The first of two days of the Tingle Creek Christmas Festival takes place at Sandown on Friday. Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway reveals his best bets on the card.
The Grade 2 Winter Novices' Hurdle at 2.20 is the feature race on the afternoon and unbeaten Maximillian for Donald McCain features amongst Graeme's selections.
The opening 3m amateur jockeys' handicap chase (12.40) lacks strength in depth and Valsheda should be difficult to beat for Nicky Henderson and top amateur Will Biddick.
The lightly-raced seven-year-old has won two of his five starts and his best effort came on just his third run over fences at Ffos Las when last seen in March, winning a four-runner novice handicap chase by a length under James Bowen with the front two clear of the third.
He had previously chased home the promising Killer Kane at Kempton, which is another solid effort in the context of this race, and Valsheda is only 4lb higher than for his last win.
There should be plenty more to come from him over fences and he can justify favouritism.
The feature Ballymore Winter Novices' Hurdle (2.20) is often a good pointer towards the Cheltenham Festival and there are some promising youngsters in the line-up this season.
Maximilian looks like the best of them and the Donald McCain-trained six-year-old is strongly fancied to maintain his unbeaten record and make it five straight wins under rules.
The selection was the best of these in bumpers and he has gone on to prove himself an equally good hurdler by winning two from two. His last victory at Bangor was his best yet.
Maximilian powered through that race to beat experienced chasers Dr Kananga and Keep Wondering by a wide margin and that is comfortably the best form on offer in this event.
Drying ground would be a concern, but it's rarely any better than soft on the hurdles course at Sandown in December and Maximilian should be too good for them provided that is the case.
The ground will be better on the chase course, which hasn't been watered over the summer, and that will be ideal for popular ten-year-old Darebin in the 1m7½f handicap chase (2.55).
Darebin simply loves it at Sandown. He has four wins, two seconds, and four thirds from 19 runs at the track and one victory came in this race two years ago from a 10lb higher mark.
He is now 11lb lower than for his last win at Fontwell just over a year ago and he showed enough promise when third at Plumpton last time to suggest he can soon take advantage.
He was no match for Tap Tap Boom, who won tidily, but that form looks strong now as that rival came out and scored again at Ludlow on Wednesday, defying a 5lb rise in the process.
Darebin can be expected to take another step forward and the return here can do the trick.
The Pertemps Network Novices' Handicap Hurdle (3.30) brings the curtain down on the card and it's worth taking a chance on Sadler's Bay making a splash on his switch to handicaps.
Sadler's Bay ran his best race on his debut last season when third behind a couple of promising rivals at Exeter in January and that proves he can show his best form fresh.
He ran another solid race when third back at Exeter the following month and the booking of Brian Hughes for the ride here is eye-catching. Hughes has four wins, three seconds, three thirds and a fourth from just 19 rides for the Tom Gretton stable. That looks like a tip in itself.