Horse Racing Tips: 4 trainers to follow at the Christmas Festivals

Keep the runners from these yards onside.


* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.

Henderson’s stars run at Kempton

Paul Nicholls may have dominated the King George, winning the race a remarkable 11 times, but Nicky Henderson can boast three wins of his own (Long Run 2010 & 2012, Might Bite 2017) and has a superb record at the wider meeting. Nobody else comes close to matching Henderson’s 13 winners at Kempton’s Christmas festival over the past five seasons, with those victories coming at a sparkling strike rate of 29%.

You would have made a small loss had you backed all 45 of his runners, however, which shows his representatives are often well found in the market. Punters are aware that Henderson likes to run his best horses at a course that regularly provides better ground than can be found elsewhere at this stage of the jumps season.

Altior, Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig all landed the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase on their way to winning the Arkle and Shishkin will chart the same path this season. Shishkin will be a very short price in the Wayward Lad on Sunday, as will Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase on the same card.

Given Henderson’s record at the course it will also be interesting to see how Heross du Seuil fares on his first start for the yard in the juvenile hurdle having won a bumper in France. He will carry the silks of Shishkin’s owner Joe Donnelly, whose Lecale’s Article was an impressive winner on his first start for Henderson at Newbury recently.



Ignore Dan Skelton’s lack of Kempton winners

Dan Skelton has not had a winner from 31 runners at Kempton’s Christmas festival in the last five seasons, though when you dig a bit deeper into the numbers it doesn’t appear to be the big negative such a stat may suggest. For starters, nine of those runners finished placed, while it is also of significance that only eight of his representatives started at a single-figure price.

He will certainly have some big chances at this year’s meeting, however, as Shan Blue – runs in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – has looked like one of the best novice chasers in Britain this season. He will spearhead a strong team at Kempton on Boxing Day that could include Third Time Lucki in the novice hurdle and Alnadam in the novice handicap chase.

Third Time Lucki fared best of the British runners in last season’s Champion Bumper and has made a pleasing start to his career over hurdles, while Alnadam kept on strongly to win a novice handicap chase at Sandown last time and still looks ahead of the handicapper after going up 8 lb.


Follow Henry de Bromhead at Leopardstown

Only Willie Mullins (41) and Gordon Elliott (19) have trained more winners at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting in the last five years than Henry de Bromhead, who has had 16 winners from 118 runners. His strike rate of 14% second only to Mullins (22%) among those who have had at least 20 runners.

De Bromhead’s level-stake profit of £49.87 to a £1 stake needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as he had a 50/1 winner (Ellie Mac in 2017). But, even if you discount that shock success, it’s still no mean feat to be coming out at near parity – you’d have lost money backing Elliott and Mullins’ runners to £1 level stakes, for example.

De Bromhead had four winners at last year’s Christmas meeting, including Notebook and A Plus Tard at Grade 1 level. Those two could be back in action again, though the headline act among De Bromhead’s team is Savills Chase favourite Minella Indo.

A dual Grade 1 winner in novice hurdles, Minella Indo took well to chasing last term and was only narrowly denied by Champ in a thrilling RSA Chase. He looks every inch a top-class chaser and has limbered up for Monday’s assignment with easy wins at Wexford and Navan.

Willie Mullins 2020

Willie Mullins is the maiden hurdle maestro

Gordon Elliott has been operating at a respectable 16% strike rate with his hurdling debutants over the past five seasons, but Leopardstown is not a course where he tends to introduce his best prospects. Not one of Elliott’s 21 hurdling debutants at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting in the last five seasons has won.

His record in novice or maiden hurdles when you include those who have had at least one start over obstacles is only a little bit better (4 from 59 at a strike rate of 7%) and lower than you would expect for such a powerhouse stable.

Willie Mullins, by contrast, has had 15 novice or maiden hurdle winners from 52 runners at an impressive strike rate of 29% at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting over the last five seasons.

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