There will be some small fields this weekend but the quality of horseracing on offer more than makes up for the lack of quantity.
There will be plenty of arguments settled among some of the best races for punters to savour this weekend.
Altior v Cyrname
Few issues in horseracing raise the ire of fans quite like handicap ratings. Not just fans really, trainers, owners, jockeys rarely agree with the handicapper's assessment, unless he's wrong.
Handicapping is, of course, difficult and attempting to quantify equine performances into a single number is an unenviable task. However, the assessment of Cyrname at the end of last season caused quite the kerfuffle.
Cyrname has a one-pound higher rating than Altior, leading fans to infer that the handicapper says Cyrname is better than Altior. Better than Altior? 19 in-a-row Altior? 10-time Grade One winner Altior?
How could he do so? How could he inflict such a slight on the nation's sweetheart?
Cyrname's improvement over the last year, in particular, has been phenomenal. Two wide-margin wins at Ascot last season have warranted the rocket up the ratings to an incredible 176. Better than Altior though?
Top-class horses Waiting Patiently, Fox Norton, Politilogue and Charbel trailed in Cyrname's wake. 17 lengths was the closest any of them got. That win was on the back of a 21 length win at Ascot, albeit a handicap.
Altior's rating, on the other hand, has remained stuck on 175 since March 2018, at that time Cyrname was rated 150.
The debate has run and run, unlike the horses, since the spring.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) November 22, 2019
On Saturday the bickering can stop and the racing can take over in the Christy 1965 Chase at 2.05 at Ascot when the pair go head to head with Solomon Gray to pick up third place prizemoney if he jumps round.
There are not many horses for courses quite like Bristol de Mai at Haydock. The Grade One Betfair chase on Saturday has been a plaything for Nigel Twiston Davies' grey for the last two years.
Bristol de Mai's record at the track stands at a perfect four out of four and he's favourite to make it five-out-of-five. He still has some way to go to pass Kauto Star, who was a stumble at the back of the last away from five-out-of five at Haydock
10 years ago today...
Kauto Star wins an epic Betfair Chase after a titanic battle with Imperial Commanderpic.twitter.com/6YlY4SmMII
— Great British Racing (@GBRacing) November 21, 2019
Nigel Twiston Davies' mud-loving grey will again face a small field, but it's not as deep as last year's renewal.
In 2018 Bristol de Mai beat the Gold Cup first and second and a pair of King George winners. This year he faces the Ryanair winner Frodon and rising second season chaser Lostintranslation.
Again, there is no Irish challenge, given the wealth of staying chase talent on the island and the £1 million bonus on offer, that is disappointing.
However, it has never been a popular route for Irish raiders with only one Irish trained runner in the last five renewals of the race.
Lostintranslation is the only real threat to Bristol de Mai's crown, but he will need to improve to dethrone the King of Lancashire.
Much like Bristol de Mai at Haydock, Gordon Elliott loves Navan and the Troytown trophy has been in residence at Cullentra Stables for four of the last five years.
The Summerhill handler will want the prize back for the new owners' lounge at his ever-expanding stable yard.
Elliott is responsible for seven of the 23 runners. "We'll run as many as we can," said the trainer at a recent press day. This has always been the mantra for the Elliott when it comes to big handicap chases.
One Meath man that has never won the Troytown is jockey Robbie Power, he takes the mount on Chris's Dream in the Navan feature on Sunday.
Chris's Dream has the ideal profile as a second season chaser dropping in class, having been last seen in a pair of Grade Ones at the end of last season.
While the first major clash of novices will happen next weekend at Fairyhouse in the Royal Bond, the Monksfield Hurdle at Navan on Sunday could help sort the wheat from the chaff.
Abacadabras could not have been more impressive on hurdling debut and was very favourably mentioned by Gordon Elliott before the race.
Abacadabras produced this smart performance to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles at @NavanRacecourse today 👏
Read what @gelliott_racing had to say about his youngster who is now likely to renew rivalry with Envoi Allen @Fairyhouse in December >>>https://t.co/O6tsSQtdfV pic.twitter.com/ksef0ab1eD
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 10, 2019
The Monksfield will be a stiffer test for the horse who possibly wasn't in the top three novices in the yard two months ago. Abacadabras has turned up and delivered, he can book his place in a Grade One at Christmas or possibly Naas in the new year with a win at Navan on Sunday.
Other youngsters to note over the weekend include Mt Leinster, Franco de Port, Sixshooter, Francin and Allbarone in novice and maiden hurdles.
Seeing established stars, progressive novices and even fallen idols (yes you, Samcro) make the transition to chasing is always one of the most intriguing parts of the early season.
While the first major battle of the novice chasing division will be at Fairyhouse in the Drinmore, there are plenty of smaller battles to be waged over the next few days.
These will give plenty of clues for Christmas and Cheltenham and may shake up a few ante-post betting markets.
Grade One winners Laurina and Minella Indo going head to head at Gowran is the most eye-catching.
The pair had a contrasting Cheltenham, Laurina was a beaten favourite in the Champion Hurdle, while Minella Indo was a surprise winner of the Albert Bartlett.
Laurina has not been seen since her Champion Hurdle defeat, her only loss in Mullins' care. She has always looked a chaser in the making but Mullins might have hoped for slightly lesser opposition first time out.
Minella Indo was a surprise package at the back end of last season providing Rachael Blackmore with a pair Grade Ones. Those wins were both over three miles, the concern for Saturday would be the trip being inadequate, as he looks all scope and stamina.
Perhaps Laurina could drop back and head for an Arkle while Minella Indo looks more an RSA contender in time.