With the Cheltenham Festival now visible on the horizon, it’s a good time to analyse some of those pointers we gleaned from over the Christmas period and pick out a few early horse racing betting tips.
Arkle Chase (Tuesday 12th March)
Le Richebourg put himself right into the Arkle picture with victory in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
The JP McManus-owned six-year-old brushed aside Us And Them to score by four and a half lengths. Voix Du Reve was third, with the strong favourite, Mengli Khan only fourth.
His young trainer, Joseph O’Brien said: O'Brien said: "Mark (Walsh) gave him a lovely ride and he jumped very well. The last day he ran a cracker, but I think the tempo of a two-mile race probably suited him better.
"He was good over hurdles, but probably disappointed us slightly and since he's gone over fences he's been very good.
"The obvious thing to do would be to come back here for the Dublin Racing Festival. More than likely he's an Arkle horse."
Le Richebourg gets a 7/1 quote from us for the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
If you are looking for something else in the Arkle and longer odds then Chesterfield could well be your selection.
Trained by Seamus Mullins, the Grade Two-winning hurdler has taken well to the larger obstacles but has had a slight setback.
Mullins said: "Chesterfield gave himself a little bang after his last race at Kempton. He has not missed much work as such, but he has been on the easy list.
"We wanted to aim him back at the Lightning Novices' Chase at Doncaster, but he has only started coming back cantering so he probably won't make it back for that, so we will look at something early in February.
"The aim is still the Arkle - he will have an entry in the Grand Annual, although I'm not as keen on that.
"I'd love to have a crack at the Arkle as I was fourth in it before with Farmer Jack.
"This horse deserves to have a crack in something like the Arkle."
If you think Chesterfield is a possible dark horse for the Arkle Chase then odds of 33/1 are available in our ante-post Arkle market.
JLT Novice Chase (Thursday 14th March)
A whole host of horses with JLT aspirations ran over the festive period, and none more recent than Master Dino who won at Plumpton on Sunday.
Trained in France by Guillaume Macaire, the French raider certainly put his Cheltenham Festival credentials on the line with a convincing win in Plumpton’s Novice Chase, and also put himself in line for an extra £60,000 bonus should he win any of the races at The Festival.
Speaking after the race, Macaire said: “The ground is rarely deep at Cheltenham, so this experience will be very useful - because he's shown he's able to follow a good pace but also has stamina.
"He stays, and was not tired at all after the race - which is a good sign."
Master Dino will head to Sandown next for the Scilly Isles Chase before heading to Cheltenham, where we make him a 6/1 shot to land the JLT.
Perhaps you were more impressed by the battling victory of Lostintranslation in the Dipper Chase on New Year’s Day and rate his chances better for the JLT?
Defi Du Seuil looked to have the Tizzard-trained horse’s measure when moving into the lead between the final two fences, but Lostintranslation showed plenty of resolve and dug deep to pull the race out of the bag and deny the J.P McManus owned runner.
Naturally we were impressed by both those horses in the Dipper Chase and make Lostintranslation 7/1 and Defi Du Seuil 12/1 for the March feature.
The talented mare, La Bague Au Roi, took the Kauto Star Novice’s Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton and we make her a 10/1 chance to win the JLT.
However, just a word of caution from her trainer Warren Greatrex, who was quoted as saying: "She will probably have entries for Cheltenham, but she is more likely after Ireland to head to Aintree, as I think she is better on a flat track."
The Gold Cup (Friday 15th March)
The King George VI Chase on Boxing Day well and truly threw a spanner into the works and completely blew open the Gold Cup ante-post market.
By default Presenting Percy, who has yet to be seen on a racecourse this season, became the new favourite for the race courtesy of his reputation from last season.
Putting himself in prime contention for the Gold Cup was the King George victor himself, Clan Des Obeaux.
The six-year-old saw off previous winner Thistlecrack in a tremendous tussle down the home straight, with reigning Gold Cup champion Native River a remote third.
Clan Des Obeaux, who is part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, was naturally trimmed in our ante-post market for the Gold Cup and if you believe he can take the blue-riband event in March he is currently available at 7/1.
Another horse that burst onto the Gold Cup scene over the recent holiday period was the Willie Mullins-trained Kemboy.
The six-year-old demolished the field in the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown, taking up the running with a circuit to go and leading his rivals a merry dance.
Mullins said after the race: "When Kemboy flew to the front passing the stands I thought David had gone mad, but he rides by instinct and he knew what he was doing.
"I thought Kemboy would capsize in the back straight but David said he had an easy enough lead. The horse jumped very well and still had plenty in the tank going to the last. I loved the way he flew clear on the run-in.
"He's obviously an improving horse as this was his biggest test to date. He hadn't run since winning the Clonmel Oil Chase in the middle of last month and it could be that a good break between races suits him.
"With that in mind we might wait and go straight for the Gold Cup, we'll wait and see. Hopefully he'll continue to improve."
Kemboy is currently trading with us at 8/1.
Early Ante Post Selections:
Arkle Chase – Le Richebourg (win @ 7/1), Chesterfield (e/w @ 33/1).
JLT Novice Chase – Lostintranslation (win @ 7/1).
Gold Cup – Kemboy (win @ 8/1)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*