AUTUMN and winter winners at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse regularly play a strong hand at the Cheltenham Festival.
With just five weeks to go before the major meeting of the National Hunt season, running plans are starting to come together.
The strongest Bangor-on-Dee contender is expected to be Comply Or Die in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Chase on the second day of the first four-day National Hunt Festival. He is currently second favourite - at between 10-1 and 12-1 - with most bookmakers.
Fourth in the hurdling equivalent last March, the six-year-old Martin Pipe-trained horse embarked on an impressive series of races when winning the Rensburg Beginners' Chase at Bangor-on-Dee in October.
Another Pipe inmate, Escompteur looks set for one of the novices' hurdle races at the Festival. He won on his British debut at Bangor-on-Dee on the same day as Comply Or Die.
Bangor's November meeting produced wins by Beauchamp Prince and A Glass In Thyne. The former is an outsider for the Triumph Hurdle, while the latter is destined for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Chase.
The pre-Christmas fixture at Bangor-on-Dee saw Royal Hector and My Way De Solzen winning to good effect. Both are 33-1 chances for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the opening race at Cheltenham.
Sooner than Cheltenham, Big Moment, who has been second and third in the last two totesport Chester Cups, is a possibility for tomorrow's big betting race - the totesport Trophy Hurdle (formerly the Tote Gold Trophy) at Newbury.
Meanwhile, the 2004 Jardine Lloyd Thompson Dee Stakes winner African Dream may join MBNA Europe Bank Chester Vase hero Red Lancer in the 'Winter Derby' at Lingfield Park next month. After winning the two recognised Derby trials at The Roodee last May, both horses were denied the chance of running at Epsom because they are geldings.
Following today's meeting at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse when the first race is off at 2.15pm, the next fixture is on Wednesday, March 9. A free bus service runs from Wrexham Station to the racecourse 90 minutes before the first race and returns after racing - racegoers with railway tickets have priority. Admission to the Course Enclosure is £7, while the Paddock Enclosure is £14. Accompanied children enter free.
Information is available on www.BangorOnDeeRaces.co.uk or call the racecourse on 01978 780323.
The next racing at The Roodee is the May Festival. Tickets are now on sale. More information is on the web-site www.chester-races.co.uk or call 01244 304600. General e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.