The Christmas Racing Weekend begins with a strong looking six race card that includes a brace of Grade Two novice contests.
With testing ground after significant rain this week, field sizes are understandably smaller than previous years but the racing looks no less competitive as a result.
The first of the Grade Two races is the Jacquart Noel Novices’ Chase over 2m5f, which opens the meeting and typically attracts some of the finest young chasers in training. Listing Simonsig, Politologue and Vinndication among recent winners, this year there might only be two horses declared but both Angels Breath and Mont Des Avaloirs have significant potential in this sphere.
Angels Breath made an impressive start to his chasing career at Ascot last month when beating subsequent winner First Flow while Mont Des Avaloirs was only beaten seven lengths by Champ on his first start over fences at Newbury.
The Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle is an important Grade Two race in the lead up to the Cheltenham Festival in March. Yanworth, L’Ami Serge and Irving have all been successful here before heading to Cheltenham as well fancied runners for various novice contests.
This year you could make a case for any of the four runners as they all come here with varying levels of potential and form in the book. Master Debonair opened his account over hurdles for Colin Tizzard here in November while McFabulous represents champion trainer Paul Nicholls having won the Aintree bumper at the Grand National meeting and he should improve from his hurdling debut second at Chepstow recently.
Ribble Valley is a perfect two from two over hurdles for Northern trainer Nicky Richards and will be ridden by the in-form Brian Hughes, currently tied at the top of the Jump Jockeys Championship with Richard Johnson on 96 winners for the season. Rounding out the quartet is Time Flies By in the yellow and green of JP McManus for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty and he makes his first start over hurdles having been first and second in two Cheltenham bumpers.
Debuchet, runner up in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival bumper, is an intriguing runner for Ireland in the Ascot Supports Thames Hospice Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase while Greaneteen could prove better than his hurdles mark on chase debut.
Closing the card is the isobel Championship Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race which is typically one of the best bumpers run this side of Christmas so keep an eye on the first few home as they progress through the season.