Darren Norris: Roe in with Robin

After the festive feast of the last week this afternoon’s fare in Britain is less than compelling. That said, the main race of the day, the Betfred “Goals Galore” Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury looks a pretty classy affair.

Darren Norris: Roe in with Robin

While not the most high-profile of Grade Ones, this race still boasts an illustrious roll of honour. Taquin Du Seuil, Fingal Bay, Reve De Sivola, Wichita Lineman and the mighty Denman have all won this before going on to better things.

The highly-regarded Robin Roe can join that list today. The son of Robin Des Champs was hugely impressive when cruising to a 12-length win over what looked a decent-looking novice hurdle field at Aintree in October.

No Comment, the runner-up that day, has franked that form by winning his two runs since while the third home, Tintern Theatre, has also visited the winner’s enclosure.

Further encouragement comes from the fact that trainer Dan Skelton nominated today’s Newbury feature as Robin Roe’s target in the immediate aftermath of the Aintree success.

That’s significant as when Skelton sets a long-term target with one – think Superb Story in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, think Ch’Tibello in the Scottish Champion Hurdle - he invariably delivers. He should do so again this afternoon.

Irish raider Baltazar d’Allier rates as the most obvious danger. Gordon Elliott’s charge won a maiden hurdle at Naas in taking style last month and the fact connections are bringing him to Newbury for this contest suggests a big run is expected.

Blameitalonmyroots gets a tentative nod to take the Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase. The selection made a pretty pleasing seasonal return when finishing third to a decent yardstick in Minella Daddy at Ascot last month.

The Oliver Sherwood-trained mare ran well for a long way that day before seemingly tiring in the closing stages and, assuming that run has got rid of the cobwebs, she can do the business here.

Tomorrow heralds the arrival of a new year and a new era as 2017 begins with a visit to Cheltenham where ITV will broadcast live horse racing for the first time in more than 30 years. Irish viewers without access to ITV can watch on 3e.

And Clan Des Obeaux can make a little piece of history by winning the Grade Two BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase, the first live race broadcast by the station in over three decades.

Paul Nicholls has high hopes for Clan Des Obeaux and he looked every inch a top-class performer in the making when cruising to victory in the Grade Two Fuller’s London Pride Novices’ Chase at Newbury last month.

O O Seven looked a high-class prospect when making a winning start to his chasing career at Cheltenham at the Open Meeting but Nicky Henderson’s charge blotted his copybook big-time when trailing home third on his most recent start at Doncaster.

Consequentially, the Henry Daly-trained Briery Belle, victorious in both her starts over fences, might just be the biggest danger. However, it would still be a surprise if she was to take the scalp of Clan Des Obeaux.

The hugely admirable Village Vic can take the Grade Three BetBright for Best Festival Betting Handicap Chase.

Phillip Hobbs’ frontrunner completed a four-timer by winning this race 12 months and though he hasn’t tasted victory since he has run two heroic races in defeat this season.

First he was nailed in the final 50 yards by Taquin Du Seuil in the BetVictor Gold Cup having made every yard of the running and then he was beaten into third by Frodon after another gutsy effort in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

Such consistency deserves to be rewarded and it could happen tomorrow.

Vaniteux has more class than the selection but, while consistent, he has become somewhat frustrating in recent times, finishing third on his two appearances this season when sent off favourite.

As De Mee also has to enter calculations given how impressive he was when taking the Grand Sefton at Aintree on his most recent start.

However, his overall form is mixed and the fact he was well beaten on his last two trips to Prestbury Park is a concern.

If Village Vic deserves a big-race success, the same sentiments apply to Lil Rockerfeller and Neil King’s charge can do the business in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle.

Lil Rockerfeller has yet to win this season but he has run with huge credit on all three of his starts, going down to top-class opponents on each occasion. First he was third to Silsol at Wetherby in October when subsequent Hennessy and Welsh National winner Native River took second. Then he gave leading Champion Hurdle hopeful Yanworth a scare at Ascot while, on his most recent start, in the Long Walk Hurdle, he found only Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry too good.

While there are some useful sorts in opposition tomorrow, there’s nothing in the class of Native River, Yanworth and Unowhatimeanharry and Lil Rockerfeller should do the business.

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