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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Five horses who should relish testing conditions on day one

Saint Calvados: won all three starts in Britain on soft or heavy ground
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The official going on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is set to be soft or possibly even more testing so form in such conditions will be paramount. Here are five horses who will be suited by a stiff test of stamina . . .

First Flow
Kim Bailey has stated First Flow wants very soft ground so the local trainer will have welcomed the overnight rain for his Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle contender, who unsurprisingly has been backed into a general 12-1 shot (from 16) on Saturday for the festival opener. Summerville Boy, winner of the 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle on heavy ground at Sandown in January, should also be suited by testing conditions.

Saint Calvados
The main concern regarding the chances of Harry Whittington's stable star in the Racing Post Arkle has been his ability to perform on a sound surface, so the likelihood of testing conditions on Tuesday is a major positive for the talented five-year-old. He has won all three starts in Britain for new connections on soft and heavy ground.

Yala Enki
Venetia Williams' handicap chaser came out on top in a war of attrition in heavy ground in the Grade 3 Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock last month. He relishes lots of cut and is among the possible field for the Ultima Handicap Chase, although he is also entered in the Betfred Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter next Saturday.

Wicklow Brave: very versatile in both codes and in all conditions

Wicklow Brave
While there is nothing to suggest soft ground will inconvenience Buveur D'Air, Wicklow Brave is extremely versatile regarding switching codes and ground conditions. Willie Mullins' likeable nine-year-old has won all four starts on heavy ground in his career and landed the County Hurdle on a soft surface in 2015.

Donald McCain and Will Kennedy appear to have a leading contender in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase with this promising seven-year-old and ease underfoot will only aid his cause. Testify has been successful on all three starts over fences, most recently in a Grade 2 at Haydock, and is very much unexposed.

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The likeable Wicklow Brave has won all four starts on heavy ground in his career and landed the County Hurdle on soft ground in 2015
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