Cue Card can make it fourth-time lucky and be rewarded for his admirable longevity with victory in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Colin Tizzard’s charge has bounced back from more than one setback in the past, but appears to be better than ever this term after undergoing surgery on a trapped epiglottis last term.
The nine-year-old was treated for the breathing issue following his fifth place in last season’s King George, when he looked primed to challenge only to fade dramatically in the closing stages, with his hindered airways possibly contributing to that defeat.
He was perhaps not quite at his best when clashing with the reopposing Don Cossack at Aintree in April, but two victories this term, including his impressive success in the Betfair Chase last time out, show that he has lost none of his ability.
Cue Card easily accounted for Silviniaco Conti at Haydock and while this track is something of a favourite for the latter horse, he has not looked to be up to his best this term.
Possible better ground is a plus for Cue Card and with few doubts about his ability to see out three miles now, Paddy Brennan can steer him to festive success in what should be a thrilling renewal.
Native River can make it a red-letter day for the Tizzard team with victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
He stepped up on an impressive Exeter win to give 7lb and a beating to Un Temps Pour Tout in a Newbury Grade Two last time out.
Chasing seems to have brought out the best in Native River and it will be disappointing if he is not in the shake-up.
With a couple of question marks over Faugheen following defeat on his seasonal return, The New One might just prove a value bet in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle.
A kissing spine curtailed his 2014/15 season after he finished fifth in the Champion Hurdle, but he showed he still knows how to win when registering a comfortable victory at Kempton in October.
He did not really impress that day and had to miss the International at Cheltenham with a setback, but he should not be underestimated and can expose any chinks in Faugheen’s armour - leaving Sam Twiston-Davies regretting the decision to ride Old Guard.
Holywell takes a dip in class as he lines up in the 188Bet Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby.
Last seen when finishing fourth of five in the Betfair Chase, Jonjo O’Neill has sought out an easier opportunity for the eight-year-old, who finished fourth in the Gold Cup last season.
He has struggled to make his mark in better company and O’Neill has made no secret of the fact he doubts the gelding has the necessary class in the top flight.
That said, he should be good enough for this Grade Three event, even if he does have to shoulder top weight.
Southfield Vic can improve on his fencing bow in the Armishaws Removals Harry Dufosee Novices’ Chase at Wincanton, while Not A Bother Boy is the pick in the Clugston Lincolnshire National.
John Ferguson is quitting training at the end of the current campaign but Groundbreaking looks one to make his mark for the handler in the Racing FX Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon.
The Organist can make it three from three in the Selftrade Stock And Shares ISA Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Fontwell, with Noble Reach likely to find the Ministers Indian Restaurant Sedgefield Handicap Hurdle at Sedgefield an eminently winnable heat.
The Coral Handicap is the pick of the all-weather action at Wolverhampton and Charlie Appleby’s Second Wave should play his part in the finish.
DOWN ROYAL: 12.25 Some Drama, 1.00 Finea, 1.30 Noble Prince, 2.00 Rock On Westie, 2.30 So On, 3.00 Solar Heat, 3.30 Avellino.
FONTWELL: 12.20 Searching, 12.55 Toohighforme, 1.30 The Organist, 2.05 Mr Fickle, 2.40 Tambura, 3.15 Ya Hafed, 3.45 Torero.
HUNTINGDON: 12.15 Gilzean, 12.45 Groundbreaking, 1.20 It’s Oscar, 1.50 Ratify, 2.25 Minellaforlunch, 3.00 Grand March, 3.35 Adman Sam.
KEMPTON: 12.50 Cashanova, 1.25 West Wizard, 2.00 Native River, 2.35 The New One, 3.10 CUE CARD (NAP), 3.45 Baron Alco.
LEOPARDSTOWN: 12.15 Beau Mome, 12.45 Vigil, 1.20 Rashaan, 1.50 Tongie, 2.20 Pires, 2.55 Douvan, 3.25 Bacardys.
LIMERICK: 12.35 Free State, 1.10 Kalkir, 1.40 River Run, 2.10 Free Expression, 2.45 Blazing West, 3.15 Adams Wood, 3.20 Good To Flow.
MARKET RASEN: 12.25 My Lord, 1.00 Pixiepot, 1.35 Dreams Of Milan, 2.10 Not A Bother Boy, 2.45 Grimley Girl, 3.20 Vaillant Creek.
SEDGEFIELD: 12.10 Just Georgie, 12.40 Bollin Ace, 1.15 On The Case, 1.55 Card Game, 2.30 Red Danaher, 3.00 Noble Reach, 3.30 Storm Forecast.
WETHERBY: 12.35 What A Dream, 1.10 Becauseshesaidso, 1.45 Holywell, 2.20 Waterclock, 2.55 Galway Jack, 3.30 Pistol.
WINCANTON: 12.30 Antartica De Thaix, 1.05 Pure Poteen, 1.40 Sir Ivan, 2.15 Southfield Vic, 2.50 Sadma, 3.25 Quite By Chance, 3.55 Chelsea Flyer.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 1.00 Showdaisy, 1.35 Horsted Keynes, 2.05 Nezar, 2.35 Nokhada, 3.05 Second Wave, 3.40 Roman De Brut, 4.10 Shimba Hills.
DOUBLE: Cue Card and The New One.
* Kempton card appears in the Boxing Day edition of The Star.