The effects of the Christmas party are being felt keenly by all at Timeform House. The hangovers are slowly starting to ease, thanks largely to the all-day breakfast on offer at Wetherspoons, but a few reputations will take longer to repair – certain individuals can expect a squiggle to be added at the bottom of their end-of-year reviews, identifying them as ‘one to avoid’.
Might Bite flirted with squiggle territory in the early stages of his own career and, though he was generally a more straightforward character during a terrific 2017/18 campaign.
Nicky Henderson’s charge once again has questions to answer after a bitterly disappointing return at Haydock. He is undoubtedly the one to beat if bouncing back to his best in the King George VI Chase (3.05pm) at Kempton on Boxing Day – a race he won in decisive fashion 12 months ago – but there are certainly grounds to take him on, especially at the current prices.
The one who could be worth opposing him with is the Ruth Jefferson-trained WAITING PATIENTLY. He’s done nothing but impress in compiling his unbeaten record over fences to date, with his six wins from six starts including a ready defeat of Cue Card when last seen in February’s Ascot Chase. He looks the type who could have an even bigger effort in the locker when the situation demands it, and makes most appeal in a fascinating renewal, with this longer trip likely to prove well within his range.
Another who could make those leftovers taste even sweeter on Boxing Day is SANTINI, who will attempt to rubber stamp his RSA-credentials in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at 1.55pm. A smart novice hurdler last season, he made the perfect start to his chasing career when winning a Grade 2 at Newbury earlier this month.
He’s fancied to take this next step up the ladder in his stride, for all that this looks a red-hot renewal with the likes of La Bague Au Roi and Topofthegame in opposition.
The big betting heat of the festive period in the UK is the Welsh Grand National (2.50pm) at Chepstow on Thursday Dec 27, with a maximum field of 20 set to go to post. ELEGANT ESCAPE heads the market at the time of writing and it is easy to see why.
He represents the Colin Tizzard team that won this race with Native River in 2016 and, 3lb clear of the field on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, there could be more to come from him granted a stiffer test of stamina than when second in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time.
The final two selections come from Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. There is probably little that good ol’ Saint Nick can bring to satisfy a man of Michael O’Leary’s wealth, and instead it is two other men donned in red (okay, maroon) and white who are tasked with putting a smile on the Ryanair supremo’s face, namely Sean Flanagan and Davy Russell.
Flanagan did just that when winning the Savills Chase (3.00pm) aboard ROAD TO RESPECT 12 months ago, and the partnership would appear to hold sound claims of repeating the feat on Friday, following a dominant return to action in the JNwine.com Champion Chase, while Davy Russell is fancied to deliver another present, albeit four days too late, with DELTA WORK in the Neville Hotels Novices’ Chase (1.55pm) on Saturday. He won the Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse last time, and the step up to three miles over fences looks sure to bring about further improvement.
Timeform’s Christmas tips:
- Waiting Patiently, King George, Kempton, Dec 26, 3.05pm
- Santini, Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, Dec 26, 1.55pm
- Elegant Escape, Welsh Grand National, Dec 27, Chepstow 2.50pm
- Road to Respect, Savills Chase, Leopardstown, Dec 28, 3pm
- Delta Work, Novice Chase, Leopardstown, Dec 29, 1.55pm