12.45 - Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Novices' Hurdle (2m)
Nicky Henderson will have lots of opportunities across the meeting and Broomfield Burg should have a good chance to get him off to a winning note.
Cheltenham was his undoing earlier the month but this sharper track will play to his strengths. He's the one to beat on form, though his price will reflect that. If he comes unstuck, both Robelli and PASO DOBLE will be hoping to pounce. It's also going to be a huge two days for Paul Nicholls and his charge has lots of Kempton experience plus a win last time out at Taunton. He's got solid claims.
Selection: Paso Doble
Next Best: Broomfield Burg
1.20 - Get Your Ladbrokes 1 Free Bet Today Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (2m4½f)
Danny Kirwan, who filled the runner-up spot on his first attempt over the larger obstacles at Cheltenham, gives Nicholls another leading claim, while Bothwell Bridge made an ideal start to his chasing career with a Sandown success at the start of this month and is fancied to make further progress for the Henderson team. SEBASTOPOL had already mixed it with some good rivals in two runner-up finishes over fences before looking set to open his account here last month only to come down at the last. If he can complete the jumping this time, compensation may await.
Next Best: Bothwell Bridge
1.55 - Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 3m)
If this doesn't whet the appetite then perhaps jumps racing isn't your thing. Two of Britain's most exciting novice chasers go head-to-head as Ahoy Senor tackles BRAVEMANSGAME. The former looked quite the weapon in last month's Newbury Grade 2 victory, pulling 31-lengths clear of a decent Irish raider, and has a very bright future for Lucinda Russell. Marginal preference today is for Harry Cobden's mount. This speedy track might be best-suited to him. He's looked nimble in his work and has shown a turn of foot in winning his two chases so far. There's not much to separate them on paper and this could be a blockbuster.
Next Best: Ahoy Senor
2.30 - Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m)
There was nothing to split Epatante and Not So Sleepy in last month's Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, where they passed the post as one after a great scrap in the Grade 1. Nicky Henderson's mare will be fancied to hold sway and win this for a second time (won in 2019, second last year). No doubting the mare travelled best at Newcastle and looks well placed to win here.
Soaring Glory was underwhelming at Newbury last month and has work to do in this company, as does TRITONIC on the formbook but maybe Alan King's runner has more to come. He goes back in just eight days on from his Ascot win and it's clear now that he is better going right-handed. That form puts him ahead of Soaring Glory and he might be a 4YO capable of stepping up.
Next Best: Epatante
3.05 - Ladbrokes King George VI Chase (Grade 1, 3m)
Paul Nicholls already has a dozen King George wins in his locker include the last three with Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon. The former was denied a hat-trick last year when Bryony Frost's mount made every yard for a shock success. The reigning champ returns having bagged a Down Royal Grade 1 on seasonal comeback in October and should once again go about bossing it from the front, though the others won't be keen to allow an easy advantage now, surely.
For all his trainer's achievements, Clan Des Obeaux is 0-6 when coming in off a break of more than 100 days and that's enough to go against the two-time winner - even though writing Nicholls off is laced with danger.
Chantry House was a top novice last season for Nicky Henderson, winning the Marsh at Cheltenham (2m4f) and Aintree's Mildmay (3m1f). He looked good in last month's comeback too but he will require more still to score in this company. He might be the each-way horse. Lostintranslation delivered a redemptive Ascot win last month for the Tizzard's but he's twice been pulled up in this before and it's a big ask to make it third time lucky.
The Willie Mullins-trained Asterion Forlonge has lots of talent but fences tend to get in his way to a worrying degree and so it's the Gold Cup hero MINELLA INDO that is put forward.
Henry De Bromhead's charge was behind Frodon on his comeback but he should be sharper for that effort. His Cheltenham effort in March is the best form and cheekpieces are deployed now to ensure he is completely focused. Rachel Blackmore's mount will be suited if this gets run at a good clip (stays further) and it can be yet another big-race success for trainer and jockey to end 2021 in style - a year they've well and truly bossed.
Selection: Minella Indo
Next Best: Chantry House
3.40 - Ladbrokes We Play Together Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
Ecco is a Boxing Day regular here for Team Nicholls and has been second in the last two years at 2m/2m5f. This is his second start after a wind op and he's on what is a very workable mark, so must be noted.
Our Surprise and Heross De Seuil are two that can do better but it will be dangerous to dismiss hat-trick seeking EARLOFTHECOTSWOLDS for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Last month's Newbury win is strong from and, while 5lb higher now, he's got Zak Baker claiming 3lb in the saddle and is in thriving form.
Next Best: Ecco
1.20 - Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices' Chase (Grade 2, 2m)
EDWARDSTONE was a very impressive winner of the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown at the start of this month and it's probable that a clear round of jumping here will leave Alan King's charge very hard to topple. Do Your Job was a faller mid-race in that same contest but the SPs that day didn't suggest he'd have been the one to foil the eventual winner anyhow. Solo has been second in novices' handicaps at Ascot (2m3f, soft) and Newbury (2m½f, good to soft) in two chase starts and the form of those races has worked out well. He could once more play the leading support role.
Next Best: Solo
1.55 - Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Mares' Handicap Hurdle (3m½f)
Having seemingly improved for the step up in trip at Ascot last month, the Fergal O'Brien-trained TEQUILA BLAZE looks tailor-made for this race. She travelled into that contest going very easily and while she didn't jump two out fluently, she got to the front at the last and won well despite drifting right late on. There could be more to come and, with 7lb claimer Peter Kavanagh down to ride, it appears as though she's an intended runner on Monday.
Selection Tequila Blaze
2.30 - Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase (Grade 2, 2m)
SHISHKIN could face recent Tingle Creek Chase winner Greaneteen on his eagerly awaited seasonal return here, with Nicky Henderson issuing a relatively positive update on the Seven Barrows star this week. It's no certainly that he'll run but, if he does, there won't be any reason to oppose him. His trainer is very eager to do what's right with this unbeaten chaser and, consequently, if he comes racing he should be ready to do himself justice on first appearance since Aintree in the spring.
Greaneteen, who provided Paul Nicholls with a 12th success in that Sandown Grade 1, and progressive sorts Before Midnight, Funambule Sivola and Grand Annual winner Sky Pirate complete the entries - so it will be very competitive fare if Shishkin misses out.
Next Best: Sky Pirate
3.10 - Play Ladbrokes 1-2-Free On Football Handicap Chase (3m)
A trio to potentially look out for. FIVE STAR GETAWAY was progressive in the spring and surely won't be long leaving behind his comeback run at Chepstow in October. Christian Williams' charge isn't proven at this three-mile trip but has only tried it once and this is a good track for another attempt.
Flegmatik has form ties with Five Star Getaway and Dan Skelton's runner rallied after being outpaced over 2m5f at Ascot in last month's comeback run so he's got potential back up in trip, while Real Steel could drop in class after shaping with some purpose for a long way in the London Gold Cup at Ascot in October.
Selection: Five Star Getaway
Next Best: Flegmatik
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