniteux and Tenor Nivernais are also interesting contenders among the final field of 13.

Lil Rockerfeller v Cole Harden v L’Ami Serge
Grade 2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (3.10)

Beaten by Christmas Hurdle hero Yanworth two starts ago and by Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry on his most recent, Lil Rockerfeller is aiming to go one better this time in a race he was also runner-up in last season.

Resolute and game, Lil Rockerfeller is sure to keep grinding away right to the line but faces a strong field including two horses reverting to hurdles after attempts at chasing.

Cole Harden, a former winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle, is back over hurdles after a laboured chasing debut and L’Ami Serge, beaten after jumping erratically at Exeter, also features in the nine-runner field.

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