Horse Racing: Timeform’s 3 things to watch out for at Kempton on Boxing Day

Timeform boffin John Ingles previews three key races at Kempton on Monday.

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Champ and Paisley Park go head to head again in rescheduled Long Walk

A bonus on Kempton’s Boxing Day card is the addition of the Long Walk Hurdle (12:45) postponed from Ascot’s card which was lost to the weather last weekend and that means that leading staying hurdlers Champ and Paisley Park clash again for the fifth time in just over a year. They first met in last season’s Long Walk where Champ made a successful return to hurdling after two seasons over fences.

With former dual winner Paisley Park beaten more than five lengths back in third, Champ looked all set to take charge in the staying hurdle division but Paisley Park soon showed he was no back number in the following month’s Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham where, suited by a race that put the emphasis on stamina, he stayed on best to win it for a third time, beating Champ by three and a quarter lengths to win it for a third time.

Both horses met their match in the Stayers’ Hurdle back at Cheltenham won by Flooring Porter from the Long Walk runner-up Thyme Hill, but Paisley Park was only a nose behind the runner-up in third with Champ was only just over a length behind him in fourth.

The most recent meeting between Champ and Paisley Park was their closest encounter yet which makes for an intriguing race at Kempton on Boxing Day. With both ten-year-olds having their first starts since the spring, the pair served up a tremendous finish in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle last month in which they finished a long way clear of the rest, Champ setting a good pace in front which should have set things up nicely for the patiently-ridden Paisley Park but holding on gamely for a neck win despite Paisley Park keeping on well.

Champ and Paisley Park are the two established stayers in the Long Walk field, but the mare Miranda was a course-and-distance winner last time, while three miles is new territory for both Goshen, winner of his last three starts over hurdles, and Not So Sleepy.

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Constitution Hill out to impress again in the Christmas Hurdle

Four wins from as many starts have convinced most observers that Constitution Hill is the best hurdler we’ve seen for years and, with a stone in hand of his closest rival on Timeform ratings, he has another chance to prove it in the Christmas Hurdle (13:55). Stable-companion Epatante, the former Champion Hurdle winner who won her second Christmas Hurdle twelve months ago, is his main rival but the way Constitution Hill dealt with her in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month makes it hard to see her turning the tables here. Quickening clear after the third last after lobbing along in the lead, Constitution Hill pinged the final two flights and sauntered clear to win by a dozen lengths.

Constitution Hill’s first two wins last season, both of them impressive, had come in the mud at Sandown but less testing conditions since in the Supreme at Cheltenham and in the Fighting Fifth have revealed a high cruising speed and electric jumping which make Constitution Hill every inch a future Champion Hurdler. Kempton will be a sharper track than the others he has raced on but that won’t be a problem judged on the way he won at Newcastle.

Constitution Hill is set to go off at even shorter odds than Buveur d’Air, another of Nicky Henderson’s Christmas Hurdle winners who was a 2/11-shot when beating three rivals in 2017 but it should also be mentioned that the Christmas Hurdle hasn’t always been a gift to those taking very short odds about a Henderson-trained favourite in recent seasons. Buveur d’Air was beaten a short head at 1/4 by stablemate Verdana Blue when bidding to follow up in 2018, while in between her two wins, Epatante was turned over at odds of 1/5 in 2020 by Silver Streak whom she’d beaten impressively the year before.

All things being equal, however, Constitution Hill should prove much too good for Epatante and his three other rivals Sceau Royal, Metier and Highway One O One.

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Last season’s top novices meet again in the King George

Bravemansgame, Ahoy Senor and L’Homme Presse were the best staying novices in Britain last season and, having met each other at least once already, all three clash again in the King George VI Chase (14:30). Bravemansgame’s impressive jumping has contributed to a solid record over fences so far, whereas things have not always gone so smoothly for Ahoy Senor who has plenty of raw talent even so, while L’Homme Presse, who has the most progressive profile of the trio, just keeps getting better over fences.

Ahoy Senor beat Bravemansgame when they first met in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at the 2021 Grand National meeting but it was a different story on last year’s Boxing Day card at Kempton where Bravemansgame’s more polished jumping, coupled with having more pace in the closing stages, enabled him to get the upper hand in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. Bravemansgame impressed with the way he both travelled and jumped on his latest start in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby where again Ahoy Senor’s jumping let him down as he trailed home last of the five runners.

But the front-running Ahoy Senor has run a much better race since when third in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, a track he clearly excels at as he also won the Mildmay Novices’ Chase there with a thoroughly convincing success in April, though clearly neither L’Homme Presse nor Bravemansgame gave their running on that occasion, both finishing well held as they filled the last two places in the four-runner field.

In fact, that’s the only defeat that either Bravemansgame or L’Homme Presse has suffered over fences so far and, like Bravemansgame, L’Homme Presse put that setback firmly behind him when making a successful reappearance this season, carrying 12-0 to victory in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle with a top-class effort that’s his best yet over fences. An assured jumper, L’Homme Presse’s five wins over fences last term all came on ground softer than good, notably when beating Ahoy Senor three and a half lengths in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in deteriorating conditions at the Cheltenham Festival, but he had no problem handling better ground at Newcastle.

Bravemansgame was visually impressive when beating another King George contender, Eldorado Allen, at Wetherby and is respected given trainer Paul Nicholls’ excellent record in the race and his own win on this card last year, but L’Homme Presse could still have further improvement in him judged on his latest win at Newcastle last month when making it six out of seven over fences.

*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.

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