Simon Holt is happy to give the mercurial Singlefarmpayment one more chance at Cheltenham on New Year's Day - check out his preview and tips.
One of this columnist's biggest disappointments this jumps season occurred in last month's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in which CEPAGE could finish only fourth to Warthog after a cracking first run of the season behind Riders Onthe Storm at Aintree, and the Venetia Williams-trained gelding is given another chance back at Cheltenham in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase on New Years Day.
Cepage went up 8lb for his Aintree effort but the winner, successful again at Ascot subsequently, is now up 29lb and the form was given a great boost when third placed Oldgrangewood (fully 12 lengths adrift) went on to beat Kalashnikov at Newbury.
A line through Oldgrangewood gives the selection an edge over Kalashnikov in receipt of 6lb here but he does need to reproduce that first effort. Last time, it's possible that Charlie Deutch's mount was unsettled by an uncharacteristic mid-race jumping error, and with a bit less weight now (he is quite a small horse), perhaps he can live up to expectations.
Cepage certainly likes the course having gone down by less than two lengths to the subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Frodon in last year's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
While the Newbury (2m) winner Magic Saint, Saint Calvados and Lalor could all be threats if proving effective over this two-and-a-half mile trip, the returning Mister Whitaker may prove the biggest danger up just 4lb for his course and distance success in April, a third win at Cheltenham.
Earlier, at the risk of prompting readers to send for the men in white coats, I will give yet one more chance to SINGLEFARMPAYMENT in the Markel Insurance Handicap Chase.
Tom George's talented, smooth-travelling gelding is a heart-break horse and, despite running well on various occasions at Cheltenham in recent seasons, hasn't won since December 2016. During the interim period, he has been beaten three times by Cogry including when flattening out again up the hill at the November meeting.
However, Singlefarmpayment is certainly well handicapped - he was beaten a head by Cogry (now 10lb worse off) off a 6lb higher mark just over a year ago - and I'm hoping that the fitting of cheek-pieces for the first time may encourage a bit more concentrated effort when it matters most in what looks a winnable race.
At Musselburgh, SIR CHAUVELIN is fancied to repeat his 2018 success in the Betway Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle off just a 4lb higher mark.
A useful stayer on the Flat at his best, Jim Goldie's eight-year-old also won the juvenile hurdle on this card in 2016 and, after being a bit below form on the Flat since winning at Goodwood in the summer of '18, he has run two sound races recently on the Newcastle all-weather.
In November, Sir Chauvelin belied odds of 50/1 to finish a close third under 9st10lb in a handicap over a mile and a half and then performed just as well when dead-heating for fourth in a two-mile conditions race behind the smart trio Raymond Tusk, Funny Kid and Mildenberger.
Callum Bewley's mount has a Flat rating of 101 while his jumps mark here is 129 which makes him look potentially well handicapped given that the difference between the Flat and Jumping scales is around 35lb to 40lb.
There are several in-form rivals, such as Snookered, Newtown Boy and the promising Ashington, but the good to soft ground conditions should be ideal for Sir Chauvelin who comes here in his best form for a while.
Posted at 1550 GMT on 21/12/19.