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Friday 13 December 2019

Meribel can strike the right note

COURSE AND DISTANCE: Count Meribel (red cap) winning at Cheltenham last year.
COURSE AND DISTANCE: Count Meribel (red cap) winning at Cheltenham last year.

Cheltenham was given the go-ahead yesterday afternoon and we know have an intriguing - and also very informative - afternoon's racing in store.

Between Cheltenham and Punchestown we will get plenty of clues for the rest of the season and also have some top-class runners as well as some old favourites in action.

Starting in the Cotswolds, the BetVictor Gold Cup has been won by Nigel Twiston-Davies a couple of times recently and his number one chance today looks like COUNT MERIBEL (2.25 Cheltenham).

A winner of a novice heat over course and distance on this day last year, this race looks like it has been the plan for a while and the seven-year-old made a pleasing reappearance to the track at Carlisle last time.

He was no match for the top class Lostintranslation then but it was a very decent effort nonetheless and will have left him spot on for this.

It is interesting also that he took in a Carlisle novice prior to his win here last year and Twiston-Davies has gone the same route here.

A winner on soft and a generally sound jumper, Count Meribel looks excellent each-way value with firms offering five and six places.

In the mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase, WHOLESTONE (1.15 Cheltenham) looks the class act and should be capable of going one better than his course and distance second a few weeks ago.

He is a proven Grade Two performer and has taken well to fences. On official ratings he should simply prove too strong against some old foes.

At Punchestown, the Naas Oil Beginners Chase clearly revolves around Faugheen (12.50 Punchestown) making his debut over fences.

The 11-year-old is coming to chasing late but is easily the class act among today's field and if he can jump a fence he will be incredibly hard to beat.

Even at 11 he showed at Cheltenham in March that he still retains plenty of ability and can score here.

Finally, underfoot conditions will suit Eclair De Beaufeu (1.25 Punchestown) right down to the ground in the Craddockstown.

He travelled powerfully in soft to heavy terrain at Wexford before winning by 19 lengths and can reverse form with Notebook on their previous run.

IAN'S TIPS

CHELTENHAM

1.15 wholestone

2.25 count meribel

punchestown

12.50 faugheen

1.25 Eclair De Beaufeu

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