Horse racing: Chase your way to the Christmas drinks!

Doncaster's Friday fixture may have sadly bit the dust but perhaps it's fitting that National Hunt racing is set to finally return at its spiritual home Cheltenham tomorrow.

And how we could do with a nice-priced winner on the eve of ours and doubtless many others' Christmas do's!

Step forward Midnight Chase, a real Cheltenham specialist who will be very hard to beat in tomorrow's Listed Handicap Chase (1.15pm) with Presenting Forever worth a saver as the most likely danger.

On a personal note, a repeat of last year's pre-Christmas do antics would do very nicely indeed when Leeds bookmaker Andy Taylor assured me that Istiqdaam was a certainty at Wolves and after some big wagers the horse duly bolted in at 4-5.

Midnight Chase is no certainty but he won't be 4-5 either yet it will take a top performance to beat him.

It is quite simply impossible to not be impressed by Neil Mulholland's

rising star who has now won three out of five at Cheltenham and three in a row with his only two defeats resulting in second and third-placed finishes.

The horse has an admirable attitude and style of running, head down and go for it, and he never looked like being caught in a million years when winning at the same course last month and while the handicapper has now shoved him up 9lbs, it is still unlikely to be enough.

Connections rate the horse on the verge of Gold Cup class and he ought to take plenty of beating, for all that the very expensive Presenting Forever looks very well handicapped at the bottom of the weights.

The rest of Cheltenham's card looks very hard to call but earlier on at Southwell, wins look very likely for Swimsuit (11.50pm) and Ubenkor (12.55pm).

Swimsuit will be odds-on but should win after a promising debut while Ubenkor impresses with the way he travels and should be well enough handicapped still to go in again, hopefully at odds against.

And if all else fails then Yorkshire trainer Richard Fahey can pay for the evening's drinks with Slatey Hen (4.45pm) and Custard Cream Kid (6.15pm) at Wolverhampton.

Slatey Hen was a cosy winner last time and should take some stopping in search of a quick follow up while Custard Cream Kid - who is also scheduled to run today - still looks well handicapped on his old form.

The fact that the horse is also entered in four handicaps this weekend suggests Fahey intends on striking again while the iron is hot and we'll trust amateur pilot Laura Barry to get the job done.

Hopefully her mount is this year's Istiqdaam!

Thomas Christiansen.

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