Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Boxing Day at Kempton, Wetherby, Wincanton and Towcester. View selections below
The King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day is one of the stellar races of the jumps season and nine will go to post on Thursday including last year’s winner Long Run who is chasing a hat-trick having scored in 2010 as well as 12 months ago. I would be disappointed if the Henderson runner were good enough and hope we see a new Kid on the chasing block.
Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti is taken to reverse last month’s Haydock running with both Cue Card and Dynaste and he and stablemate Al Ferof head the British challenge but I cannot desert the sole Irish raider Mount Benbulben (3.10) despite the fact that he is as likely to fall as get round!
The selection must go right-handed, cannot have the ground too soft and he looks like getting his ground given there was 25mls of rain due to hit the track on Monday. He would surely have won the JN Wine Champion Chase at Down Royal had he stood up on his reappearance and if he can get his jumping together he remains a horse of considerable potential. On official figures he has it all to do but one of these days he will surely show what he is capable of with a clear round; if he does, and granted it is a big if, I believe he will go close and at 12/1 with BetVictor he must get the nod.
The other feature event is the Christmas Hurdle which is a match between the exciting pair The New One and My Tent Or Yours (2.35) with marginal preference for the latter trained by Nicky Henderson. The selection won the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on his reappearance and I believe is the one they all have to beat at Cheltenham in March but he won’t have things his own way with The New One in the field.
The New One won the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at this year’s Festival and has won both starts so far this term in the style of a future Champion; one sloppy jump at two out or the last might be the deciding factor with the prospect of soft ground no inconvenience to either of the main protagonists. It should be a cracker but I am in the My Tent Or Yours camp and the 11/10 with BetVictor makes plenty of appeal.
The third Grade 1 event on the card is a modest renewal of the Feltham Novices’ Chase which can go to Just A Par (2.00) who always promised to make up into a top class staying chaser and can confirm recent Newbury running with Third Intention (7lbs better off) with the forecast soft ground a plus. At the time of writing he is 4/5 at BetVictor and if he were to hit Evens that might be worth an interest.
From a punting angle I am very keen on seeing Western Warhorse (1.25) a winning point-to-pointer make his chasing debut in a fascinating handicap chase dropping back in trip having failed to get home over 3m over timber last time. He has never run right-handed under rules which is a slight concern and he is 4lbs higher than at Newbury but he is an exciting recruit to fences. Three other chasing newcomers Urbain De Sivola, Oscar Magic and God’s Own are other potential improvers over fences in a tremendous race and one that will throw up a number of future winners.
The finale looks a tricky puzzle but my two against the field are the mare Beyeh and Junction Fourteen (3.45) with preference for the latter who has only had three career starts but suggested he was going the right way when getting up close home at Fontwell last month for the Emma Lavelle yard.
Grand National winner Auroras Encore makes his belated seasonal reappearance at Wetherby in their feature Rowland Meyrick but Sydney Paget (1.45) gets the vote although he is still engaged in the Welsh National at the weekend. The Donald McCain-trained runner has been raised 13lbs for his recent Haydock romp and this is a step up in class but he looked a vastly improved horse at Haydock last time and he can defy the rise.
Rydalis (2.50) has finished runner up in his last three starts but has lost nothing in defeat and ran into a very well handicapped horse in King Massini at Ludlow last time; he certainly deserves to get his head in front and he can take Wincanton’s staying chase.
I have been waiting for Guanciale (3.05) dropping back in trip having, palpably, failed to get home over 3m at Lingfield last time. This easy 2m 4f should suit Brendan Powell’s runner at Huntingdon although please note he also has been declared at Towcester (3.05) with young James Banks taking off a valuable 5lbs.
Be lucky and have a great Christmas