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Zig in bid for Festival glory


High hopes: Sam Twiston-Davies rides Ptit Zig at Cheltenham

High hopes: Sam Twiston-Davies rides Ptit Zig at Cheltenham

High hopes: Sam Twiston-Davies rides Ptit Zig at Cheltenham

Ptit Zig, with Sam Twiston-Davies aboard, can lay down an early Cheltenham Festival marker with victory in the BetBright Novices Chase at the Cotswolds track.

Prestbury Park will be absolutely packed to the rafters for a classy New Year's Day card and many a reveller will look to blow away the cobwebs with a winner or two.

High on the shortlist should be the Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old, who was a useful hurdler and good enough to be sixth to Down Royal hero Jezki in the Champion Hurdle in March.

As befits many from the Ditcheat powerbase of the champion trainer, he has made up into a smart chaser, unbeaten in three starts since switching to fences at Exeter in November and going in again soon after at Warwick.

What marked him out as likely to go to the top, though, was his performance in beating Josses Hill at Ascot.

Granted the runner-up was not always fluent but trainer Nicky Henderson seemed delighted with his effort and there was plenty of merit in the fact Ptit Zig was able to give him 4lb.

Jumping left now and again will not be a problem going this way round and it is likely to take a smart performance to stop him winning again.

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Zeroeshadesofgrey adds plenty of weight to the quality on show in the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle.

The apple of Neil King's eye has enormous scope and has won his three jumping starts to date by a whopping aggregate of 69 lengths.

King explained: "He's dropping down in trip and it's quicker ground, but he's in great form and took his last race really well.

"I honestly don't see it being a problem. He shows speed at home so the fact he's been winning over three miles in heavy ground at Uttoxeter suggests to me he's got class as well.

"He's the highest rated but hasn't been off the bridle over hurdles - his bumper form helps concrete his rating I think.

"He's earned a crack at a race like this."

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