Midnight set to strike with Cheltenham festival note
Midnight Shadow can put himself in the Festival picture with victory in the Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham today.
Sue Smith's stable star narrowly failed to end 2019 on a winning note, closer to home, when he was outpointed by a revitalised opponent at Haydock.
That creditable effort, following his last-fence fall when previously in control at Carlisle, came when his stable was still seeking a first winner of the campaign.
Smith's Bingley yard has since hit form, and Midnight Shadow has plenty going for him as he bids to floor Champ in this Grade Two pointer to the showpiece March meeting.
Champ is unbeaten over fences but has endured enough scrapes in his two victories to present here as a short-priced favourite worth opposing.
He was a top-class novice hurdler, but the more experienced yet younger Midnight Shadow reached a higher rating over the smaller obstacles.
The northern challenger has the physical scope to appeal as a chasing prospect - and this race has long been an obvious target, returning to the scene of his Grade Two hurdle victory on this card last season.
Only Champ was able to lower the colours of Emitom in their highly-successful novice-hurdle campaigns - and until that Grade One runner-up spot at Aintree, the latter was unbeaten in five career starts.
Emitom makes a belated reappearance in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle, but if he is to live up to his trainer's high opinion, he should be competitive.
Southwell stages a seven-race all-weather card, on which Mick Appleby and Karl Burke may be the trainers to follow.
Appleby has decent prospects with Forseti, who should go off at backable odds to upset shorter-priced rivals in the opening Bombardier British Hopped Amber Beer Handicap.
Forseti was third on his first attempt over course and distance only on Sunday, and it can prove a wise move to set him this repeat task while in the mood.
Appleby then has two more notable runners making quick returns.
Xian Express already had strong claims in the Betway Novice Median Auction Stakes, before the defection of market rival Astrozone, and is consequently unopposable against just two rivals.
The Rutland trainer also has Moonraker bidding to add to his weekend victory, in the Betway Handicap, and a 4lb penalty is not an obvious detriment to the sprinter's chances of following up.
Later, Burke could be in business with Raydiance and Angel Lane.
Course form is thin on the ground in the Bombardier Golden Beer Handicap, and the prolific Power Link looks vulnerable to Raydiance after another hike in the weights.
Angel Lane is in form on this surface, and has a clear favourite's chance in the Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap.
At Catterick, Manwell bids to win the Meetings That Matter On Racing TV Handicap Chase for the second successive year.
CATTERICK: 11.55 Deise Aba, 12.25 Presence Of Mind, 1.00 Zabeel Star, 1.35 King's Coinage, 2.10 Pull Green, 2.45 Manwell, 3.20 Emma Beag.
CHELTENHAM: 12.15 Redford Road, 12.50 Singlefarmpayment, 1.25 MIDNIGHT SHADOW (NAP), 2.00 Lalor, 2.35 Who's My Jockey, 3.10 Emitom, 3.50 Fair Star.
EXETER: 12.40 Acaro, 1.15 Darlac, 1.50 Gavrocheka, 2.25 The Kings Writ, 3.00 Bullionaire, 3.35 King Roland, 4.05 Honor Grey.
FAIRYHOUSE: 12.20 Aione, 12.55 Mount Ida, 1.30 Conright Boy, 2.05 Kayf Thou, 2.40 School Boy Hours, 3.15 Cle En Main, 3.45 Gabynako.
FAKENHAM: 12.05 Wells De Lune, 12.35 Clondaw Bisto, 1.10 Ladronne, 1.45 Be My Sea, 2.20 Stonebrigg Legend, 2.55 George Gently, 3.30 Milreu Has.
MUSSELBURGH: 12.30 Extreme Force, 1.05 Mighty Thunder, 1.40 Fixed Rate, 2.15 Snookered, 2.50 Lostock Hall, 3.25 Benny's Secret.
SOUTHWELL: 12.10 Forseti, 12.45 Xian Express, 1.20 Moonraker, 1.55 Raydiance, 2.30 Tagur, 3.05 Angel Lane, 3.40 Grisons.
TRAMORE: 12.00 Wavelength, 12.35 Capture The Action, 1.10 Man On The Run, 1.45 Macho Mover, 2.20 Al Boum Photo, 2.55 Benefit Run, 3.30 Highest Benefit.
DOUBLE: Moonraker and Midnight Shadow.