Cheltenham Christmas Festival: Day One & Two

The two-day Cheltenham Christmas Meeting is one of the main highlights of the December racing calendar and kick-starts the festive sporting season.

The veterans take centre stage on day one of the meeting at Cheltenham in the Veterans' Handicap Chase, the feature race of the afternoon. That is one of the seven races at Prestbury Park on Friday, while the December Gold Cup Chase, is Saturday's main featured race.

Here are our tips for both day one and day two from Cheltenham.

Day One

12.05 – National Hunt Novices' Hurdle

A fiercely competitive race to get a great day's racing underway and a chance is taken on Harry Fry's Beat The Bat, who improved on his Chepstow runner-up finish on his return when winning a 2m 3f maiden hurdle at Aintree last month. Harry Fry's progressive five-year-old narrowly got the better of joint market leader Welcome To Cartries, the pair well clear of the rest, and shouldn't be inconvenienced by a drop in trip. He will be doing his best work going up the hill and is fancied to defy a penalty.

Selection: Beat The Bat

12.40 – Novices' Chase

Six runners are set to go to post for this competitive novices' chase, and Kim Bailey's Trelawne has the most progressive profile on paper. The seven-year-old has only tasted defeat once in five starts and that was on bottomless ground at Exeter on his second career start. He rounded off last season with an impressive win in a 2m 7f handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter and justified favouritism when winning comfortably on chasing debut at Carlisle over 2m 4f on his return. He could prove hard to beat.

Selection: Trelawne

1.15 – Handicap Hurdle

The big story here would be Doddiethegreat, whose prize money goes to the foundation set up in memory of late Scottish rugby star Doddie Weir, so nobody could begrudge Nicky Henderson's runner winning again. However, he might have his work cut out to beat Donnacha, who won a novice hurdle at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance before running a brilliant race here at the November Meeting on handicap debut when second to the impressive Impose Toi. There should be more to come.

Selection: Donnacha

1.50 – Mares' Handicap Chase

Dan Skelton's Walk In Clover won a Grade 2 Mares' Chase over course and distance in April, and the Walk In The Park mare has shown enough in recent outings to suggest she can win off her current rating of 122. She was given a patient ride and was making good headway when unseating her rider in a good 2m novices' chase at Cheltenham in October. My Mate Mozzie won convincingly but she might have given him a race if she stayed on her feet. She was a big eyecatcher when running into third late here over 2m last month and the step back up in trip will massively suit.

Selection: Walk In Clover

2.25 – Veterans' Handicap Chase

Former Reynoldstown winner Sam Brown won a valuable handicap at Aintree in April 2022, and although he has a very patchy profile since reaching those heights, the 11-year-old has tumbled down the weights and is now only 3lb higher than his last success. He is a brilliant staying chaser when he can get around, but jumping errors have cost him, falling in both the Grand National and a big handicap at Punchestown last season, while he never went a yard when pulled up at Wincanton on his return. It would be folly to dismiss him though as the Honeyball team has struck form.

Selection: Sam Brown

3.00 – Cross Country Handicap Chase

The best days may be behind him so it's no surprise to see connections of Minella Indo have a crack at the Cross Country this season, and if he takes to the challenge Henry de Bromhead's star could prove hard to beat despite having the burden of top weight. The former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner won a Grade 3 at Punchestown on his return but was no match for his three rivals in the Down Royal Champion Chase when last seen. This is a massive drop in class.

Selection: Minella Indo

3.35 – Handicap Hurdle

Trainers Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero have combined to form a successful partnership and, although their stable star Iroko is out for the season, White Rhino could be heading in a similar direction to his stablemate. The seven-year-old won a handicap hurdle at Sedgefield off a mark of 74 in February and has risen through the ranks, now rated 123 off the back of a fine second in a competitive handicap behind American Sniper here over 2m 5f last month. He can continue to progress.

Selection: White Rhino

Day Two:

12.05pm – JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle

Trainer Jack Jones is eyeing up a tilt at the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March with AN BRADAN FEASA after the three-year-old ran a brilliant race when second behind the ultra-impressive Burdett Road at the November Meeting. That was the trainer's first runner at Cheltenham and the son of Camelot had them well strung out turning for home. He bumped into a right good horse on the day but there shouldn't be anything of Burdett's Road quality here and he can go one better.

Selection: An Bradan Feasa

12.40pm – John Wyke Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase

Local handler Nigel Twiston-Davies is in terrific form this season and has nearly already surpassed last season's tally of winners. WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT bumped into a relentless galloper in the form of stablemate Broadway Boy when well beaten into second in a 3m½f Listed chase at the November Meeting, but he is worth another chance on handicap debut. Third behind Hermes Allen in a Grade 2 here last season and a respectable seventh in the Albert Bartlett in March, he could be thrown in off 135 on just his third chase start.

Selection: Weveallbeencaught

1.15pm – Quintessentially Handicap Chase

It's very difficult to look past the credentials of Dan Skelton's CALICO, who arrives here fully fit and potentially still very nicely handicapped. Second to Jonbon at Warwick in February in a Grade 2 match race, he gave a top class horse a proper scare on the day. Calico ran a cracker here on seasonal reappearance in November, just run down by Triple Trade in the final furlong despite jumping the last with a two-length lead, and with that run under his belt he should be a tough nut to crack.

Selection: Calico

1.50pm – December Gold Cup Chase

We are set for a fantastic renewal and the ultra-consistent FUGITIF is worthy of an each-way bet given his profile. The eight-year-old finished fourth behind classy Grade-1 standard horses such as Stage Star and Notlongtillmay in the big handicap at the November Meeting. He was right in the mix approaching the second-last and just got outclassed for a finish, but the handicapper has dropped him 2lb and this is definitely an easier race. Richard Hobson's runner should give it a good bash.

Selection: Fugitif

2.25pm – Favourite From The Sun Now Daily Handicap Chase

BROADWAY BOY demolished his rivals in the 3m½f Listed chase at the November Meeting, and the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained five-year-old could take stopping on his handicap debut over fences. He was a big eye catcher and went into lots of notebooks when winning easily on chasing bow at Worcester in September, before finishing a creditable second behind Flooring Porter here in October. This horse is highly regarded with connections talking him up as a potential Grade 1 horse, so a mark of 146 could be very lenient if that's the case.

Selection: Broadway Boy

3.00pm – Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

SHANAGH BOB created a striking impression when winning a point at Ballindenisk last season, and it's a point that has worked out really well. In second was Gorgeous Tom who finished runner-up to the classy Caldwell Potter in a Navan maiden hurdle last weekend, while the sixth El Champo has won three times under rules for Philip Rothwell. Shanagh Bob justified his short price tag on his racecourse debut at Plumpton for trainer Nicky Henderson and he could be an exciting prospect for the yard.

Selection: Shanagh Bob

3.35pm – Mares' Handicap Hurdle

Dan Skelton's NURSE SUSAN was bitterly disappointing when tailed off in a Listed Mares' Novices' Chase at Exeter last month. Sent off 3-1 joint-favourite, she was clearly amiss but if she can recapture the form of her final start last season, she would be a huge player in this. Fourth behind Love Envoi in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Nurse Susan could be well treated on her handicap debut. Love Envoi is rated 151 over hurdles and only beat Nurse Susan a couple of lengths when the pair met at Lingfield in January 2022, so the Skelton runner could be thrown in back over hurdles off 125.

Selection: Nurse Susan

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