The last of three graded races at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day is the extended 2m 4f Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle (3:10). This race used to be run in December but moved to the 1 January fixture in 2016. See which horse from the field of six is our experts’ main selection with 2022 Relkeel Hurdle tips to follow.
What do stats and trends reveal about this contest? Nine of the last 12 winners were aged between six and eight. Half of this year’s runners are older that, so there is some food for thought. Each of the last five successful horses came to Cheltenham with two or more runs under their belts. That is a negative against the top two in the market on horse racing betting sites in this renewal, then.
Favourites have a 50 per cent win rate over the last dozen renewals. However, that may paint a misleading picture. A more recent sample shows the market leader only winning the Relkeel Hurdle twice in the last six seasons. It is also worth noting that the 2021 running took place at Kempton after the New Year fixture at Cheltenham was abandoned.
Official ratings of successful horses show a decline over a 12-year period. Five of the six winners between 2009 and 2014 inclusive had a mark of 160+. Since then, however, 155 is the highest rating of the victors. Perhaps the race isn’t attracting top hurdlers due to its proximity to the Long Walk at Ascot. That doesn’t deter the SportsLens tipsters from fancying one, though, so check out their Relkeel Hurdle tips below…
Why Brewin’upastorm has the shortest Relkeel Hurdle odds
Ambitious up-and-coming trainer Olly Murphy saddled Brewin’upastorm to victory in this grade in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell last season. The nine-year-old Milan gelding has since bolted up in a conditions contest at Aintree on reappearance. Connections tried chasing with him again last term but it didn’t work out, so going back to the smaller obstacles proved an inspired choice.
Brewin’upastorm tops official ratings on a mark of 158 in the Relkeel Hurdle yet all his success over hurdles has come on sharp, flat tracks. Cheltenham is a different proposition entirely. Around Prestbury Park, an undulating, galloping course, Brewin’upastorm has form figures of F4U. That is a major concern, alongside the form of his stable.
The bookies, including Betfred, have him as favourite on the pick of his form. Whether it translates to Cheltenham remains to be seen. There is certainly a case against Brewin’upastorm, who was 6/4 before the withdrawal of Indefatigable. He is also 6lb worse off with old rival McFabulous from Fontwell, so may struggle to confirm the form. The value lies elsewhere.
Guard Your Dreams back up in trip and chasing third win at venue
Cheltenham local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies won the Relkeel Hurdle in 2018 with Wholestone, and his runner this year, Guard Your Dreams, has been a revelation. Now a six-year-old, this Fame And Glory gelding ended last season with a fine third to My Drogo in the 2m 4f Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
Since then, Guard Your Dreams landed a handicap on the Old Course here when beating subsequent December Gold Cup hero Coole Cody by a couple of lengths on reappearance. Although only third to Buzz in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot next time out, he has since turned the tables on the runner-up Guard Your Dreams.
That came in the International Hurdle here last month when down in distance to an extended 2m. There was a lot to like about the attitude of Guard Your Dreams, who battled back up the famous Cheltenham hill and held his old rival by half-a-length. Many thought the trip would be too sharp for him, so stepping back up looks a plus based on the way he saw the race out.
Guard Your Dreams is two from three starts at Cheltenham with course form key to any race taking place at Prestbury Park. Although penalised for his success here when last in action and with something to find on the market principals according to official figures, he may pull off another victory. Guard Your Dreams is definite value at 5/1 with online bookies including BoyleSports for a Cheltenham hat-trick.
McFabulous may be Relkeel Hurdle danger
Reigning British champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won this race twice before. McFabulous has an asterisk against him name, however, as 12 months ago the race was at Kempton. That could hardly be a more different track to Cheltenham, yet this eight-year-old son of Milan makes his return to action and defence of his crown here. McFabulous was a beaten favourite in a Listed bumper at this venue back in 2018.
Nicholls has kept his horse away from Cheltenham ever since. However, McFabulous is a proven performer in this grade. Three of his seven career wins have come at this level. McFabulous also goes well fresh but will need to with no recent Relkeel Hurdle winners obliging first time out. That is the concern. It is also surprising that Ditcheat maestro Nicholls hasn’t sent him chasing.
Although McFabulous does have wins racing left-handed, including the Grade 2 Persian War at Chepstow on reappearance last term, the pick of his hurdles form is arguably running right-handed. He also hung out to his right in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last season. If he does that again, then it may scupper his chances. McFabulous is 5/2 with William Hill to defy all that and resume winning ways.
Stormy Ireland has chance off bottom weight
Irish master trainer Willie Mullins sends Stormy Ireland over from the Emerald Isle for a crack at the Relkeel Hurdle. Now aged eight, the daughter of Motivator didn’t show any spark when moved to Nicholls’ stable last year and duly returned to Closutton. Once back with Mullins, Stormy Ireland rediscovered her spark.
She trounced the geldings in the old Irish Strawberry Hurdle during the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, then followed-up in the Grade 1 Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. It was yet another incredible feat of training by Mullins. Both Concertista and My Sister Sarah, in-behind that day, have come out and won this season.
Stormy Ireland also chased home Roksana in the Mares’ Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, and that placed effort reads well in relation to this. Getting weight all-round, this front-running mare could be hard to pass under Danny Mullins, especially if coming on for her reappearance run behind Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace. Stormy Ireland is a 6/1 shot with Bet365 for the spoils here.
2022 Rekeel Hurdle Tips & Shortlist
- Guard Your Dreams *****
- McFabulous ****
- Stormy Ireland ****