PRICE BOOSTS MAX BET £10
12.40 - bet365 Juvenile Hurdle (1m7½f)
Blue Slate offers the best hurdles form via his shock 50/1 Leicester success over this trip on soft going in November. He was tailed off in his efforts either side of that outing though and doesn't set the bar too high, so this likely goes the way of one of a few interesting recruits to the jumping game.
Alan King's Tritonic is the standard-bearer in terms of Flat form. He was only just denied at the Royal Meeting (1m2f, soft) here back in June and held his form without actually winning thereafter. He's a leading player switching codes.
However, there's also plenty to like about the claims of Punctuation, Stepney Causeway and VULCAN.
Dan Skelton is having a superb season and Stepney Causeway is a promising recruit to his team, while Charlie Longsdon's Punctuation was bought for 110,000 gns out of Andrew Balding's after a solid - though winless - turf campaign just gone by.
Vulcan twice won on the level at Haydock in September and is in excellent hands with Dr Richard Newland having been bought for 170,000 gns ahead of the move to the jumps. Richard Johnson is a notable booking (19 per-cent strike-rate for the yard) and they should be going close.
1.15 - Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m7½f)
Magic Of Light has won this Grade 2 in the preceding two seasons for Jessica Harrington but her hat-trick bid is the toughest task she has faced in this race. She had no problems landing a Listed Newbury chase last month over this trip, coming on for her reappearance over timber in Ireland, and is treading an identical path from the last two years in turning up here following that December success.
Aintree is the long-term plan for the 2019 Grand National second and, while she should run a creditable race now, defeating ROKSANA may be a bridge too far.
Dan Skelton's mare was an easy winner in this grade at Wetherby on her comeback in November, scarcely coming out of third gear, where she had subsequent dual Grade 2 novice chase winner Next Destination behind in second spot.
Last month, she ran an excellent third behind Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Grade 1 Long Walk over an extended three-miles on heavy ground around this circuit. That form behind the two leading Stayers' Hurdle contenders is rock-solid and she was well clear of everything else. She's a lively player for the Cheltenham Festival three-miler in March and should take some stopping in this.
Eglantine Du Seuil is finding her feet after three runs for new handler Paul Nicholls. She was second in a 2m4½f Cheltenham handicap last month and rates the chief threat to the big two in the market if she sees out this extended trip at the first time of asking.
1.50 - Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway's Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m3f)
Paddys Motorbike bids for a hat-trick after wins at Uttoxeter and Huntingdon pre-Christmas and will have his credentials well examined despite just a 4lb rise for that latest success, as this looks a deep contest.
Danny Kirwan showed his rivals a clean pair of heels over C&D on his penultimate start and perhaps didn't get home over further at Cheltenham since, so he's one for the shortlist back here.
War Lord must improve to defy this mark, though Arrivederci and Lightly Squeeze are both deemed capable of better things still.
The handicapper has dropped BOTOX HAS 2lb after a poor run here last month on his second start in a handicap. He had shaped quite well at Newbury previously and the race here was a stronger one that today's event, despite being the same grade. He now heads up in trip and some of his earlier form as a novice certainly hinted that this might be the way to go. He's fancied to outrun his odds.
2.25 - Matchbook Best Odds Handicap Chase (3m)
A tough handicap in prospect over three-miles on testing ground, there certainly won't be any hiding places when the finish comes around.
De Forgotten One is enjoying a fine time of it since joining Richard Hobson, with victories in France and at Catterick this month, either side of a pleasing third in a Cross Country Chase last month at Cheltenham.
That was a good indication stamina-wise that he's maturing and may now have more to give tackling this sort of trip over regulation fences for the first time and he's on the shortlist despite a sharp 10lb rise in the ratings for this month's win.
Former C&D winner Townshend could stage a revival around here, while Crossley Tender is thriving this season over hurdles/fences and cannot be discounted despite an 8lb rise for his most recent Exeter (3m, soft; chase) win.
Favorito Buck's is below his C&D-winning mark from 2018 and was placed over track and trip in that same contest in November from this perch. Paul Nicholls' charge has done his best work in Britain on better ground however and anything with 'heavy' in the description might be a concern.
Not so for YALLTARI representing a Venetia Williams team that does so well in just these types of conditions. His fourth at Chepstow last month in a Welsh National Trial was a good step in the right direction and the three that finished ahead of him franked that form in the re-staged main event earlier this month (first, second & sixth).
Having now slipped 2lb below his previous winning mark, Yalltari has no misgivings about the ground and represents a yard in very good heart. He should go close.
3.00 - bet365 Handicap Chase (2m5f)
CAPELAND supplemented an excellent record around Wincanton when scoring over 2m4f (soft) earlier this month. He fell early doors on his seasonal comeback here (2m1f, soft) in a Listed handicap in the autumn but placed a good third behind progressive First Flow (runs in the following Grade 1 on this card) next time out and is a soft-ground course winner in the past.
It came as no major shock that he disappointed at Cheltenham in December, all three chase starts at that circuit having now yielded similar outcomes. He's been pushed up 4lb for his Wincanton success a fortnight ago but may still have plenty to offer in this event.
Top-weight isn't certain to stop last month's impressive course winner Benny's King from running a big race, while Good Boy Bobby and the returning Jerrysback are both worth of some monitoring in the betting.
Windsor Avenue is second pick however. He found only the excellent Imperial Aura too good at Carlisle on his seasonal comeback and quickly put a tame Cheltenham run in December behind him by finishing third in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby (3m, soft) on Boxing Day. He's on a fair mark and should be in the mix under champion jockey Brian Hughes.
3.35 - Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase (Grade 1, 2m1f)
Paul Nicholls has seemingly unlocked the key to Politologue and the grey arrives here having won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March and last month's Tingle Creek (second victory in that race) in his last two starts.
Front-running tactics are paying dividends and he's come home with plenty to spare in both those Grade 1 wins. How much emphasis should be placed in the fact that those two wins were the only times Harry Skelton has partnered him? Time will surely tell as he has moved aside to allow stable jockey Harry Cobden return now.
Cobden last partnered Politologue when they finished 18-lengths fifith behind Defi Du Seuil in the 2019 Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Philip Hobbs' charge was a star on the rise at that point and he made it back-to-back Grade 1 wins when taking out this race 12 months ago on heavy ground from veteran Un De Sceaux.
He was an odds-on flop in the Champion Chase, however, and having pulled up in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on his return in November, Defi Du Seuil has a major cloud over him right now. Clearly, if he somehow recaptured his best, he is a massive player in this line-up.
2019 Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres has shaped well in two runs for new handler Paul Nicholls (second in the Shloer after bold attempt from the front) but it would be a big shock should he turn over his stablemate.
Fanion D'estruval fell when right in contention in last month's Grade 2 Peterborough Chase and could offer more with conditions likely to suit, while King George runner-up Waiting Patiently is a huge player on that Boxing Day showing.
This trip around here should be enough of a stamina test for Ruth Jefferson's charge but, given his history of setbacks, it would be nice to see him back up the Kempton run before going in behind him.
FIRST FLOW continues to impress for Kim Bailey and has won his last five starts dating back 11 months. He's dismissed some progressive rivals in wins over C&D and at Wetherby this season, landing a heavy-ground handicap off 154 at the Yorkshire circuit most recently.
Whether or not he has Grade 1-winning talent is open to debate but he could well be good enough for place money here given the questions lingering over some of those ahead of him in the betting. With eight runners confirmed, the each-way terms are favourable despite this step up in class for a horse yet to finish out of the front three in ten starts over fences.
4.10 - Matchbook Betting Exchange British EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (2m5½f)
Jeremy Pass made a winning start over timber at Wincanton in November over this sort of distance, form franked by the runner-up winning twice since at the same venue. With Paul Nicholls' team in superb form, further progress looks likely and he's due plenty respect.
Wetherby novice winner VALLERES took his form up a notch when second in a Sandown Grade 2 early last month, with the winner Star Gate since chasing home Bravemansgame in the Challow at Newbury. This is a drop in class for Alan King's charge and the winning Irish point-to-pointer promises to be suited by the increased trip, while he has handled the sort of conditions that are forecast already. He makes most appeal.
Tupelo Mississippi didn't need to improve when winning a heavy-ground Uttoxeter maiden hurdle last month, but further progress is now likely from the Yeats gelding as he meets better rivals upped in trip, while Gladiateur Allen is another with scope for progress receiving 6lb from the trio of previous hurdles winners.