Midnight Shadow can hit the high notes now
Midnight Shadow can put himself in the Festival picture with victory in the Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.
Sue Smith's stable star narrowly failed to end 2019 on a winning note, closer to home, when he was outpointed by a revitalised opponent at Haydock.
That creditable effort, following his last-fence fall when previously in control at Carlisle, came when his stable was still seeking a first winner of the campaign.
Smith's Bingley yard has since hit form, and Midnight Shadow has plenty going for him as he bids to floor Champ in this Grade Two pointer to the showpiece March meeting.
Champ is unbeaten over fences but has endured enough scrapes in his two victories to present here as a short-priced favourite worth opposing. He was a top-class novice hurdler, but the more experienced yet younger Midnight Shadow reached a higher rating over the smaller obstacles.
Emitom makes a belated reappearance in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle, but if he is to live up to his trainer's high opinion, he should be competitive.
Southwell stages a seven-race all-weather card and Mick Appleby could be a trainer to follow.
Appleby has decent prospects with Forseti, who should go off at backable odds to upset shorter-priced rivals in the opening Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer Handicap.
Appleby then has two more notable runners making quick returns.
Xian Express already had strong claims in the Betway Novice Median Auction Stakes, before the defection of market rival Astrozone, and is consequently unopposable against just two rivals.
The Rutland trainer also has Moonraker bidding to add to his weekend victory, in the Betway Handicap, and a 4lb penalty is not an obvious detriment to the sprinter's chances of following up.
At Catterick, Manwell bids to win the Meetings That Matter On Racing TV Handicap Chase for the second year in succession.
Sam England's gelding hinted at a return to form when third at Sedgefield last time.
He is still 9lb higher than 12 months ago, but has slipped back down the ratings of late and is a potent force when he finds his stride in this grade.
At Fairyhouse, Cle En Main is of interest in the ITM Stallion Trail 10th & 11th January Handicap Chase. Tony Martin's gelding has secured a rating which may well underestimate his ability, on the basis of his fleeting hunter-chase form last season.
CATTERICK: 11.55 Deise Aba, 12.25 Presence Of Mind, 1.00 Zabeel Star, 1.35 King's Coinage, 2.10 Pull Green, 2.45 Manwell, 3.20 Emma Beag.
CHELTENHAM: 12.15 Redford Road, 12.50 Singlefarmpayment, 1.25 MIDNIGHT SHADOW (NAP), 2.00 Lalor, 2.35 Who's My Jockey, 3.10 Emitom, 3.50 Fair Star.
EXETER: 12.40 Acaro, 1.15 Darlac, 1.50 Gavrocheka, 2.25 The Kings Writ, 3.00 Bullionaire, 3.35 King Roland, 4.05 Honor Grey.
FAIRYHOUSE: 12.20 Aione, 12.55 Mount Ida, 1.30 Conright Boy, 2.05 Kayf Thou, 2.40 School Boy Hours, 3.15 Cle En Main, 3.45 Gabynako.
FAKENHAM: 12.05 Wells De Lune, 12.35 Clondaw Bisto, 1.10 Ladronne, 1.45 Be My Sea, 2.20 Stonebrigg Legend, 2.55 George Gently, 3.30 Milreu Has.
MUSSELBURGH: 12.30 Extreme Force, 1.05 Mighty Thunder, 1.40 Fixed Rate, 2.15 Snookered, 2.50 Lostock Hall, 3.25 Benny's Secret.
SOUTHWELL: 12.10 Forseti, 12.45 Xian Express, 1.20 Moonraker, 1.55 Raydiance, 2.30 Tagur, 3.05 Angel Lane, 3.40 Grisons.
TRAMORE: 12.00 Wavelength, 12.35 Capture The Action, 1.10 Man On The Run, 1.45 Macho Mover, 2.20 Al Boum Photo, 2.55 Benefit Run, 3.30 Highest Benefit.
DOUBLE: Moonraker and Midnight Shadow.