0.75pt each-way Old Guard @14/1, 15:10 Cheltenham, New Year's Day

Nine go in the feature race of Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day card, the Relkeel Hurdle, and there’s rain forecast to potentially change the unseasonably good ground at the track.

That could potentially upset the betting market where Lil Rockerfeller shades favouritism from 2015 World Hurdle winner Cole Harden.

The latter is back to hurdles after having a go at novice chasing at Newbury where he was a fortunate second, beaten comfortably by the winner.

Any deterioration of the going will count against him in this – as will the two-and-a-half mile trip which falls short of his optimum.

He’s fairly easy to rule out, but Lil Rockerfeller will be far tougher to crack.

An excellent second to subsequent Grade 1 winner Yanworth at Ascot, he then ran a good race in the fog over three miles at the same track in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle won by World Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry.

Both read very well in the form book, and the ground should be no issue whichever way it goes, while any suggestion this race might come too soon goes against his good record of being campaigned aggressively.

He looks a solid bet at 11/4 and is much respected, but remains a rare visitor to the winner’s enclosure and can be taken on.

Connections of the third in the betting, L’Ami Serge, hardly sound confident about his chance as he to has been switched back from fences in search of optimal racing conditions.

His form is patchy at Cheltenham and it’s difficult to back him with confidence, but he’s shown enough over the years to suggest he’s got a better chance in this than the 5/1 available suggests.

Despite tipping him more times than I can count last season and winning one of those with a 12/1 success in this race last season, I’m having a hard time liking Camping Ground’s chances in his bid for back-to-back successes.

Last year’s renewal was run on heavy ground and he won’t get that tomorrow, while all his subsequent efforts have cast big doubts over his true class.

Similar ground concerns apply to Adrien Du Pont and Protek Des Flos, who are currently representing a generation of second-season hurdlers failing to make a mark in open company.

The six-year-old OLD GUARD has some good form at Cheltenham having won last season’s Greatwood and International hurdles, and he’ll appreciate the good ground over a trip he’s completely unexposed at.

With so much in his favour and stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies choosing him over Adrien Du Pont, he looks the each-way bet at a big price in an open renewal.

There is a catch in that he has to give weight away to all but Camping Ground and Lil Rockerfeller, but good ground reduces that disadvantage and it looks more than compensated for in his double-digit price.

0.75pt each-way Old Guard @14/1, 15:10 Cheltenham, New Year’s Day

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