1.15pm - Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (2m7½f)
A quality start to the card here as BRAVEMANSGAME looks to protect his perfect record over fences and tee himself up a for a crack at a Grade 1 novice contest during next month's Cheltenham Festival in the process. He is far superior to these five rivals on paper but, this being a handicap, Harry Cobden's mount will need to be at his best to give away the weight.
He's been exceptionally good in three chasing wins so far, latterly in the Grade 1 Kauto Star on Boxing Day where he dispatched Ahoy Senor with some disdain - the runner-up bouncing back in good style at Wetherby last weekend (Kempton third Kiltealy Briggs also won last weekend).
The only minor concern is the recent form of Paul Nicholls' string, which is well below their average.
Pats Fancy won a Chepstow handicap in December in impressive style - form advertised strongly by runner-up Imperial Alcazar on Cheltenham Trials Day last month - and is an improving chaser with more to come for the Rebecca Curtis team. Finishing a good second to Bravemansgame here should represent another step forward from him.
Next Best: Pats Fancy
1.50 - Daily Rewards With Betfair Handicap Hurdle (3m)
The Big Breakaway was a promising novice hurdler in 2019/20, his only defeat coming when fourth in the Ballymore won by Envoi Allen at Cheltenham.
He's only managed to win once in seven starts as a chaser since but he was set some tough assignments. He's back over hurdles now following a wind op and a three-month layoff, but must concede upwards of a stone to this field. That might be asking too much.
Polish has lost his way a bit this season but is now racing from a reduced mark for Fergal O'Brien as a consequence and has his chance, while The Brimming Water shaped with promise on first go at this distance three weeks ago at Haydock and could do better in a first-time tongue-tie from an unchanged mark.
Risk And Roll absolutely hosed up at Huntingdon a fortnight ago over a similar trip, defying odds of 33/1 under Tabitha Worsley. Quite the turnaround for a horse beaten in four hunter chases last spring. He's 10lb higher in the ratings now and needs to prove he can back that swinging success up.
SUSSEX RANGER is given a chance for Gary and Jamie Moore off bottom-weight. He has been chasing this season and shaping well, with mistakes tending to cost him in his races. He stays this trip however and is now rated 9lb below his previous hurdles mark if returning to the smaller obstacles has a positive effect.
2.25 - Betfair Denman Chase (Grade 2, 2m7½f)
Clan Des Obeaux seeks to win this race for a second time but he was thwarted 12 months ago by stablemate Secret Investor and his win in the race was achieved at Ascot in 2019. He did, though, win over hurdles and as a novice chaser here in the past.
He ended last season on a high, getting the better of Al Boum Photo to win the Punchestown Gold Cup after having won the Aintree Bowl.
His comeback on Boxing Day failed to yield a third straight King George win as he finished second behind Tornado Flyer (likely only going to have been third bar final fence fall from Asterion Forlonge). He may well come on from that but, as mentioned, the Nicholls' team are in poor form and ROYALE PAGAILLE is a big obstacle today.
Venetia Williams' 8YO was a distant second behind A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase on his comeback in November but once more carried top-weight to win a second Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase back there last month. That was impressive in the circumstances and suggests he could still be improving. He may upset the jolly today.
Haldon Gold Cup winner Eldorado Allen has twice been beaten over 2m4f since and is untested at this trip (stamina doubt) so Imperial Aura looks best of the remaining trio - despite figures of UPFP alongside him on the racecard. He's got the talent to get back on track somewhere for Kim Bailey.
Selection: Royale Pagaille
Next Best: Clan Des Obeaux
3.00 - Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase (Grade 2, 2m½f)
Another conundrum for punters as Hitman is the latest inmate from the champion trainer's stable trying to get them out of a lull. He was second in the Haldon Gold Cup on his comeback, a race he appeared to have at his mercy after jumping the last only to flail, and then chased home stablemate Greaneteen in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek in December.
Sights are lowered here, essentially, but the market leaders misfired in that Sandown contest and both Greaneteen and Captain Guinness (third) were put in their places last weekend in Ireland.
Sceau Royal won this last year, taking advantage of a slightly undercooked Champ at a trip that was surely too sharp for the Nicky Henderson inmate anyway. Alan King's charge has been hurdling this season so far (two wins, two defeats) and is a very reliable sort.
Last season's Grand Annual winner SKY PIRATE has run with credit four times this season in good races, bumping into handicap blot Brave Seasca last time at Warwick. This could be tactical given there are only four contenders and no obvious pace angles. The Jonjo O'Neill inmate may show the sharpest turn of foot to win.
Funambule Sivola may lead and is coming here on the back of a gutsy Doncaster win two weeks ago over a similar trip. He's only been out of the first two twice in 10 starts over fences and represents a Venetia Williams team in cracking form. He is much-respected but the stalking Sky Pirate might just out-dash him today.
Selection: Sky Pirate
Next Best: Funambule Sivola
3.35 - Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3 Handicap, 2m)
Amongst the toughest of handicap hurdles in Britain in the early months of the year, the Betfair is worth just over £87k to the winner.
Soaring Glory won last year and returns for another crack. History is very much against him and he's a stone higher in the ratings now. He was far from disgraced in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle last time, but this remains a big ask off top-weight. He did have Ascot's Betfair Exchange Trophy winner Tritonic nine-lengths behind at Kempton. They are the top two on the racecard here.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has sent out three winners of this race since 2014 and saddles I Like To Move It now under son Sam. Novices' typically flourish in this race and it's probably safe to forgive him his lone defeat over timber so far, given it came behind Jonbon in a falsely run race at Ascot in December. He should go well amid the helter-skelter of this race and a double-figure price appeals.
Knappers Hill (Paul Nicholls) and Broomfield Burg (Nicky Henderson) have sold claims as novices on the up but so, too, does JPR ONE for Colin Tizzard.
Nine of the past 12 renewals have been won by a novice, with seven of those debuting in handicaps when winning this prize. Jpr One has jumped well in winning 2-3 so far over hurdles, only getting collared late up the Cheltenham hill in between wins at Exeter and Taunton.
He won over 2m3f last time, easily, but should be fine dropped back in trip and perhaps the assessor has been lenient in dropping him in here off 130.
Selection: Jpr One
Next Best: I Like To Move It
4.10 - My Odds Boost On Betfair Novices' Hurdle (2m)
With the Seven Barrows team in scintillating form of late, King Ottokar is very much one to note on debut for Nicky Henderson. He attained a three-figure rating on the Flat for Charlie Fellowes and could be a classy recruit to this code.
Though he's 0-3 so far for Paul Nicholls, Sonigino needs some forgiveness afforded to him given he's twice run in hot races at Doncaster and Ascot either side of the New Year. He's the sort to progress before long but he gives 10lb and more to this field and that's a worry.
Gary Moore saddles a pair of interesting recruits from the Flat in Make My Day and Saligo Bay - they need close scrutiny in the betting, though the former has a 511-day absence to overcome.
PHOENIX AQUILUS is one that might soon do better in this sphere. He's been second in two of his three hurdles starts for Seamus Durack, twice as a juvenile in decent company at Chepstow and Sandown last season and, most recently, at Southwell in November when just pipped late on. He's won both starts in low-grade all-weather staying contests since and the Slade Power gelding may have more to come.
Selection: Phoenix Aquilus
Next Best: Saligo Bay
4.45 - Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange (Listed NH Flat Race, 2m)
A tough finale. Timeforatune is 3-3 in this discipline already, most recently at Cheltenham's November Meeting. He's penalised now and facing his toughest challenge to date.
Warwick winner Filanderer for Hughie Morrison and Chepstow scorer Hullnback for Fergal O'Brien are potential improvers but the pair to focus on may be Authorised Speed and ROSY REDRUM.
Gary Moore's charge won as he pleased here last month on third start, having finished second in a Listed Ascot contest in December. There's more to come from him but the filly Rosy Redrum was a most taking scorer at Wincanton a day after his win here.
The daughter of Pride Of Dubai positively cantered into contention and moved clear to win in the style of a good prospect. Her time was excellent too and under a featherweight against these geldings, they may do well to halt her as she bids to continue what has already been a fantastic campaign for trainer Milton Harris.
Selection: Rosy Redrum
Next Best: Authorised Speed