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Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

Stick or twist? At this time of the year punters face a minor dilemma. They know there's a lull in betting action next week, and that there's more action than they could wish for once the turkey has been seen off – the King George, the Welsh National and Leopardstown's four-day festival.

So it's tempting to put the betting money aside and make a Christmas truce with the bookies – tempting, but not feasible. Skint or wedged-up, punters will always try to get bets in before enforced restraint. It helps if good experiences have resulted – a decade ago, on the last Saturday before Christmas, I won a grand with a successful £5 win patent (a seven-bet combination) in which Tresor de Mai, at 10-1, was the key component. Ascot was the setting for this small windfall but snowfall has dashed any hopes of a repeat today.

So recidivist punters must turn to Haydock if it survives this morning's inspection. Three races suggest themselves as low-stakes patent material – the Class Two hurdle at 1.15; the two-mile handicap chase at 1.50; and the Tommy Whittle Chase at 2.00. The picks are Mighty Moon, Open De L'Isle, and I'moncloudnine respectively. The other attraction of the day is the 6-1 (at Coral, Stan James) for Fulham to beat Manchester United – £10 win. Happy Christmas!

*England's chances of winning the first Test look to be ebbing away – a draw would now be a good result. Apologies to anyone looking for Saphir Des Bois in the Boylesports Gold Cup – he was balloted out and ran in another race, which he didn't win.