Boxing Day is always a special day in the racing calendar. The highlight is the King George VI Chase at Kempton; a race that over the years has rarely disappointed fans, throwing up winners oozing class and stories to warm even the frostiest of hearts. The Channel 4 coverage takes in four races from Kempton and one from Wetherby in what promises to be a great day's racing!
For those who read the outsiders preview will know I have a sneaky feeling that Mount Benbulben (16/1 Coral) will outrun his price but let's look at those toward the head of the market. Cue Card (4/1 BetVictor) is justifiably fighting for favouritism on his Betfair Chase romp at Haydock last time when he beat Dynaste, Silviniaco Conti and Long Run, all of whom re-oppose here. At face value that is the best form on offer in the field, however the second and third hadn't had the benefit of a previous run and, with the Tizzard runner unlikley to be granted such a soft lead it would be no surpirse to see a turn around in form.
Dynaste (4/1 Stan James) travelled better than Silviniaco Conti (4/1 Ladbrokes) at Haydock, a prerequisite for success round here and would be preferred of the two, but they may both be trumped by the other Paul Nicholls runner, AL FEROF (4/1 Betfred). He may have only had one rival to beat on his seasonal debut at Ascot but his bloodless nine length win over a horse who finished 2nd off a mark of 150 last time out when giving 6lbs away means a current mark of 168 may yet underestimate him. He has his stamina to prove but the way he came up the Cheltenham hill in last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup would suggest it will suit him well.
The Channel 4 coverage begins at 1.25 with a tricky 2m4f chase where there are question marks about the majority of the field. Ohio Gold (12/1 BetVictor) would have an excellent chance on last seasons form but his runs this year have been flat so far and with a virus affecting the stable he is best watched for another day. Oscar Magic (18/1 BetVictor) was still tanking turning for home at Sandown last time but didn't appear to get home up the hill. A step down in trip and a flatter track looks in his favour and he is of interest on his chase debut. Another debutant over the bigger obstacles is Urbain De Sivola (7/2 Coral) who looked in good heart on his return at Sandown. On his running behind Medinas in last seasons Coral Cup he has a fair bit to find with Ericht who found a slightly shorter trip inadequate on his return. The half length winner of that Doncaster race has followed up since off 137 in a handicap so a mark of 135 looks well within the grasp of Ericht (7/2 Betfred). The vote however goes narrowly to WESTERN WARHORSE (4/1 Coral) who was sent for home too soon at Newbury last time, the step down in trip looks in his favour here. He returned with a great effort at Cheltenham when only finding fellow Pond House inmate, Home Run, too strong. Western Warhorse is by far the least exposed in the field and the Irish Point to Point winner can take this on the way to better things.
The Feltham is its usual small but select field with JUST A PAR (4/7 Ladbrokes) looking the best here. He thrashed Third Intention (13/2 Betfred) at Newbury last time and there is nothing to suggest that rival can turn that form round today. A progressive novice hurdler last year, Just A Par has the making of an even better chaser. A very interesting contender against him here is Green Flag (4/1 Coral) who is unbeaten in three starts over fences. They have been relatively weak affairs but the stable wouldn't be making the long trip down here for a change of air. This horse jumps and stays well and whilst he may not have the pace of the selection he looks like the sort to make up into an Eider horse for February.
The Christmas Hurdle looks a mouthwatering mid season clash with major Champion Hurdle ramifications as the well fancied THE NEW ONE (11/10 Stan James) and My Tent Or Yours (5/4 Coral) wage war for the 2 mile hurdling crown. Preference is marginally for the former who briefly looked in trouble when bungling the last at Cheltenham before bounding up the hill to beat Zarkandar comfortably. The latter was successful in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle but was never really tested that day with his major market rival running well below his best. He was out-battled at the Festival by Champagne Fever and may find The New One more resolute in the finish than he can cope with. There is going to be an equally intriguing battle for third between Grumeti (28/1 BetVictor) and Sametegal (40/1 BetVictor). Grumeti was behind My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth having travelled strongly throughout the race. Sametegal was runner up in an ultra competitive Cheltenham handicap last time and while this is likely to prove tough for a four year old the addition of a tongue strap might be the making of him as he has looked a little weak in the finish on more than one occasion.
The Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby is the other Channel 4 offering. Topweight Wayward Prince (14/1 Stan James) loves it round here as he proved in the Charlie Hall but he downed tools very quickly after a slip on landing at Aintree last time. He certainly isn't one for maximum faith unless Wetherby sparks him back to life. Tullamore Due (10/1 Coral) is starting to look well handicapped and despite being out of the weights can be given a squeak although his best form does seen to be reserved for Cheltenham these days. Cape Tribulation (9/1 Stan James) won the contest in 2012 but has run poorly on both starts this season and needs to show more as does Junior (14/1 Betfred), while Nuts N Bolts (5/1 BetVictor) may be suited by a shade further than this. That leaves us with Cloudy Too (4/1 Stan James) and SYDNEY PAGET (3/1 BetVictor) as the most likely pair. Cloudy Too is 12lbs better off despite beating Sydney Paget almost seven lengths back in March. On that form he should win this comfortably but his form when tried over further than 2m4f is weak, whilst Sydney Paget has perfect conditions here and shades the vote after an immensely impressive comeback win at Haydock.
Channel 4 selections
1.25 Kempton – WESTERN WARHORSE (4/1 Coral) (WIN)
1.45 Wetherby – SYDNEY PAGET (3/1 BetVictor) (WIN)
2.00 Kempton – JUST A PAR (4/7 Ladbrokes) (WIN)
2.35 Kempton – THE NEW ONE (11/10 Stan James) (WIN)
3.10 Kempton – AL FEROF (4/1 Betfred) (WIN)
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