All eyes will be on Kempton tomorrow, as the course plays host to a quality card. The ITV racing team are showing four of the races live and I have trawled through the form to try and pick some festive winners.
The first action we can enjoy is the 32 Red Novices’ Handicap Chase, where thirteen runners got to post. This looks like a pretty open contest, with the Nicky Henderson trained Lough Derg Spirit topping the market, following a very pleasing chasing debut at Wetherby. He was a quite smart hurdler and with the yard winning three of the last eight runnings of this, he must be high on anyone list.
Mick Channon may be better known as a flat trainer but he is equally as good over each code and is represented by Glen Forsa here. The six-year-old was a bumper winner and having failed to get his head in front over hurdles, Channon switched him to the larger obstacles, which resulted in a near foot perfect victory. There is definite untapped potential in Glen Forsa and he looks like a horse to follow over fences.
Dell Oro has only got two victories to his name but has bumped into some very useful rivals in the majority of his starts. This was once again the case on chase debut where he clashed with the smart and battle-hardened Chesterfield. A reproduction of this would see him go close and he is my idea of the winner.
Others to consider include Turtle Wars, Awake At Midnight and Warthog.
Selection: Dell Oro
The first Grade 1 of the day is the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, where seven aspiring chasers to battle for this much-coveted race. The most promising among them is Santini who was a Grade 2 winner on chasing debut at Newbury earlier this month. In fact, he’s only defeat came in Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished a fine third. He is one of the hottest chasing prospects and will be next to impossible to beat.
Topofthegame has always had a tall reputation and highlighted his ability when finishing second in the Coral Cup last season. That being said, he’s run twice over fences and has yet to get his head in front. Defi Du Seuil seemed to bounce back to form when beating him most recently and although, he should run well a place looks most likely.
Bags Groove has always looked like a chaser and since being sent over the larger obstacles, he has looked very impressive. In his last two starts, he’s easily accounted for some mart sorts including Thomas Campbell and Secret Investor. If he gets an easy lead on the front end then he may be hard to catch and I think he will chase some Santini.
The Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle is the big test for the speedsters over the holidays and it has attracted the dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air, who is unbeaten in his last ten runs and passed what was possibly his biggest test against Samcro in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. As things stand he looks and has proved he is the best two mike hurdler around and will prove very difficult to beat.
The two main horses likely to fight out for the runner-up place are Verdana Blue who finished fourth in the Greatwood and If The Cap Fits who has something to find with Verdana Blue on their running in the Elite Hurdle.
The field is completed by Global Citizen and Boite.
Selection: Buveur D’Air
The big race of the day and the season is undoubtedly the Grade 1 King George VI Chase, where a host of racings elite have a chance of lifting the prize. Might Bite tops the market but he was very disappointing on seasonal debut in Betfair Chase. He won this last year when clearly idling, which once again confirms the latent ability he posses but he’s not the most trustworthy and a quality field like this I’m willing to take him on.
Native River always seems to b underestimated but let’s not forget he’s the reigning Gold Cup winner and finished second to Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase on his return. The bare three miles here may not entirely play to his strengths but he is a very solid horse and at a general 5/1 chance, he looks a safe each-way bet.
As mentioned, Bristol De Mai was an impressive winner of the Betfair Chase at his favoured Haydock Park and although Nigel Twiston-Davies isn’t worried about the different track, I am. There is no doubting, that he’s a very good horse and if the Gold Cup was run at Haydock, he’d probably win it but he doesn’t run to the same level anywhere else and will come up short once again.
Politologue is having his first crack at the three-mile trip and what a baptism of fire this will be. John Hales’s grey has won his last two starts one of which was the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree and although I can see him possibly nicking a place, with Native River in the field, this won’t be a crawl and spring race which may catch him out.
Ruth Jefferson sends out stable star Waiting Patiently here on what is his seasonal debut. He’s won all six starts over fences thus far, including a Garde 1 at Ascot. There is no doubt he will probably come on for his first run and I think a watching brief is best advised.
Selection: Native River