Former Talksport presenter Charlie McCann marks your card for Saturday’s racing at Kempton, Warwick, Wetherby and Naas
The rearranged King George VI Chase is today’s highlight with the evergreen Kauto Star (3.00) bidding to become the first horse in history to win the race for a fifth time. Three miles around Kempton are the optimum conditions for the Paul Nicholls-trained 11-y-o who is reported to be “as good as ever” in the opinion of Clifford Baker who rides him out most days. AP McCoy takes the mount in the absence of injured duo Ruby Walsh and Noel Fehily and the dual Gold Cup winner ought to be too good despite his years. Planet Of Sound is taken to follow the selection home although further significant rain would be a negative.
The belated Xmas Hurdle sees current Champion Hurdler Binocular look to return to winning ways in a fascinating six-runner contest. Connections of Binocular have suggested that his season revolves around retaining his crown at Cheltenham in March and that he won’t be 100% ready for today’s clash; he is reluctantly overlooked in favour of Starluck (2.25) who finished runner up (ahead of Binocular) in the corresponding race last year. The selection is a speed horse and with Overturn likely to tow them along at a decent pace the hope is that Timmy Murphy can swoop late and fast.
We begin a marathon nine-race card with a juvenile hurdle which sees the eagerly-awaited debut of Brampour the ante-post favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. Trained on the flat by Jean-Claude Rouget in France he is reported to have schooled very well for Paul Nicholls but the filly A Media Luz (11.50) sets a decent enough standard having finished an excellent second to stablemate Grandouet at Newbury last time.
The form of the Nigel Twiston-Davies horses is a concern but Sybarite (12.50) is held in the highest regard and finished runner up in a Grade 2 event at Cheltenham on his hurdle debut. His jumping wasn’t as fluent as you would wish on that occasion, but with that experience under his belt he can go one better despite the reservations about the well-being of the yard.
The big betting race of the day is the Lanzarote Hurdle and I like the chances of The Betchworth Kid (3.35) stepping up in trip for the very much in-form Alan King. A decent stayer on the flat he ran a very good race behind the progressive Tocca Ferro at Newbury last time and is given the nod ahead of the unexposed Like Minded one of two Paul Nicholls’ trained representatives.
Lanzarote Hurdle: Prices from StanJames.com (ew: 1/4 the first 4)
7 The Betchworth Kid
10 James De Vassy
10 Like Minded
10 Bygones Of Brid
10 Barwell Bridge
12 Quartz De Thaix
12 Drill Sergeant
The weekend nap goes in the last with last month’s Plumpton winner Rey Nacarado (4.05) taken to follow up for Charlie Longsdon. The giant Mallusk has been raised 10lbs for his Uttoxeter win and is likely to be all the rage for the Kim Bailey yard stepping up in trip, but I am convinced there is more to come from Rey Nacarado in the last race on what promises to be a wonderful card.
If Warwick goes ahead my two against the field in the Classic Chase are novice Cannington Brook and first time blinkered Officier De Reserve (3.20) with preference for the latter who can reverse Newbury running with West End Rocker on the revised terms. A winner of his sole start at the track over hurdles and if the headgear works the oracle he must have as good a chance as any in a wide-open event.
Fredo has finished runner up in all three starts over fences but can go one better in Wetherby’s 1.30. Trainer Ian Williams has been among the winners on the flat in recent days and Fredo receives weight from three of his four rivals this afternoon.
There is also an excellent card at Naas where Royal De la Thinte (1.35) can make all in the 1.35 for Jim Draper. The selection has a bit to find with likely favourite Quito De la Roque on a line through Bostons Angel but the fast fluent jumping of the selection can make the difference.
For all your sporting odds this weekend check out StanJames.com
Be lucky and stay warm