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The New One tops all-star cast on December Gold Cup day

The December Gold Cup is the feature race at Cheltenham on Saturday with several of the leading protagonists from the Paddy Power Gold Cup renewing rivalry. Tony McCoy’s decision to partner Colour Squadron in preference to the other two JP McManus horses could be significant.

The gelding was hampered by the falling Easter Meteor here last time but ran on bravely from the last to get within three-quarters of a length of Johns Spirit. The winner was winning his second consecutive big handicap here and cannot be dismissed despite his 9lb penalty.

There is a fascinating supporting card including the Grade 2 International Hurdle at 2.00. Nigel Twiston-Davies is adamant that The New One has the class to win a Champion Hurdle and he should underline his claims with the minimum of fuss.

Only Zarkandar can live with him on official ratings but he was comprehensively beaten by Annie Power at Ascot first time out. An improved showing can be expected from the Paul Nicholls-trained runner but this trip may now be on the sharp side for him.

The Relkeel Hurdle over two and a half miles has attracted just four runners but the class horse here is French Champion Hurdle winner Gemix. The five-year-old slammed World Hurdle winner Solwhit by eight lengths in June but has been beaten twice since.

The majority of Gemix’s wins have come on soft or heavy ground so there may be a slight concern about the prevailing faster going on Saturday. Salubrious may be the most dangerous opponent having run well under a big weight in a handicap here in November.

There could be more festival clues in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at 3.00 with David Pipe’s highly-regard Kings Palace set to clash with Saint Roque and the improving Milan Bound. Kings Palace put eighteen lengths between himself and Creepy last time out and that horse has won a decent race since.

Le Bec can take another step towards the RSA Chase by beating Shutthefrontdoor and Sam Winner in the Novices’ Chase at 12.40. Emma Lavelle’s five-year-old is 3lbs worse off with the runner-up from their last meeting but looked to have room for improvement.

Selections: 12.10 Kentucky Haydn, 12.40 Le Bec, 1.15 French Opera, 1.50 Kings Palace, 2.25 Colour Squadron, 3.00 The New One, 3.35 Gemix