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The Week Ahead
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Horse Racing - The week ahead: Cheltenham in the spotlight

The International Meeting at Cheltenham is the main highlight on the racing calendar for the coming week.

The two-day meeting takes place on Friday and Saturday at jump racing’s HQ and once again we should get more clues ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in March.

All the UK and Irish action can be followed via our Sports Live Streaming platform and here's a day-by-day look ahead to the racing week in store from 5th-11th December.

Monday 5th December

The week begins with three meetings in the UK on Monday. Jumps racing comes from Musselburgh (12.10-3.10) and Lingfield (12.25-3.25), while there is all-weather action from Wolverhampton (4.20-8.20).

It was another excellent weekend for Dan Skelton as he landed the Becher Chase with Ashtown Lad on Saturday at Aintree.

The Lodge Hill trainer saddles just one runner on Monday and it comes in the veterans’ handicap chase at Lingfield at 2.25. Go Steady features in a small field where he will come up against Oxwich Bay and West Approach.

Up at Musselburgh, Champion Jockey Brian Hughes has a strong book of rides. He is set to partner five horses across the afternoon, including C&D winner General Officer in the 12.40 and Masked Crusader in the 1.40, two runners who have a great chance of more success.

Tuesday 6th December

Uttoxeter (11.55-3.25), Fontwell (12.35-3.35), Tramore (12.45-3.45) and Southwell (AW) (4.20-8.20) all host meetings on Tuesday in the UK and Ireland.

Willie Mullins has three runners at Tramore, including Gaelic Warrior in the opening race at 12.45. He finished second behind Brazil at Cheltenham on his opening start for his trainer. The four-year-old will be expected to get off the mark in the maiden contest.

At Fontwell, the feature race comes at 2.05pm, a handicap chase over 2m5½f. Black Gerry is bidding to complete a hat-trick for Gary and Jamie Moore. He will need to carry top weight of 12st to success this time.

Wednesday 7th December

Five meetings take place in the UK and Ireland on Wednesday and Lingfield (12.50-3.10) gets things under way on the all-weather.

It is then followed by Hexham (12.00-3.25), Leicester (12.10-3.25) Dundalk (AW) (2.05-5.20) and Kempton (AW) (5.30-8.30).

The 1.25 at Lingfield is the most valuable prize on their card. Rattling will be looking to score for Richard Hannon with a 6lb penalty on his back.

He was successful at Wolverhampton last month and his connections will be hoping he can continue his excellent form on the track.

Thursday 8th December

Five courses host racing on Thursday in the UK and Ireland. Jumps cards come from Clonmel (12.05-3.15), Newcastle (12.12-3.22), Warwick (12.20-3.30) and Taunton (12.48-3.28).

The 3.00 at Warwick is a Listed mares’ novices’ chase over 2m4f.

Galia Des Liteaux prevailed on her chase debut at this level at Bangor last month for the Skelton team. With a mark of 141, she is the highest-rated runner in the field. She will face competition from Jeremy Scott-trained Kissesforkatie and Panic Attack from David Pipe’s yard.

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Friday 9th December

It is the opening day of the International Meeting at Cheltenham. The Racing TV Handicap Chase is the highlight of the seven-race card at the Gloucestershire venue, as it is a premier handicap contest worth £60,000.

Defending champion Paul Nicholls leads the Trainers’ Championship standings and he will be hoping to extend his lead when he saddles Switch Hitter.

Scheduled to take place between 12.05-3.35, the card also includes the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup Cross Country Handicap Chase at 3.00. Last season’s Cross Country winner Delta Work is entered for Gordon Elliott as he looks to have more success around the unique course.

Elsewhere on Friday, jumps racing also comes from Doncaster (11.55-3.25) and Bangor-on-Dee (12.20-3.45), while in the evening there is an all-weather card from Southwell (5.15-8.15).

Saturday 10th December

The December Gold Cup is one of the most valuable handicap races of the season in British jumps racing.

It is the highlight of day two of the International Meeting at Cheltenham (12.05-3.35), with the 2m4f contest taking place at 1.50. Midnight River tops the early betting for Skelton as he bids to have another big race winner on a Saturday.

On what is an excellent day of racing, there is also two Grade Two races. The International Hurdle comes at 2.25, while at 3.00, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle takes place over 3m.

Doncaster (11.45-3.15), Hereford (12.12-3.42), Newcastle (AW) (1.44-5.00), Wolverhampton (AW) (5.20-8.25), and Navan are all also on the schedule on Saturday.

Sunday 11th December

Three meetings feature on Sunday, with Carlisle (12.08-3.13), Southwell (12.33-3.28) and Punchestown scheduled for the afternoon.

The Grade One John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Steeplechase is the feature race of the day.

Leading Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Galopin Des Champs has an entry and is expected to make his seasonal reappearance for Willie Mullins. The talented six-year-old could face stablemate Chacun Pour Soi and Fair D’Oudairies.

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