The Christmas Hurdle
With Vroum Vroum Mag taken out of the Christmas Hurdle at the final stage, in all too familiar circumstances, punters and racing fans have again been misled. The race itself wouldn’t have had the biggest ante-post market, but that’s besides the point. And yes, it’s not Willie Mullins’ fault that when signalling one of his stable stars may be running in one of the feature races over the festive period, punters naturally look forward to this. Vroum was far from a banker – and if not improving on her run in Ireland, Yanworth is likely to be the benefactor. Plenty of questions are still hovering around Mullins string and his stars are not being campaigned at all confidently. Whilst we’re sure they will be ready for when it really matters, it’s a shame the first half of the jumps season has been without much of Mullins’ elite. Douvan is Douvan, but with the speculation surrounding Annie Power and Faugheen not going away; any backwards news in regards to Vroum will be an even bigger worry to connections.
The King George
The feature race of Boxing Day has been left with a measly field of five, and despite the Cue Card vs. Thistlecrack duel grabbing the headlines; it’s a somewhat disappointing turn out. Nothing from Ireland takes it’s chance and for a showpiece race on one of racing’s biggest days the assembled field highlights one of the most contentious issues around the jumps season thus far, field sizes and competitiveness at the top. The race itself could still be remembered for the right reasons, most likely down to the clash between two heavyweight stablemates from Colin Tizzard. In terms of picking the winner, anyone with a decisive prediction is having your pants down. We have no way of knowing how Thistlecrack will handle a run in top company over fences and his runs so far are nothing in comparison with the race on Boxing Day. Undoubtedly Thistlecrack is the classier horse; but jumping under pressure with no room for error is something he hasn’t yet faced, and this is set to be only his fourth start over the bigger obstacles. Nothing but praise can go to the owners of both horses and of course to the Tizzard stable. They have both taken the trickier route on the way to the ultimate target of the Gold Cup, and luckily for Kempton by doing this we have a match up that may have saved the day.
The Rest of Kempton
The exciting Jenkins is justifiably the odds-on favourite for the opener. He took his tidy bumper form to the next level when hosing up on his debut over hurdles at Newbury, and although there are clearly other interesting and unexposed rivals in the race, his form and run at Newbury on the eye is the major standout. The entries for the Novice Handicap Chase are again disappointing, as 21 entries turned into seven at the final stage. It’s still an open and competitive affair, with the impressive Ascot winner Poker School interesting once again with the 8lbs rise perhaps leaving the handicapper behind again. Two Taffs was below par last run in the mud at Haydock, but it may just be a case of the horse being over hyped as is so often the case. The Grade One Kauto Star Chase is another competitive heat and the well backed Anibale Fly has already seen a lot of support for Tony Martin. Paul Nicholls has a very strong hand in Frodon and Present Man who have both had a blinding start to their chasing careers. Frodon with the 7lbs allowance looks good value in a tricky race and if he gets anywhere close to his fantastic Cheltenham win will go very close. Minella Daddy was well fancied at Ascot last weekend and goes again at Kempton; 8/1 seems a generous price after only going down a length to a very well handicapped in the Listed event at Ascot.
Rest Of The Day
Landofhopeandglory faces his biggest test yet of his hurdling career in the Grade Two juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown. He re-opposes Bapuame who ran the 3YO very close and was perhaps a bit unlucky in the final furlong. Min goes for the Grade One Novice Chase and is looking to impress again, showing that the Arkle isn’t a forgone conclusion just yet. Wincanton hosts a decent card with Buywise looking to take the feature race. The Grade Three at Wetherby has a good look to it; with Blaklion, Yala Enki, Henri Parry morgan and Wakanda all involved. It will be a big test for Yala Enki who is up 10lbs for his Haydock romp and if connections are to be believed that this horse is as good as they say. It is a cracking days racing as ever and we wish you the best of luck trying to juggle all the days racing at once, let alone whilst entertaining the rest of the family…