There's a cracking card at Cheltenham on New Year's Day with the featured Victor Chandler Chase Handicap one of four Channel 4-televised races.
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1:05 Cheltenham Pony Club Raceday Novices´ Chase (Registered As Dipper Novices´ Steeple Chase) 2m5f
This is a cracking novices' chase to help bring the New Year in and it can go to INVICTUS, who has really taken the eye in his two chase starts this season with wide-margins wins at Hereford and Plumpton, the latest from the well-regarded Gift Of Dgab. This is a big step up in grade admittedly but his trainer Alan King has always held in him high regard and it's significant that he has chosen this race as his next assignment when he could have gone for easier pickings in search of the hat-trick - the fact he also had impressive Exeter winner Walkon (runs at Newbury on Saturday instead) entered in this race speaks volumes too. No superstar over hurdles, Invictus looks to have a big future over fences and I'll be disappointed if he can't land this on his way to better things.
He should be a decent price too with the likes of Sonofvic and Solix in the race. The former made Grand Crus work hard last time out at Newbury when making his chase debut and was only two lengths down at the line. That looks top notch form now in light of the winner's subsequent easy success in the Feltham Novices' but it might also flatter Sonofvic as Grand Crus was idling close home and I thought the runner-up looked pretty fit despite a 270 day absence. Solix has not come off the bridle in winning both his chase starts, including here last time out, but both were four runner affairs and a 7lb penalty means he has to give 3lb to the selection.
1:35 Raceodds Handicap Chase 3m2f110y
There are some familiar equine names amongst the 15 entries for this race and it's fair to say that many of them have seen better days, but the eleven-year-old LE BURF may be capable of one last hurrah. Rated as high as 135 in his prime - a mark he finished third in the 2010 Racing Post Chase off - he's now slipped to 113 and showed the ability was still there when a staying on third over an inadequate 2m6f at Market Rasen last time. He's not one to have the mortgage on but with the talented AP Cawley booked to ride and just 10 stone on his back, he looks worthy of each-way support in what looks a wide open race.
2:10 Bet With Your Mobile At Victor Chandler Chase Handicap (Grade 3) 2m5f
This is a typically competitive renewal of this handicap chase and a case can be made for several. I see bookmakers have made Wincanton winner Duke Of Lucca favourite and I can't argue with that as Philip Hobbs' runner looks nicely weighted on just 10st1lb, jumps well and is best suited by this intermediate trip over fences. I'm going to take him on, though, with the wonderfully named HAVINGOTASCOOBYDO, who has been crying out for this trip having run two fine races in defeat in 2m handicaps at this track. The handicapper has raised him 2lb for finishing third to the promising Astracad last time out, but even his revised mark of 137 looks to underestimate him and I'm sure there is better to come over this longer trip. Snap up the early 13/2 with William Hill as I reckon he could go off favourite. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Crescent Island looks a danger and David Pipe's Matuhi could run well at a price.
2:45 sportinglife.com Handicap Hurdle 3m
I'm hoping to play up some of my winnings on the Paul Nicholls-trained OSCARGO, who looks a good bet to see off some out of form rivals. Admittedly, it was a weaker race that he won here last time out and he did hit a flat spot down the back straight before responding to Ruby Walsh's urges, but considering that was only his third run there should be a good deal of improvement to come and this is a race the stable like to win. Just don't expect much of a price!
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1.35 Le Burf (each-way)
2.10 Havingotascoobydo (NAP)