|Sat||1:50 Cheltenham - Highway One O One||9/1||William Hill|
|Sat||2:40 Doncaster - Lady Buttons||13/8||Bethard|
|Sat||3:00 Cheltenham - Harry Senior||8/1||Bet365|
1:50 Cheltenham - 45 Sleeps To Cheltenham Trophy - Highway One O One
The winner and second in this Grade 3 handicap chase last year went on to fill the same placings in the Brown Advisory Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, so it's well worth paying attention to.
Our tip, Highway One O One, finished secnd in the novices’ handicap chase over the same distance on this card last year, beaten only by Kildisart, now rated 151.
Stepping up to the main event, Highway One O One is lining up rated the same as he was last year, 145, despite having gone on to finish third in another course-and-distance event that April, after a midfield finish in the novices' handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
He was quietly fancied for Cheltenham's BetVictor Gold Cup in November, but unseated Tom Cannon at the sixth when still travelling well in midfield. The eight-year-old then tried 3m at Kempton, and did hold a clear lead before the last fence, but faded into third when stamina became an issue.
Saturday's drop back to his preferred distance looks inevitable, and with so much good form over the course and distance, the Grade 3 looks an obvious target for him. Many rivals have multiple options, so the field looks like it will cut up and I would recommend taking the 9/1 that is currently available for Highway One O One, before that goes, along with his rivals.
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2:40 Doncaster - Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle - Lady Buttons
Lady Buttons gave backers a scare in this Grade 2 last year when idling on the run-in, but went on to win by a neck, improving her already stellar Doncaster form to read: 41111.
As well as winning this race, she's also won the last two renewals of the 2m4f Listed mares’ chase, and she's already in good form this season, winning a 2m Listed mares' hurdle at Wetherby when carrying 4lbs more than rising star Indefatigable.
She was slightly disappointing in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle, but bounced back with that Listed victory over fences here, battling well to beat top-class rivals Happy Diva and La Bague Au Roi.
The 10-year-old is not at her best over that 2m4f trip though, always performing better in a strongly-run 2m contest, which she should get here as she faces exciting novice Floressa, who is 2/3 over hurdles. That five-year-old won on her first try in Listed company last time out and looks worthy of her rating of 142.
Lady Buttons' Grade 2 win last year means she carries 4lbs more than Floressa, but she is also officially rated only 4lbs higher, so Floressa will have to put in a career-best to deny the favourite.
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3:00 Cheltenham - Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Harry Senior
This Grade 2 over 2m4f has been won by the likes of Santini, Yanworth, At Fishers Cross and Bobs Worth, making it an excellent Cheltenham Festival trial, but it looks a race that could end up with a very small field.
Sporting John is antepost favourite right now, but trainer Philip Hobbs has said he could run at Exeter in early February instead. King Roland is also only rated him a possible runner, and Champagne Well also holds an entry in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle trial at Doncaster on Saturday.
With three at the top of the top of the market being doubtful runners, I recommend backing Harry Senior, who might already be a Grade 2 winner, had he not unseated jockey Robbie Power before the start of such a race at fortnight ago at Warwick.
The six-year-old was a well-backed 11/4 favourite that day having won easily at Chepstow last time when upped to 2m3f. On heavy ground, he won by five lengths and looked in need of every yard of the trip, so won't mind the extra furlong at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Horses in his age group have won 9/11 runnings of this race; a big negative against the five-year-olds ahead of him in the market,Sporting John and Protektorat. As a result, I expect Harry Senior to be well-backed for this race, even if those rivals are declared and the 8/1 available now seems massive value.
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