The traditional New Year's Day card at Cheltenham is the feature meeting to kick-off 2020, and Tony Calvin has two bets to consider with a further two at Musselburgh...
"He actually did well to win so decisively considering a mistake at the last gave him every opportunity to throw it away - that could easily have knocked the stuffing out of the strong-traveller - and I take a positive view of the form. And the win in a good time, too."
I never go out on New Year's Eve, so I am always as fresh as a daisy - or as bright as a button, or any other nonsensical phrase you care to trot out - when watching Cheltenham on the box on the first day of the year.
I could well be half-cut by the time the first ITV race kicks off at 13:25 mind you, but even then I wouldn't dream of having a bet in the six-runner 2m4f127yd novices' chase.
It could well be a long way back, in more ways than one, if you try to buy money by siding with Champ at 4/7 and he doesn't do the business.
So good luck if you punt the favourite at odds-on under his 5lb penalty, but that is not my betting MO and never will be, especially as he faces three pretty serious rivals to my eye.
Irish raider makes some appeal
The UK handicapper regularly gives Irish visitors 3lb or 4lb for good luck when they come over, so connections of Ex Patriot - and I must admit I had never heard of trainer Ellmarie Holden until now - must be happy enough with just an extra 1lb from the UK assessor.
He is 11lb higher than when winning at Gowran in March but he did it very nicely there by 2 ¾ lengths from a subsequent winner, with the third 14 lengths away.
He has performed very creditably in Grade 3 and Grade 2 novices' chases on his first two starts of the campaign, and he makes some appeal off this mark with Derek O'Connor in the saddle, with trip and ground looking ideal for him.
Back him at 13.012/1 or bigger in the 14:00.
Dancer can go well again
Goodbye Dancer was a very popular winner in my house when scoring here last time, and he obliged with far more in hand than the official winning margin suggests.
But he is 10lb higher here (he is 4lb out of the weights) and in a better class of race, so he has a fair bit to prove. The way he was backed last time also suggested he was plenty straight enough on his first start for the yard, and his first outing since May.
I was fully intending to look elsewhere - with Beware The Bear high on the list alongside Who's My Jockey, who looks a decent price at 20s under 5lb claimer Ben Jones on his first start for a new yard - until the Betfair Sportsbook priced him up at 10/1 early on Tuesday.
Back him there each way, four places. I was expecting at least a couple of points shorter, so it wasn't the greatest surprise when the 10s (the best price in the marketplace) duly disappeared at around 3pm on Tuesday afternoon. The 17/2 remains an each-way bet, though.
He actually did well to win so decisively considering a mistake at the last gave him every opportunity to throw it away - that could easily have knocked the stuffing out of the strong-traveller - and I take a positive view of the form. And the win in a good time, too.
The runner-up was a well-backed 11-4 chance, and the third and fourth went into the race in top form too, so hopefully a 10lb rise won't stop him following up in the 3m handicap hurdle at 14:35. He remains fairly treated on his old form for previous trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
The Relkeel Hurdle at 15:10 is a race easily swerved.
Fixed looks a a horse on the up
There are also two cracking betting heats at Musselburgh on ITV, and first up is the 2m4f handicap chase at 13:40. Unfortunately, all the ones I liked were towards the head of the market.
Nuts Well has to be of interest off top weight, even though he went up 10lb for that Wetherby success last time. The issue I had with him was more the distance, as undoubtedly all his better efforts have been at and around the minimum trip.
Cracking Destiny has to have a fair shout too, but the one that I am going to chuck a few quid at is Fixed Rate at 8.07/1 or bigger.
The Charlie Mann stable are having a pretty rough time of it this season, but his 6yo (or 7yo if you are reading this on New Year's Day) ran an absolute screamer on his return after over a year off the track at Aintree last time.
He was two-from-two over fences in the autumn of 2018 before presumably picking up a problem or two, but he had them all at it from the front at Aintree, only for the hugely progressive Sammy Bill to claim him going to the last.
He was meeting a seriously well-handicapped horse that day, with the third (who ran well when placed at Haydock on Monday) four lengths away, so I don't think connections can have too much issue with a 4lb rise.
A more obvious concern is the dreaded "bounce" factor (and the form of the yard), but Fixed Rate looks a horse on the up and he is set to make them all go from the head of affairs on a track that could suit him well, even if three or four of his rivals also like to be ridden prominently when on song.
Norman the stalker could have run to suit
Aristo Du Plessis cost me a right few quid when running poorly at Wetherby last time but perhaps the run came too soon after his reappearance effort, and I can definitely see the 2016 winner of this race bouncing back to form in the 14:15.
He has dropped to a mark of just 121 now, and his stable have fired in a couple of recent winners too, so I can easily see the case for the front-runner at 12/1+.
But there promises to be a lot of competition for the lead here, which is obviously not ideal, so I am going to side with Normal Norman at 7.06/1 or bigger.
He is hardly thrown in over hurdles, being 8lb higher than when winning this race by 1 ¾ lengths last season, but he beat a very progressive horse that day (one seeking a five-timer) and his recent form on the Flat has been very good.
He ran two good races over 1m and 2m here in the autumn, and he obviously did very well to win over a mile at Kempton in early December. He likes to stalk and come from off the pace, so this set-up could suit him.
Back Fixed Rate at 8.07/1 or bigger in 13:40 at Musselburgh
Back Ex Patriot at 13.012/1 or bigger in 14:00 at Cheltenham
Back Normal Norman at 7.06/1 or bigger in 14:15 at Musselburgh
Back Goodbye Dancer at 17/2 each-way, four places, in 14:35 at Cheltenham