NOW the dust has settled on a fantastic Christmas and New Year period of racing, it’s time to look forward to the holy grail of National Hunt racing – the Cheltenham Festival.

Firms are opening markets for the handicaps and some are going non-runner no bet on a few races already.

This is the time where the ante post bets begin to become more appetising as the likely protagonists have all been seen in public this season (even though we had to wait a little longer for the Willie Mullins brigade).

Since this is the first week of my On Course for Cheltenham column, I’m going to treat myself to TWO tips for the Festival, one of which ran on Sunday at Fairyhouse, albeit I don’t believe it was his true showing.

Even though he could only manage a 16-length defeat at the hands of Gavin Cromwell’s White Pepper, I think there has been a massive overreaction in the market for a horse who put up a solid display behind Triumph fav Fil Dor Last time out.

Out to a massive 33/1 from 12/1 with Bet365, I’m going to take a chance on the Gordon Elliott trained BRITZKA EACH WAY (4 places) for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Although he was sent off 11/8 favourite on Sunday and was maybe expected to win, I wouldn’t be put off taking a chance at the prices, especially with all other bookies pricing him up between 16/1 – 20/1.

It’s important to remember Sunday was his third run in quick succession so I wouldn’t be surprised if Gordon now saved him for Cheltenham, especially with the inevitable few pounds off his back as a result of the poor showing.

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TOM'S TIPS

This 10-1 ante post treble made up entirely of favourites has to be backed

TOM'S TIPS

Snap this Willie Mullins runner up now in Cheltenham Festival ante post at 7-1

MAKE MINE A DOUBLE

Back Templegate's BOOSTED Cheltenham Festival ante post double at 40-1

TEMPLEGATE'S TIPS

Our man NAPS 5-1 Exeter hotshot who will relish step up in trip

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I’m sure that, on the day of the race, place terms will be better.

But I can see this horse going off at least half this price.

My second tip of the week comes in the 'almost four-miler' National Hunt Chase.

A word of warning through – he will need to run in at least one more chase over the extended 2m 7f distance in order to qualify for the event.

The good news is he has plenty of time to do this and I expect to see him out in the coming weeks.

BACK THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL FAVOURITES' TREBLE AT 10-1 WITH PADDY POWER

There is much talk about the impressive chase debut of the Mullins-trained Stattler a few weeks back, but surprisingly the Ronnie Bartlett-owned horse seemed to show a turn of foot that many didn’t know he possessed, throwing into question other festival options such as the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase or even the newly named Turners Novices' Chase.

I would want to see a much clearer staying performance from this fellow taking the 5/1 about him for the race.

So my attention turns to another Mullins-trained performer who, even though he only has one run over fences, put in a fantastic performance to get up on the line and beat the highly regarded Gaillard Du Mesnil.

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Only a six, this horse made a couple of mistakes at his fences on his debut but gave the impression he would relish a step up in trip and potentially has plenty of improvement in him, so therefore CAPODANNO is my next selection at 12/1 for the National Hunt Chase.

Owned by JP McManus, I would imagine top amateur jockey Derek O’Connor would take the ride here, and the horse would be in safe hands with the most successful point-to-point rider in history.

At the current prices I think Capodanno is well worth a go at this stage, in a race which could potentially cut up in the coming weeks, with doubts around the participation of both Stattler and Run Wild Fred, the latter initially touted as a Grand National type.

I would want to see this horse run again in the coming weeks but if Mullins can get another one or two runs into him before Cheltenham, I think he has a solid chance in a race that requires a thorough stayer.

ADVISED BETS (prices correct at the time of writing)

33/1 BRITZKA each way with bet365 (4 places) for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

12/1 CAPODANNO with William Hill for the National Hunt Chase

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