Pont can bridge the gap in Relkeel
ITV broadcast six races live on New Year's Day as racing returns to the channel. Man On The Spot offers his selections.
Adrien Du Pont (left) is taken to spring a surprise in the Relkeel
Whisper may lack the scope of some of his rivals but he's a smart performer on his day and a recent course and distance victory will have boosted his confidence. He makes more appeal than stablemate O O Seven, who was never really travelling when an odds-on failure at Doncaster. CLAN DES OBEAUX (NAP), on the other hand, was very impressive when making a winning start to his chase career at Newbury. The second was runner-up in the Kauto Star on Boxing Day and Paul Nicholls' five-year-old should be tough to beat here. Briery Belle has won both starts over fences with the minimum of fuss and Henry Daly's tough mare should not be underestimated.
A useful turnout for a decent purse with Germany Calling setting the standard off top weight if able to replicate the level of his impressive rout of Drumlee Sunset at Doncaster last time. He's not always the easiest to catch right though and a chance is taken with UPSILON BLEU. He bypassed the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day and didn't run too badly last time when weakening relatively late on at Ascot behind Sire De Grugy. He should be spot-on now and can give us a good run for our money at an each-way price. Pain Au Chocolat is steadily finding form this term and is respected for Dan Skelton, whilst Cold March has shown enough in competitive handicaps this term to be of interest too. The three at the foot of the weights have all been in good heart this term and make some appeal, with Viens Chercher, open to plenty of improvement over fences, looking most interesting. Indeed, he could well emerge as the main threat to the selection.
A cracking renewal of this Grade 3 which sees Village Vic attempting to repeat last year's victory off a 14lb higher mark. Second Tenor Nivernais, an excellent third on his reappearance at Ascot, and third Top Gamble will both fancy their chances of turning the tables on better terms, though Philp Hobbs' charge excels on this track and has been in good form again this season. However, he only had half-a-length to spare over QUITE BY CHANCE here last month and the latter also met trouble in-running. He might be the value today as Vaniteux hasn't managed a win here in seven previous visits and Aintree scorer As De Mee may find conditions too quick. Shantou Flyer will enjoy the good ground but hasn't raced since down the field in the Galway Plate in July.
Rolling Maul won this two years ago but remains 7lb higher and was soon beaten after making much of the running behind CALL TO ORDER here last month. Cheekpieces did the trick for the bottom weight that day and he looks a step ahead of the handicapper, despite a 7lb higher mark. Rainy City is very consistent and unlikely to be far away again while Rocklander was beaten less than a length when chasing a hat-trick at Exeter, though steps into unknown territory over this longer trip. Whataknight and Zeroeshadesofgrey won't be fazed by a switch back to hurdles but Fingal Bay is beginning to look a light of former days and Spice Fair struggles to get his head in front nowadays.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for SUPERB STORY (NAP) in the Galway Plate in the height of the summer but he's unquestionably the one to beat if finding the form that saw him land the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March. A strong traveller with a sharp turn of foot, he has a course and distance win to his name and is talented enough to concede weight all round. Traditional Dancer found it all too much at Cheltenham last time but was progressive previously and his shrewd yard have him in here off a nice mark, aided by the claim of the excellent Shane Shortall. It would not surprise to see him bounce back. Eyes Of A Tiger will probably set out to make all and should give things a good shot of his lowly and attractive mark, whilst the convincing Cheltenham victory of Kapstadt brings him into the equation too.
Camping Ground beat the ultra-consistent Lil Rockerfeller and former World Hurdle winner Cole Harden in this last year. But the ground was bottomless that day and quicker conditions here will favour the latter, though he does seem to need further than this. L'Ami Serge last ran over the smaller obstacles in the 2015 Supreme Novices' while Old Guard has no form over this trip. ADRIEN DU PONT was a little keen over 2m3f at Auteuil in November but kept on well at his first try beyond 2m1f. He can reverse earlier running here with Leoncavallo and pull off a minor shock in this Grade 2.
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