King George VI The Highlight On Boxing Day8 min read
There was heavy rain forecast for Kempton on Sunday, but it should be largely dry in the run up to Boxing Day and the feature card on a wonderful day of racing.
I think it is fair to assume the ground will be on the soft side of good and in the opener Didtheyleaveuoutto is 3lbs worse off for the head he beat Thomas Darby at Ascot. There should again be little between the pair although It should be noted that the latter was taken out of a race at Ascot over the weekend on account of the prevailing soft ground.
My two against the field are The Big Bite (2 from 2 over timber) and the maiden Mister Fisher (12.50) and the vote goes to the latter who is the sole representative of Nicky Henderson. The Lambourn handler has won this race three times in the last seven years most recently with Altior three years ago.
The selection was too keen and failed to get home when runner up at Newbury on his sole start over timber, but he receives weight from four of his five rivals and, if more amenable to restraint, can cause a bit of a shock.
Warthog kept out of trouble and made all at Sandown in an incident packed race last time, but the grey has been raised 11lbs and he will do well to follow up despite the David Pipe yard being in top form at present. Henderson saddles two and Turtle Wars is one who I feel is well ahead of his current mark. The concern is this extended two-and-a-half miles which he has yet to prove he stays.
Glen Forza (1.20) was backed as if defeat was out of the question when scoring at Chepstow over a trip just shy of 3m last time and he, too, has been raised 11lbs. He should have the race run to suit, however, and I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race. The selection is 4/1.
The Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase is a top-class renewal and five of the seven runners hold realistic chances. Henderson’s Santini would be my selection at this stage for the RSA Chase and he and Topofthegame are big dangers to Bags Groove (1.55) who gets the each way vote at 6/1.
Trained by Harry Fry the 7-year-old must go right-handed and improved again for the step up to 3m when making all under a double penalty at Huntingdon last time. He may not get his own way in front with the excellent mare La Bague Au Roi and The World’s End in the field, but his jumping has been fast and fluent, and Wednesday’s conditions should be ideal.
Buveur D’Air (2.30) cannot be opposed in a poor renewal of the Christmas Hurdle as the dual Champion Hurdler – so impressive in the BetVictor Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on his reappearance – he has scared away the opposition.
The feature event if the King George VI Chase and it is a tricky puzzle to solve with favourite Might Bite disappointing at Haydock on his reappearance. I’m not convinced this is the track for Native River – jumped out to the left when third in a poor renewal of the Kauto Star three years ago – and I am going to take an each way chance on the veteran Coneygree (3.05) at 25/1.
The selection is a former Gold Cup winner who won the Kauto Star by 30l here four years ago over C&D and hinted he was back to something like his best when third in a Cheltenham Handicap over an additional half mile last month. His career record going right-handed is 113 and, in a race where you can pick holes in the credentials of all the fancied runners, at 25/1 I hope he can run into a place although he won’t get an easy lead with Native River and Bristol De Mai in the field.
At Wincanton, Coeur Blimey (1.25) did us a favour when scoring at Hereford last time and he is taken to defy a 7lbs rise in the weights for Sue and Lucy Gardner in the Pertemps Hurdle qualifier. Black Mischief would be a big danger if the ground remained good to soft although the track was due to be hot by rain on Sunday and Christmas Eve.
Captain Buck’s is fitted with blinkers for the first time which is no surprise given how weekly he has finished his races in recent starts. Lorcan Williams takes off a valuable 5lbs and it will be interesting to see if the market speaks in his favour.
Marginal preference, however, is for course specialist Cucklington (2.00) who is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time and is only 3lbs higher than when scoring over C&D for the third time off a 3lbs lower mark back in March.
At Wetherby, the form of Inchcolm’s (12.30) recent Hexham success was franked when the runner up (Mcginty’s Dream) scored back at the Northumberland track last week and his 6lbs rise in the weights is halved by the 3lbs claim of leading conditional Harry Reed.
Ruby Walsh swerves Leopardstown to ride Getabird (2.00) in the inaugural running of their 2m 4f Grade 1 Novice Chase. I suggest we take the hint.
I have followed Mengli Khan since his flat days at Hugo Palmer’s and he is the one to beat in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown, but he is 4/5 and I’m not sure he beat a great deal on his chase debut at Punchestown. The vote goes to Mullins’ Voix Du Reve (2.20) who has impressed in making all in both chase starts to date.
Voix Du Reve