Arthur's Gift looks well placed to complete a fourth straight success at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, according to Simon Holt, who nailed a 7/1 winner on Saturday.
ARTHUR'S GIFT, a fast improving hurdler who stormed up the Cheltenham hill when winning at his first attempt over three miles last month, is fancied to defy a 6lb rise and complete a four-timer in the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle over the same course and distance on New Year's Day.
The seven-year-old, once again re-united with useful 7lb claimer Tom Humphries, has improved 28lb since being beaten in a novice handicap hurdle at Worcester in October and took his form to a new level last time when leading in the closing stages and clearing away from Sykes at the finish.
Earlier on in that race, Arthur's Gift seemed to hit a flat spot and, whereas he had been able to win over a shorter distance on good to soft ground at Market Rasen on his previous start, a test of stamina now seems likely to bring out the best in him.
In testing conditions here, the selection's determined attitude could again see him home, though he will need to maintain his progress against a few other promising types like Lovenormoney, who went up 10lb for winning in the mud at Chepstow, Red Rising, a nine-length winner over this trip (but on good ground) at Southwell and Boyhood who wasn't totally disgraced when fourth to The Organist at Newbury.
The Cheltenham card features two key clashes which are hard to call. In the BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase, Willoughby Court attempts to confirm Newbury placings with Yanworth but on 5lb worse terms for a three length beating (and Ballyandy also looks a potentially dangerous rival), while in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle, there is little between Old Guard and Colin's Sister at the weights on official ratings with last year's surprise winner Agrapart not ruled out to repeat his 16/1 victory in similarly testing ground.
For a second selection, I like the look of UPSILON BLEU who can go one better in the Totequadpot 'Auld Reekie' Handicap Chase at Musselburgh having chased home an on-song (and blinkered for the first time) Cold March 12 month ago.
Pauline Robson's gelding races off just a 2lb higher mark and has run well in both starts this season chasing home Archive at Ayr and then beaten just three lengths into third behind Sir Valentino at Ascot over two miles after leading from half-way to two out.
Upsilon Bleu faces two threatening southern raiders in Max Ward and Knockgraffon who should both be suited by the better ground on offer than at most southern courses.
However, neither shone on their most recent starts; Max Ward, beaten a long way behind Exitas at Ascot in November, needs to rediscover the form which saw him win at Kempton last March before a decent fourth to Flying Angel at Aintree (for which he went up 5lb), while Knockgraffon was only fifth of seven behind Gino Trail on his first run for Olly Murphy at Cheltenham, albeit over two miles on soft ground, and remains 9lb above his last winning mark.
Posted at 1135 GMT on 31/12/17.