What a Boxing Day feast we have for you on the tellybox with ITV racing.
We kick-off at Kempton at 13.20 where the first race we cover is a 2m 4f novices handicap chase. Venetia Williams saddles Roll Again who will be very popular with punters after a good win at Ludlow.
Penalised 7lb for that win, he has to drop back in trip now but will he be as effective? The ground is drying all the time at Kempton and won’t be as soft as Ludlow.
I’m taking a chance with one at a double-digit price. Nigel Twiston-Davies Muratello.
He’s had a wind op since running over fences at Carlisle and some of his hurdle form, including when third in a Grade 2 contest at Haydock last year behind Mister Fisher and Bright Forecast, with Esprit du Large behind him, is decent.
He’ll do me at double-digits each-way in a race where Paddy is paying the first 4 home.
The next race on ITV is the 3m Grade One Novice Chase at 13.55. Black Op ran a nice race over 2m 4f at Newbury behind Champ when just getting done for speed. His form over hurdles is strong, the step up in trip will suit and now he is jumping better, might be tough to pass.
Slate House would have figured in the shake-up at Cheltenham a fortnight ago, but fell, and could improve for this first try over 3m.
Harry Cobden has chosen to ride the lightly-raced Master Tommytucker who looked raw when winning at Kempton last time. If he progresses from that run, he will be the danger to the selection, Black Op.
I was lucky enough to win the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at 14.30 and Nicky Henderson has such a good record in the race. He throws three darts at the board here and will be disappointed if one of them doesn’t take the prize!
Verdana Blue is made for this easy two miles, but had a prep run last year when shocking Buveur D’Air. Her stablemate Epatante looked good when winning at Newbury, but will she relax enough? She showed a smart turn of foot at Newbury, when keeping a lid on it.
Quick Grabim is an interesting contender on his first run for Fergal O’Brien, having transferred from Willie Mullins’ yard. If they go slow, he’s among the fastest of these and won some decent races in Ireland.
However, connections believe Fusil Raffles will improve from what looked a laboured win at Wincanton. He should be a lot fitter now and has no excuses if he wants to be a serious Champion Hurdler contender. In the absence of a recent run for Verdana Blue, I’ll side with Fusil Raffles.
The feature race of the day is the King George VI Chase at 15.05 and it’s a shame there’s only six runners. I want to see every good chaser in training run in this as it’s one of racing’s ‘Majors’ along with the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Aintree Grand National, Cheltenham Champion Hurdle & Champion Chase.
Cyrname has to overcome the step up in trip to 3m and good horses like Vautour came up short (only just) but, Edredon Bleu did it. With only six runners, Harry Cobden can do what he did at Ascot and lead from the front. The concern is if they come at him in waves, one after the other, they can chip away at his resilience. If they wait until the turn into the straight and then try to pass him then – they won’t!
The two outsiders in the field could have a say as both are ridden aggressively. Thistlecrack is a fascinating runner. He won it in 2016 and was second last year. He ran a belter behind Paisley Park over hurdles on his seasonal debut and if he could jump quicker over fences, would have a real chance.
Lostintranslation will challenge for favouritism as he is the young pretender to the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown who claimed the Betfair Chase at Haydock and looked good at Aintree over 3m too last season.
Last year’s winner Clan des Obeaux will have been trained for this and should arrive there with every chance at the second last. He is a strong traveller and a great jumper and Sam Twiston-Davies has picked up a great spare ride.
Willie Mullins’ Footpad makes up the field and will be winning for the first time over 3m, if he’s to score here. It’s a long shot.
Cyrname to win.
A handicap hurdle ends the Kempton card at 15.40 and Paddy’s paying the first 5 home.
Henry Daly’s Honest Vic got hampered the last time and still finished fourth and can improve on that here. ITV also cover the 14.10 at Wetherby, the 3m Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase.
I was super impressed with Bennys King at Newbury for Dan Skelton and take him to win this. He was the reserve In the Ladbroke Chase and they must have been gutted how easily he won the Intermediate Chase on the same day, as he could have gone close in the feature there too.
Good luck and a Merry Christmas to all!
*Prices and declarations correct at time of posting