One of the biggest racing days is nearly upon us with 10 meetings taking place on both sides of the Irish Sea. The ITV racing team are bringing us five races from Kempton and Wetherby with the King George looking like one of the races of the season where I think Lostintranslation can assert his superiority of his rivals. Elsewhere on the card, Verdana Blue bids for back to back victories in the Christmas Hurdle, while the lightly-raced Master Tommytucker could be in the one in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
The Nation Plays Handicap Chase
Roll Again was an easy winner at Ludlow on just his second start for new connections Venetia turns him out quickly here and could be tough to beat.
Simply The Betts always looked like the type to do better over fences and has won both his starts over the larger obstacles thus far. He was once thought good enough to run in the Supreme and should run well.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Muratello has been largely disappointing since making the move from France. He’s had a wind-op since his last run and could be potentially well-treated.
Selection: Roll Again
Kauto Star Novices’ Chase
This Grade 1 contest has been won by some smart recruits to chasing in recent years with the likes of Long Run and the recently retired Tea For Two on the honours roll. I don’t think there is anything of that quality in the field this year. The classiest type is Black Op who was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles and went down fighting behind Champ in the Berkshire Chase, which makes him the one to beat on form.
Slate House has always promised to deliver on the big stage and seems to have turned a corner since a wind-op over the summer. He was travelling well in the BetVictor when knuckling at the back of the second-last. He’s a quality type but there are more progressive types in here.
It’s hard to know what to make of Danny Whizzbang but Paul Nicholls’ obviously holds in very high-regard pitching him into a Grade 2 on just his third racecourse start, which he won in very taking fashion. This well-bred type could just be anything.
Master Tommytucker is talented but clearly fragile having won all three starts when standing up. His form falls short of what’s required but he hasn’t been really tested as of yet.
Selection: Master Tommytucker
Verdana Blue caused a real upset when winning this last year and held her form well for the remainder of the season. She has worryingly only won once on seasonal debut and should come on from the run.
Nicky also runs Epatante who was all the rage to win at Cheltenham last season only to disappoint. She was an impressive winner of the Intermediate hurdle on her only start this campaign and can continue to progress.
The third of the Henderson runners and in all likelihood the one they all have to beat is Fusil Raffles. He was a Grade 1 winner last season and was a cosy winner of the Elite Hurdle on seasonal debut. There is a glint in Nicky’s eye when he speaks about this fella and that could say it all.
The horse I took out of the International Hurdle at Cheltenham was Elixir De Nutz for the Tizzard team. He travelled well throughout and only faded late on. He was a Grade 1 winner last season and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Selection: Elixir De Nutz – E/W
King George VI Chase
Just the six face the starter here and all in all it’s a classy looking renewal of this Grade 1 contest. Harry Coden had a very hard choice to make between last years winner Clan Des Obeaux and recent 1965 Chase winner Cyrname. He went with the latter who beat Altior in very impressive fashion and the recent wind-op could have brought about further improvement.
Sam Twiston-Davies has fallen in for a big spare ride on Clan Des Obeaux who beat the re-opposing Thistlecrack in this race twelve months ago and ran very well on seasonal debut in the Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Footpad looked to have the world at his feet as a novice chaser but was disappointing last season. He looked back to his best at Thurles last month but could still fall short against this company.
The one I’ll side with is Lostintranslation who looks like this year’s Gold Cup winner to me. Colin Tizzard’s charge travelled supremely well when winning the Betfair Chase and looks like a superstar.
Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase
I have always loved the way Top Ville Ben races and Phil Kirby’s gelding is already a dual C&D winner who did everything right at Newcastle latest only to be caught late one and he could be tough to catch
Lake View Lad took this race last year and then finished a good 3rd off this mark at Cheltenham Festival. That form makes him a big player here. The likeable Bennys King tackles a new trip and mark today but he stayed on well to win at Newbury and should go close.
Rocco has shown improvement since being switched to fences this season and has untapped staying potential over this trip.
Selection: Top Ville Ben