It’s been at least 24 hours since a flying grey delivered a load of presents, however the Desert Orchid Chase (14:30) gives us all another chance to get sentimental over a stale mince pie and the coconut one from the tin of chocolates.
Dessie (Orchid not Scahill) won 34 of his 70 races, and fellow grey Politologue is doing his best to match that effort, 7 out of 14 so far.
Paul Nicholls’ new 2m star loves a right-handed track, plus a strongly-run race, and looks likely to get both here. Reigning Champion Chaser Special Tiara is respected now back on quicker ground with a run under his belt, and shouldn’t be underestimated, however the favourite looks set to be a tough nut to crack.
He won a tenth Tingle Creek for Nicholls earlier this month and can give his trainer a second win in this race.
Nicholls has also had plenty of success in the Wayward Lad novices’ chase (13:20) earlier on the card, and seeing as nine-time winner Nicky Henderson doesn’t saddle anything this year, he again looks the trainer to side with.
Tommy Silver’s second-placed finish last time has since been franked by the winner and, with the return to better ground in his favour, he can see off Shantou Rock and The Unit.
More races should have songs played before they are run – some Chas and Dave before the Sussex National for example – and ‘Land of My Fathers’ which is belted out before the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow (14:50) is enough to get the hairs raised on the back of your neck.
Beware the Bear appeared to nearly down tools before winning at Newcastle last time, and may struggle if getting as far back this time. Bishops Road, runner up that day, is fancied to get his own back on Nicky Henderson’s charge and is given the nod ahead of Rock The Kasbah and Pobbles Bay.
The latter’s form last season worked out terrifically, certainly much better than nana’s ill-judged charades turn of Debbie Does Dallas on Christmas Day.
The Finale Juvenile Hurdle at 14:10 was won last year by subsequent Triumph winner Defi du Seuil. Mercenaire represents Nick Williams, who won this race in 2009 and 2013, and the horse was an impressive winner at Exeter on his British debut last month. Like Manchester City this season, he was left with little to beat that day, but did it in impressive fashion and looks a horse going places. Sussex Ranger and the filly Famous Milly are the obvious dangers.