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December 16th

Navan (Going; Good To Yielding)

Navan Novice Hurdle (2m4f)
Three of these met here over course and distance three weeks ago with Easy Game coming out on top by a neck and half a length from Magnium and Choungaya. Easy Game seemed to get caught for toe two out but put in a storming finish to get up close home. His jumping was slick and he travelled nicely throughout the race although I expect he might be ridden closer to the pace here. He will also not want the ground to soften up too much according to his trainer Willie Mullins. Rhinestone showed promise in Bumpers last season . He won his only start over hurdles last month. The ones behind haven't done much to advertise the form although it was over 2m and this trip will suit him better. Defi Bleu won his maiden over course and distance last time leading home four other Gigginstown horses including runner up Momus who runs in the first race. Magnium should benefit from a bit of rain according to Jesse Harrington and it mean a bit of improvement from him. Getareason was disappointing over three miles at Cork the last day and drops back in trip. He won a couple of races during the summer but is probably best watched. Monbeg Worldwide has won his last two starts, both over 2m4f, but prior to that had finished 9l behind Choungaya over 2m at Tipperary. The latter should give another good account of himself here and might be each way value at 11/1. I find it hard to believe that his conqueror the last day is almost seven points lower 9/2. Western Victory caused a surprise over 2m at Galway in October bwating Getaway Katie May over 2m. She won a point over 3m on Heavy ground twelve months ago so staying should be her game. Barry Geraghty rides the 4yo Satoshi who could be considered unlucky the last day at Gowran in a race that could produce plenty of winners. I have no firm opinion on this and it looks wide open but I think the galloping track and step up in trip should suit Rhinestone who won a shade cosily the last day although rain could help Magnium turn the tables with Easy Game.
Selection; Rhinestone
Best Alternative; Magnium (EW)

December 15th

Doncaster (Going; Good)

December Novices Chase (2m7f214y)
Just the four runners for this Grade 2 but it's a competitive heat. Rocky's Treasure put up a big performance at Newbury a fortnight ago in a Grade 2. Bidding for a four timer he found Santini too good on ground that was unsuitable. His three wins prior to that had been by extended margins and provided the rain doesn't come earlier than forecast he has a great chance here. King Of Realms has won his only start over fences on Good to Soft. His best form has come with some ease in the ground and the twice he ran on Good ground he was well beaten. Coup De Pinceau has won his two starts over fences and while this is much tougher he has to be respected coming from the Paul Nicholls yard. Theclockisticking is another who won his chase on debut but this is a bigger step up. As long as the ground stays good Rocky's Treasure gets the selection.
Selection; Rocky's Treasure
Best Alternative; Coup De Pinceau

Summit Juvenile Hurdle
Just five go to post for this but a terrific contest in store. Cracker Factory  has just over a length to find with Quel Destin following on from there meeting last month a CheltenhamThe latter has now won two of his three starts over hurdles since coming over from France and he seems to be progressing nicely. Connections of Cracker Factory will be hoping the Going doesn't change as he's a good ground horse who will be going off for a break after this. This his his seventh start over hurdles since beating Chief Justice at Aintree in June and confirmed that form at Wetherby in November. The latter did that form no harm when winning at Fairyhouse last week. Elysees has won two of his three starts over hurdles and is another who will probably need the good ground. This is a step up in class but he is progressive. I went for Cracker Factory the last day and I'm going to stick with him here.
Selection; Cracker Factory
Best Alternative; Quel Destin

Cheltenham  (Going; Good)

Bristol Novices Hurdle (2m7f213y)
Nine go to post for this Grade 2 and Doux Pretender and Aye Aye Charlie are vying for favouritism. On a line through Stoney Mountain there is nothing between them and it all depends how they take to the step up in trip. Doux Pretender beat the latter a head at Ascot over 2m5f at Ascot last time on his seasonal debut while Aye Aye Charlie went down to Stoney Island by a neck over 2m4fat Aintree in October on his seasonal debut. Aye Aye Charlie stepped up in trip to 2m6f110y next time and was very impressive when winning with the cheekpieces on for the first time. Doux Pretender should improve for that first outing but has to concede 3LB to Aye Aye Charlie. Supreme Lucky is a lightly raced horse who won his Bumper and the second of his two hurdle starts. This is a step up but as we've said before the Skeltons don't tilt at windmills although the trainer said after his Soutwell win that he wouldn't be tried to highly this season as he is a chaser in the making. Danny Whizzbang cost connections 115,00 euros after winning his point back in April. He then won on his stable debut last month for Paul Nicholls and market moves should be noted. Rockpoint is a half brother to Santini but has a lot to find on official ratings. The remainder look to have it all to do. The 3LB he gets might just swing it for Aye Aye Charlie.
Selection; Aye Aye Charlie
Best Alternative; Danny Whizzbang

International Hurdle (2m179y)
Eight have been declared for this Grade 2 and Summerville Boy heads the early betting. He disappointed in the fighting Fifth two weeks ago but if he shows the form he showed around here when winning The supreme Novices last March he will be in the mix. Silver Mix seems to be a progressive 5yo who put up a career best here last month when beaten a neck in a Grade 3 handicap. It's hard to fancy We Have A Dream after two disappointing runs this season although his trainer Nicky Henderson seems more confident and the trainers Brain Power reverts to hurdles after seemingly not having taken to fences. It's his second run back after a wind op and he has the cheekpieces back on for the first time since April 2017. Western Ryder beat Lalor over this course and distance in the Novice Hurdle this time last year. He was hampered two out in the Supreme and stayed on to finish 7L behind Summerville Boy. He could be a bit of each way value having run a good race under a big weight here last month on his seasonal debut. Old Guard won the 2015 renewal of this but probably needs further now while The New One, after two disappointing runs this season, looks ready for retirement to the field. Vision Des Flos continues to find one or two better than him and it's hard to have too much confidence in him. I'll give Summerville Boy another chance here.
Selection; Summerville Boy
Best Alternative; Western Ryder

s since March 2016. He's won four of these so obviously has ability. His last start was a winning one in a Grade 3 at Aintree last April. He's probably best watched here. Rocky's Treasure won three chases in the space of four weeks in October/November, all on Good ground. However with more rain forecast It may well be that his ground has gone. Kilbricken Storm is reported to have strengthened up over the summer and the benefit of a run might just swing it in his favour.
Selection; Kilbricken Storm
Best Alternative; Le Breuil

Newcastle (Going; Good To Soft)

Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2m98y)
Just six go to post for this Grade 1 headed by last years winner Buveur D'Air who went on to win his remaining three starts culminating in the Champion Hurdle where he just prevailed by a neck from Melon. Since going hurdling he's only been beaten twice in eleven starts over the smaller obstacles. He's also won two starts over fences in that period. He's had a wind op over the summer and is reported in great order by Nicky Henderson. Samcro was beaten just over 1L by a race fit Bedrock at Down Royal four weeks ago and should strip fitter here. However I get the impression from listening to Gordon Elliott that he won't be surprised if he's beaten here on a track that might be a bit sharp for him and that the only race that matters is The Champion Hurdle in March. Summerville Boy won a thrilling Supreme Novices at Cheltenham beating Kalshnikov and Mengli Khan who have both started their Chasing careers in fine style. They're keeping going with Bedrock who is having his thirteenth run since March. He's been mixing hurdling with the flat and his last to runs have resulted in wins in a Grade 3 and Grade 2. His previous hurdle run was in the Galway Hurdle where in receipt of 2LB he was just under 7L behind Sharjah which in hindsight was a decent run. Vision Des Flos drops back to the minimum trip but he has a bit to find on official ratings. I'm going to take a chance with Summerville Boy.
Selection; Summerville Boy
Best Alternative; Buveur D'Air