2.35pm Cheltenham Tips & Betting Preview 01/01/2017

Nine renewals of this race in the last ten years (2013 abandoned), and just the two winning favourites and nine different trainers leaves us very little statistically to go to war with. Trainer Philip Hobbs won this in 2014 with Return Spring and will fancy his chances in 2017 with eleven-year-old Fingal Bay (12/1 Each Way) who has a touch of class about him despite heading in to the twilight of his career. Admittedly his last win was back in 2014 when he took the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival but he has some solid placed form since then to fall back on and has been dropped a generous five pounds by the handicapper for his last run. There is a school of thought that he may well have needed two runs this season to get him spot on (they get wiser as they get older and can do less at home), in which case he may be fully race fit for the first time here and if that is the case he is very well weighted and can put in a big effort off his new mark in this class.

Back to young Harry Fry next who has Whataknight (11/2)  entered here as the eight-year-old looks for his third win of the season and third overall (plus five in point-to-points). His last two runs have been over fences and include a 145 length win at Herford last time out when his only serious rival unseated at the fifth, but it looks like they plan to send him back over hurdles now in the hunt for this valuable prize. He did win on his last run over the smaller obstacles quite easily by five lengths at Haydock but has been put up six pounds for that but does at least arrive here at the very top of his form.

Bottom weight Call To Order (3/1) heads the early markets after winning last time out over course and distance where the cheek pieces seemed to work wonders as he came home by three and three quarter lengths staying on all the way to the line. He has been put up seven pounds for that effort but is well worth running here off his lowly weight with Aidan Coleman reunited in the saddle and could go close if they go fast enough early on to bring his undoubted stamina in to play.

Ignoring anything trained by Paul Nicholls is not a good idea this season with his solid strike rate and Sam Twiston-Davies will be on board Rainy City (8/1) who is looking for his fourth win over hurdles. Last time out he finished a four length third to Arctic gold at Sandown when looking a bit one paced when they quickened up late in the race, and he is another who will be at his best if they go hell for leather from the off.

Returning to our colleague Nigel Twiston-Davies to end with, and he has entered staying chaser Cogry (14/1) here and he may have a better chance than it looks at first glance. He hasn’t had the best of luck over fences this season with four starts seeing him fall twice, unseat once, and be brought down once as well, so no wonder they are sending him over fences! The majority of punters will feel he is being given a run around as a confidence booster but we remember Splash Of Ginge who was dropped back to hurdles last time before winning at Haydock at odds of 12/1, and as he carries less weight over hurdles than he would over fences, he is worthy of some serious consideration.

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