New One can banish chill at Haydock
Twiston-Davies' star hurdler can warm cockles with Ascot facing freeze-out
By the time you read this, Ascot will likely have already called off today's meeting, which was to feature the clash of Un De Sceaux and Ar Mad.
Unfortunately, while Ireland has escaped the chill, Ascot was under frost yesterday. Clerk of the course Chris Stickels has called a 6.30am inspection, with temperatures set to drop well below freezing.
"We're up against it, I'm afraid," he said yesterday, "In my view, we wouldn't have raced today. It's not so much because of the frost overnight, but the cumulation of a few nights' frost.
"It was minus 4.5C on Wednesday morning, minus 4C on Thursday and minus 2C this morning. There is frost in the ground. It's a shame, but unless the forecast is incorrect, I don't think we'll be raceable."
Happily for British racegoers, there is high-calibre action Merseyside, with Haydock featuring the Grade Two Stanjames.com Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle, a six-runner sizzler.
Irving, which won the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, returns to action, though Paul Nicholls' charge has been put in at 6/1 by the bookmakers, suggesting that they are not overwhelmed by what he achieved.
A horse which has become costly to follow, L'Ami Serge, clearly comes into the argument too. If he can get a reasonable gallop to sit off, he may prove the answer. As a seven-year-old, despite seemingly pretty exposed, he probably has a bit more to give.
However, The New One may be able to dictate matters here. That was not the case when he was pestered by My Tent Or Yours up front in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, yet the nine-year-old battled on bravely, and he seems close to as good as he has ever been this season.
He should not be good enough to ever win a Champion Hurdle - likely he had his chance when unfortunate in 2014 - but on all evidence we have, he will be difficult to pass here and L'Ami Serge may not find a great deal.
The Nicholls-trained Politologue looks set to go off favourite in the Star Sports Cheltenham Preview Evening Novices' Chase, which features some jumpers more than adept at this game despite inexperience.
Waiting Patiently has gone from strength to strength under the superb Brian Hughes, while last season's Neptune third Its'afreebee seems every bit as smart as a chaser, slamming Cole Harden last time.
Perhaps the value here is with Solatentif, which was put in at 12/1 last evening. Colin Tizzard has done exceptionally well with his horses for Alan Potts - Finian's Oscar most promising - and, getting weight, this Solon-bred may be a little overpriced.
ITV4's coverage commences with the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle. The layers struggle to split Neon Wolf and Elgin, Neon Wolf given preference.
Yet another of so many classy recruits from between the flags in Ireland, the Vinnie Roe-bred bolted up in a Uttoxeter bumper and was every bit as impressive at Exeter on his hurdling bow. He is bred to progress too.
The Peter Marsh Handicap Chase sees another of the Potts-Tizzard team, the highly-touted Alary, shoulder top weight. As he is already rated 162, victory in this could mean that Tizzard has four of the first five in the betting for the Gold Cup.
Preference is for Firebird Flyer, which ran such a nice race at Haydock behind the hardy and progressive Three Faces West on his seasonal return.
He never got into the Welsh National, but last year's Midlands National winner remains feasibly rated on that - for all that he had fortune as his ally then.
The feature on the sand at Lingfield is the £19,000 Betway Handicap.
Erhaaf, which never really got competitive at Wolverhampton last month, is fairer judged on previous form, such as his Chelmsford second.
Sometimes, we have but a name to go on - and it can tell us more than you would think.
When Sue Magnier christens two-year-olds, racing fans will attach significance to a name, such that great things were expected of John F Kennedy, for example, before he ran.
That did not quite work out as planned but when Coolmore named the likes of Yeats and Churchill, Sue probably had some idea of what was in store!
This is not so relevant in jumps racing, though Noel Meade's fondness for westerns tends to manifest itself in the naming of some of his jumpers. Then there is Enda Bolger and his friendship with his idol Bruce Springsteen.
My Hometown was sent off 1/2 in a ten-runner point on debut just over two years ago and duly obliged, winning a maiden hurdle later that month at even shorter odds.
Though he has not won since, he took the eye under amateur Donal McInerney last Saturday at Punchestown, in touch when making a race-ending blunder three out. Now well-handicapped chasing, he can be the boss soon.