New Year’s Day Handicap Chase Betting Tips

New Year’s Day Handicap Chase Betting Tips

We’re starting with more of a crackle than a bang for 2024 in the race known to many as the Fairlawne Chase. The New Year’s Day card at Cheltenham includes the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle but traditionally this was the big betting race of the meeting.

Unfortunately, we have way fewer runners than we’d have liked for an event of this stature. Of a maximum 17 horses, there were only 8 left at the five-day stage and just six have been left in the race overnight.

Once more, punters are rightfully disappointed given that there is £100,000 on offer in prize money so excuses are few and far between for owners and trainers. They have, let’s face it, complained about prize money levels so very publicly on many occasions. This race is one of jumping HQ’s top 2½-mile premier handicap chases so we could have expected much better.

While it’s disappointing, something has to win the race and that means there is always an opportunity. Al Dancer, Frero Banbou and Torn And Frayed also feature, the last two being out of the handicap owing to the presence of Stage Star.

That leaves us with a smaller shortlist than usual this time, containing these three horses: 

Main Contenders

Richmond Lake

Donald McCain trains Richmond Lake, an eight-year-old rated 150 who has two major things in his favour as far as ratings and weights go.

Firstly, he’s been achieving his rating via races at tracks such as Ayr and Wetherby and there is still sometimes an unconscious prejuduce giving higher ratings to horses winning in the south. He could, therefore, simply be better than a 150 horse.

Secondly, Stage Star’s rating of 166 has lowered the racing weights of some good horses here, including Richmond Lake who now only carries 10st 12lbs. That racing weight can allow jockey Brian Hughes some extra acceleration when it’s needed.

Richmond Lake’s recent win at Aintree by 14 lengths showed him to be progressive, in rude health, to be outstanding at this distance and able to handle heavy conditions. There’s no doubt that he’s a major talent and he is more than capable of landing an ordinary renewal of this race.

Shakem Up’Arry

As a ten-year-old who is out of the handicap, we of course urge caution to those looking to back Ben Pauling’s runner. In truth however, Shakem Up’Arry is only 1lb out of the weights which in this small field may make no appreciable difference at all.

Ten isn’t too old for a chaser and this gelding has only run 11 times over fences. He’s not a spent force. He’s won two of those past races, though not in this sort of company it has to be said and it could be argued that he’s slightly regressive overall though that is acknowledged by his handicap mark.

His best performance (arguably) was over this course and distance when he was third in the Plate Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. That was less than ten months ago off a mark effectively 1lb lower than today.

He has to be at the same level here and also hope that the smaller field means no better handicapped horses are lurking, which is doubtful in truth.

Stage Star

It’s the presence of Stage Star that has led to so many horses not turning up for this race. He’s odds-on at the time of writing from topweight, but it’s not his perceived lack of weaknesses in terms of form and ability that has put off those other runners.

Rather, it’s Stage Star’s rating of 166 which has led to this small field. Those rated below 140 would now be out of the handicap and essentially giving weight away to good horses, meaning they understandably want to head elsewhere. If Stage Star fails on the day however, many owners and trainers with capable contenders for this race will be left with egg on their faces.

Stage Star is 5-7 over fences, is progressive and won the Paddy Power Gold Cup easily here back in November. He has every chance of course, but he’s up 11lbs for that win and is no good thing at the odds.


Despite his rating, Shakem Up’Arry remains capable in a race like this, while Stage Star is an obvious contender from the top of the handicap.

Regardless of the betting, RICHMOND LAKE has every bit as good a chance as the favourite on our books and so given that he is many times the prize, he is the obvious value selection. We’re hoping for jockey Brian Hughes to work the magic we know he has on the stage that he deserves.

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