12.15 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Listed, 2m4f)
The majority of these, with the exception of Mot A Mot and Jack's A Legend, are progressive over timber and will be fancying their chances of further improvement to take this Listed opener.
Doctor Ken beat Pull Again Green at Ascot in a maiden in November, with the runner-up scoring himself next time at Newbury. They can get involved, though the form of the Olly Murphy string has slipped in recent a weeks, a worry for the former.
Hillcrest was allowed to dictate from the front at Wetherby in early December and left his rivals flailing, but this surely must pose a tougher question for Henry Daly's charge, 3-4 under rules already.
The mare Get A Tonic is 2-3 over timber, those wins coming once upped to this sort of trip, and she's respected for Dan and Harry Skelton getting 7lb but preference is for Nicky Henderson's I AM MAXIMUS.
He beat My Drogo when winning his bumper here last season and, after a year off, was a close third at Exeter on hurdles bow in November - a race that has worked out well. He has landed a Newbury maiden since and, if seeing out this longer distance, the fact he has course form to lean on counts for a lot.
Selection: I Am Maximus
Next Best: Get A Tonic
12.50 - New Four Eighty Restaurant At Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chase (3m2f)
The returning Destinee Royale is one to note for Venetia Williams in a typically puzzling handicap chase. He won 2-5 starts over fences last season, including at Wetherby over 3m in February. When last out in March, he was just foiled having gone up 8lb over a marathon 3m4f trip. He has gone well fresh in the past and, with the stable in good nick, should give his running.
The Wolf ran well for a long way at Doncaster three weeks ago before a late error hindered his case. This is tougher on paper and he hasn't always been one to build on a positive comeback effort, while those sentiments in regards to Olly Murphy's string also linger.
UNDERSUPERVISION is having his fourth start over fences here this season already. It hasn't been without drama for Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge, including a fall and a collision with running rails, but he's demonstrated ability and this longer trip should favour him. It might also be a positive if Sam Twiston-Davies can get him amongst rivals this time in an increased field-size.
Next Best: Destinee Royale
1.25 - Paddy Power Novices' Chase (Grade 2, 2m4½f)
As mentioned already, Venetia Williams' team remain in solid form (29 per-cent strike-rate previous fortnight) and exciting novice chaser L'HOMME PRESSE may enhance that by landing The Dipper, one of the feature races on New Year's Day at Cheltenham.
He missed a chunk of time after arriving from France but showed his ability to be in tact when easily winning a novice hurdle at Chepstow in April (2m, good) after 773 days out. Understandably, he wasn't as good a fortnight later but he returned last month to make a winning chase debut at Exeter (2m3f, good to soft) and a fortnight later he won a 2m5f Ascot Graduation Chase in fine style.
He's had two weeks to get over that run and can take the next step up the ladder by landing this Grade 2 under Charlie Deutsch.
The Glancing Queen is also 2-2 over fences for Alan King, recording Listed novice successes at Bangor and Warwick in recent months against her own sex. She did it very easily last time and, while taking on the males now, she's well worth her crack at this prize.
Come On Teddy, Fantastikas, Millers Bank and Oscar Elite are amongst those likely to make their presence felt in a strong renewal of The Dipper.
Selection: L'homme Presse
Next Best: The Glancing Queen
2.00 - Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m4½f)
Coole Cody and Zanza were first and second in last month's Racing Post Gold Cup over course and distance and return with claims again. The former isn't getting any younger - 11 today - but has often gone well here, while Philip Hobbs' charge has a habit of giving himself too much to do before finishing well - as he did last time.
Top-weight Funambule Sivola was second in the Peterborough Chase last time for Venetia Williams and has the class to be a player despite the burden he carries.
Magic Saint and Simple The Betts (both Paul Nicholls) join the likes of Espoir De Telle, High Up In The Air and Deyrann De Carjac in holding possibilities but RIDERS ONTHE STORM is the narrow choice.
The ex-Irish performer looked very promising in winning his first three chase starts with Nigel Twiston-Davies in 2019/20 before losing his way in graded company. He moved to Richard Hobson last spring and reappeared with a promising second in early December at Aintree (2m4f, soft) behind Clan Legend. They were the only finishers at the end of an attritional contest but it was still a pleasing effort.
The first-time tongue-tie sported is retained now and he is fancied to build on that in the hands of Nick Scholfield.
Selection: Riders Onthe Storm
Next Best: Funambule Sivola
2.35 - Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle (3m)
Tamar Bridge is forecast to head the market, but he had to work hard enough at Aintree four weeks ago and is now 6lb higher, while his stable isn't firing winners in anything like as regularly now.
Art Approval really stayed on well from the last when winning over 2m5f (good) here at the November Meeting and Fergal O'Brien's charge is worth a crack at this increased distance, albeit from 8lb higher himself now.
Spiritofthegames returns to hurdling from what could be workable mark for the Skeltons, while Sandown winner Pileon has Festival form at this circuit and needs considering.
Kansas City Chief was given a good front-running ride when scoring over C&D last month but he's a teenager now and runner-up BOTOX HAS could avenge that defeat.
He had to try and make up plenty of ground late in the race and he pulled clear of everything else under Jamie Moore in first-time cheekpieces (retained) in what amounted to a pleasing first go at this trip. He is a dual Cheltenham winner over shorter and has scope for better at staying distances on that evidence.
Selection: Botox Has
Next Best: Spiritofthegames
3.10 - Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m4f)
Mcfabulous won the re-routed renewal of this at Kempton 12 months ago for Paul Nicholls but whether the stiff finish here will be to his liking is open to debate. He tends to find his wins coming easily and, when that doesn't happen, things can go awry.
In any case, BREWIN'UPASTORM beat him convincingly at Fontwell in this grade in February and was again ahead of him at Aintree in a Grade 1 in April. Olly Murphy's charge easily won at the Merseyside venue in early November on his comeback over this trip and while a Cheltenham win is missing on his CV, he was fourth City Island's Ballymore in 2019 at The Festival. He's been most consistent since coming over hurdles and this looks another good spot.
Guard Your Dreams won the International Hurdle last month over 2m1f for Nigel Twiston-Davies but he's speedy enough and this longer trip may not be ideal in what is a tougher race anyway.
On The Blind Side was second in this at Kempton last year but, like Indefatigable, Stormy Ireland and Dans Le Event; he's got a bit to prove in this line-up today.
Selection: Guard Your Dreams
3.50 - Pony Club 'Junior' NH Flat Race (Listed, 1m6f)
Alwazar won at Huntingdon in October on debut before finishing third back there under a penalty the following month. He was four lengths behind A Shining Moon there but is now 7lb better off. Eve Johnston-Houghton's charge was only headed late on in that debut run and is entitled to improve.
ILIADE ALLEN pulled right away with runner-up Hashtag Be Kind at Warwick in November and that form has been held up in a positive light since. The stiff nature of this trach should suit Nick Williams' filly and she could be good enough to play her part upped in grade.
Poetic Music is 2-2 so far winning first for John Butler and then for Fergal O'Brien at Newbury in December with plenty in hand. The chestnut filly should be amongst the leading dangers, though any money for debutant Beyond Boundaries - a full brother to a smart Flat performer - would certainly be noted as he is a rare bumper runner for Andrew Balding; with Sean Bowen a promising jockey booking.
Selection: Iliade Allen
Next Best: Beyond Boundaries
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