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Willoughby Court "all systems go" for Cheltenham on New Year's Day

One of Jump racing's most exciting prospects, Willoughby Court, will be among the headline acts at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, Monday, January 1.

Already a winner at The Festival in this year's G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, the six-year-old is being readied for the £35,000 G2 BetBright Dipper Novices' Chase (1.25pm) over just shy of two miles and five furlongs, one of three graded contests on the seven-race card which has boosted total prize money of £260,000, 23 per cent up on the 2017 level.

 

Willoughby Court (Ben Pauling) has extended his winning streak to five in two starts so far this season. He put an erratic jumping display on his novice chase debut at Huntingdon on November 5 behind him with a fluent three-length victory over Yanworth in a G2 novices' chase at Newbury on December 1.

 

Pauling, who is based near Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, said today: "I could not be happier with Willoughby Court.

 

"He had an easy time after Newbury- just ticking over - and did his first piece of work this morning. It was fabulous and it is all systems go for Cheltenham on New Year's Day.

 

"I would have loved to have gone and looked at the Feltham but, after it did not quite work out at Huntingdon for various reasons, I did not want to go back right-handed just yet and the Dipper looked the obvious choice.

 

"Although I am sure if we went to Kempton everything would be fine, if it wasn't, you would be annoyed with yourself.

 

"This could be his last run before The Festival (back at Cheltenham in March). We will have to see because it is all match practice, but if he comes through this with flying colours, he might not be seen again until March."

 

Cheltenham's programme on New Year's Day also features the £75,000 G3 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (2.00pm, 2m 4f 166y) and the £50,000 G3 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (3.10pm, 2m 4f 56y).

 

There are also two Listed contests - the opening £25,000 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (12.15pm, 2m 4f 56y) and the concluding £25,000 EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (2.45pm, 1m 5f 209y).

 

The gates open at 10.30am. All accompanied children aged under 18 gain free admission on New Year's Day.

 

Aside from the action on the track, there is lots to keep all members of the family amused on New Year's Day at Cheltenham.

 

The ROA Family Fun Zone will have special visits from Paddington Bear, to coincide with the release of the latest film.

 

The first 500 children in the ROA Family Fun Zone will receive a walking pet balloon, and balloon artists Twistina and Twistopher will enthral younger racegoers their art. The entertainment also includes Showtime Shane, face-painting, pony plaiting, horse hoppers, colouring in and rosette making.

 

There is an abundance of activities for all members of the family to enjoy and certificates to take home to remember the day. There will also be live Animal Magic, bringing a collection of unusual animals to meet. The ROA Family Fun Zone is situated in the tented village.  

 

There will be live music during the day throughout the arenas on New Year's Day, including from The Hipcats. For those who want to continue New Year celebrations, there will be post-racing entertainment from local Gloucestershire rock and pop cover band The Jacks in The Centaur.

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