14:20 Kempton Park – McFabulous (win)
If there was a race that was tailor-made for a specific horse, it would be the Relkeel Hurdle (2m5f) (usually run at Cheltenham), only run around Kempton.
With Cheltenham having to abandon their New Year’s Day fixture, the race has been re-scheduled to run here and the connections of McFabulous must be loving it.
He was an exceptional course-and-distance winner here at the back end of last season, despite that being in a much weaker contest than this one.
He won the Persian War on his seasonal debut this season before a good third in a Grade 1 at Newbury last time, where he was outstayed and perhaps slightly outclassed for his relative inexperience.
This drop in trip and class can see him get his head back in front and can keep his trainer and owner dreaming of future big prizes.
13:05 Lingfield Park – United Front (each-way)
There aren’t many trainers better at improving ‘cast-offs’ from other yards than Mick Appleby, who seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to getting horses rejuvenated.
While United Front didn’t improve all that much, it was good to see him finish second on his first start for his new connections at Chelmsford last month.
He was once so highly thought of by his previous trainer Aidan O’Brien that he ran in a £32,000 conditions race on his debut and also ran at Royal Ascot as a maiden.
Perhaps he didn’t hit the heights that his previous connections had hoped, and was unable to become a exciting breeding proposition, but he still has plenty of mileage as a race horse.
A reproduction of his second at Chelmsford or even any of his runs for his old yard and he’ll be bang there in this competitive seven-runner race.
13:58 Chepstow – Hold That Taught (each-way)
There is no better trainer to follow in handicaps in January than Venetia Williams, who yet again is in the winner’s enclosure with her horses as they ground gets heavier.
Hold That Taught is still lightly-raced and yet to showcase the best of his ability, but he’s shown plenty of promise – none more so than on his recent start at Ascot, where he chased home the now-140-rated Demachine.
With the trip, track and ground all set to suit this six-year-old, he’ll be ridden to do his best work late. Getting lumps of weight from the protagonists, he could make them pay.
One To Watch
The race itself (11:45 Chepstow) might just be a little hot, but Gastara has run much better than the bear form has suggested on her two starts this season.
She has clearly improved from her first season, where she was pitched in against some very smart horses in some of the better bumpers and on her novice hurdle debut.
She was very well-backed last time out (100/1 into 15/2), which suggested that more was expected of her.
She might just find some of her rivals a bit too hot to handle, but she won’t be without a chance. If she runs well, she could be one for the notebook for when she moves into handicaps.
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