• Thu 17 Aug, 2017
  • 06:42 BST
  • 02:42 EST (BST-4)
  • 08:42 CEST (BST+2)

Charlie on Boxing Day

Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Boxing Day at Kempton, Wincanton and Huntingdon. View selections below

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A small but select field of five will go to post on Boxing Day for the 32Red King George VI Chase and this is the acid test for the novice Thistlecrack (3.15) who locks horns with stablemate and 2016 winner Cue Card.

The selection was a brilliant winner of the World Hurdle back in the spring and his jumping has improved race-by-race in his three starts over fences in five, four and five runner fields. His fencing will, of course, come under more pressure at Kempton than in previous races with both Silviniaco Conti and Josses Hill likely to ensure a true test not of Thistlecrack’s stamina but of his fencing ability.

We know Cue Card will run his race, although he is arguably better going left-handed, and he looked as good as ever when thrashing the returning Coneygree at Haydock last month but Thistlecrack was fast and fluent at Newbury last time and has been beaten just once in ten starts over 2m7f or further.

Novices don’t win the King George we will be told between now and post time, but we were told novices rarely win the Gold Cup but Coneygree did just that two years ago. I’m delighted connections have chosen to go down the King George route with Thistlecrack and the hope is that his jumping passes, what will be a severe examination.

We can’t split the pair at BetVictor and make the Colin Tizzard stable stars our 5/4 joint favourites, with Josses Hill 12s, Tea For Two 14s and Silviniaco Conti, a past dual winner of the race, 25/1.

It might be worth pointing out we have a double of 10/1 for Cue Card to win both the King George and the Gold Cup, and therefore the Triple Crown, and 11/2 for Thistlecrack to do the same double.

If the King George is small but select the Christmas Hurdle is just small with a disappointing turnout for this Grade 1 prize with the Willie Mullins trained Vroum Vroum Mag the latest high-profile defector. The lack of an Irish runner in either of the two feature contests is disappointing to say the least, but I hope to see Yanworth (5/4 with BetVictor) enhance his Champion Hurdle credentials despite dropping back to the minimum trip for the first time in over 12 months.

The selection finished runner up to Yorkhill in the Neptune back in the spring, when taken wide all the way, but the way he travels in his races suggests he can take the return to two miles in his stride. The New One is likely to be ridden aggressively and the hope is he will set the race up for the Alan King runner who I believe has the necessary pace for a fast run two miles on good to soft ground.

The opening Novices’ Hurdle is a cracker with Jenkins (12.55) likely to go off a very short price for Nicky Henderson on the back of his fluent Newbury win last month. The runner up and third from that race have been subsequently beaten, albeit in good races, but the fourth has since won at Cheltenham and the selection is hard to oppose, despite giving 3lbs to the fluent Ayr winner Elgin.

Two Taffs (1.30) makes his eagerly-awaited chase debut for the Skeltons in the novices limited handicap chase and he is taken to make a winning start over the larger obstacles. The selection didn’t get home on the soft ground over 3m at Haydock last time but this intermediate 2m 4f is an ideal starting point; he has the look and stamp of a chaser but this is a tough test.

The Kauto Star Novices’ Chase is competitive but possibly sub-standard with Irish raider Anibale Fly the 11/4 market leader at BetVictor. The 6-year-old finished runner up in the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse over 2m 4f giving every indication this step up in trip would suit but the same can be said of the Caspian Gold Cup winner Frodon (2.05) who receives 7lbs weight-for-age allowance as a five-year-old. The recommendation is 4/1 at BetVictor and I can’t see him out of the frame.

I like the look of Lisheen Prince (3.45) in the last for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson; the selection has only had the two starts over timber but was a ready winner at Ffos Las last time and could be well-treated off his opening handicap mark.

At Wincanton Buywise is a fascinating runner reverting to timber in the Pertemps Qualifier but Onefitzall (2.15) is a most progressive staying hurdler and kept finding at Newbury last time over slightly shorter when giving every impression he would get further; he has another furlong to travel today and gets the vote although he is not likely to be seen at his best until he steps up to 3m.

At Huntingdon I like the booking of Josh Moore for Knight’s Reward (1.20) given he is only 4lbs higher than when winning a modest race at Hereford. The 6-y-old has the scope to be a much better chaser than hurdler and connections appear to have found another winnable looking contest.

Bagging Turf (2.30) makes her chase debut from an attractive looking mark and trainer Gary Moore has always felt the mare would come into her own over fences.

For all your racing odds this weekend check out BetVictor.com – new customers can claim Bet £10 Get £60 free

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Charlie

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