The first bit of graded action from the New Year, is the Betbright Dipper Novices' Chase. A Grade Two over two-and-a-half miles has twelve horse involved, who could end up running in the JLT Novices Chase over this course and distance at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
There is of course the option of going up in trip to three miles in the RSA, or perhaps dropping two two miles for the Racing Post Arkle.
The field are headed by the recent Exeter scorer Defi Du Seuil who finally... finally, returned to the level he was at during his juvenile campaign, which saw him go seven races unbeaten.
He heavily disappointed on his chasing debut around Prestbury Park behind Lalor a couple of months ago, when slow into stride and jumping markedly 'novicey'. To everyone's surprise, the 5yo put those errors behind him to land a valuable contest in Devon last time out - beating a well-fancied favourite, but this time will have to overcome a penalty.
Black Op was that favourite for Tom George, although that was his first start over fences. The 8yo would of been well educated that day, and will surely be in the hunt again for a decent challenge to reverse the placings. Last year's Mersey Novices Hurdle winner will be joined by two horses he beat that day at Aintree, in the form of Colin Tizzard's Lostintranslation and Nicky Henderson's On The Blind Side.
Lostintranslation has had two starts over fences, and two defeats - both at the hands of eventual Kauto Star winner La Bague Au Roi. The form looks solid, and without the mare in this field, holds strong claims for at least a place. On The Blind Side however has been off for almost nine months, but if transferring the ability he had over hurdles as a novice to fences, he will surely be in with a good shout.
Dan Skelton's Crucial Role makes up this classy quintet.