The last meeting at Cheltenham before the Festival in March takes place on Saturday with Festival Trials Day. Here is our preview.

How’s your ante-post book filling up for the Cheltenham Festival? For many, the last couple of months have done little to paint a clearer picture of who to side with during the finest four days of National Hunt racing, but there are a number of clues to be had this Saturday.

Festival Trials Day often throws up a couple of subsequent winners, in fact three Trials Day victors followed up at the Festival last year, one of which was Paisley Park.

Only Benie Des Dieux (Evens for the Mares’ Hurdle) is a shorter priced favourite at the Festival than Emma Lavelle’s champion stayer and he’ll take all the beating again in the Cleeve Hurdle before going onto the Stayers’ in March.

If The Cap Fits represents a fresh challenge for Paisley Park but the 3/1 isn’t overly tempting.

Bailey’s Aura can take handicap chase

There’s maybe a couple of better punting propositions elsewhere on the card on Saturday, starting with Imperial Aura at 5/2 in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old, though racing in handicap company here, has genuine Festival aspirations and if he’s as good as many think, then this looks very winnable.

He needs to run a big race here in order to ensure a place in the Close Brothers handicap and is still fairly exposed after just five starts over obstacles despite being a seven-year-old.

Follow the Highway in hot Cheltenham contest

The Grade 3 Handicap Chase looks typically competitive and it would be no surprise to see another grandstand finish like the one that involved a three-way photo finish on New Year’s Day.

Lalor was one of those and he’s back hoping to go one better here. He seems to save his best for Cheltenham but is up another 4lbs for that run and it would take a pretty seismic effort of a mark of 153.

Instead it could pay to back Highway One O One at 4/1. He bounced back from unseating his rider in the BetVictor Gold Cup in November with two encouraging efforts at Newbury and Kempton. Chris Gordon’s runner is just two pounds higher than when he split Kildisart and Spiritofthegames 12 months ago, meaning he is a 1lb better off with the latter, so looks weighted to go very close.

He didn’t quite get home at Kempton so it looks a good move to step back in trip and he looks the best bet in the race.

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