TV TIPS (BOXING DAY)
We only have five races live on Channel 4 today but they are all ridiculously open contests with some good novice chases. The first of which comes from Kempton. All the top yards are represented here and the current favourite Stellar Notion has done nothing wrong with a previous hurdles second behind Une Ace nothing to worry about. That said however this is certainly a step up in competition compared to its previous races. There may not be any reason it can’t make the step up but at around 3/1 I think it’s going to be better taking an each-way selection.
Katgary had a fantastic season last year but with an eighth placed finish its best of two runs so far this year there’s no guarantee it has trained on and it is a big chance to think it can return to its previous form.
I am going for a tad of an outsider here and with the Tizzard yard starting to hit their stride they could have sneaked one in with bottom weight. Quite By Chance has had a decent record chasing with a win and a second in just three starts over the bigger obstacles. It will certainly have to make a big step up in class to take a hand in this but with Daryl Jacob in the saddle it could definitely be the value bet of the race.
Quite By Chance (E/W)
We head over to Wetherby just for the one race as we take in their grade three chase.
As with the first race and most of today’s TV races it’s very wide open with cases easily made for most of these.
The race seems to be a mix of younger untested runners and old stalwarts such as Cape Tribulation. With a win and places in some big races this ten year old probably has the best form but now getting on in age isn’t likely to retain that level of ability.
David Pipe trainers the red hot favourite Broadway Buffalo and although the stable are doing well at the moment a horse that has only won once in its last six races doesn’t generate too much confidence. The horse also raced last Saturday in what was quite a gruelling race and surely isn’t going to be 100% at its best after just one week and is readily taken on.
A few weeks back we had both The Beecher Chase and Grand Sefton Chase over the big National fences at Aintree. Cedre Bleu ran a great race to finish second but if truth be told I think that’s partly down to how brilliant Sam Waley-Cohen is around those fences and as the horse seems to be the proverbial bridesmaid it should find other too good today.
There are two runners that also ran over the National fences last time out and I’m tipping both of them.
Dolatulo was favourite for the race that Cedre Bleu finished second and it was favourite on its run prior to this race as well. The horse has also had some decent praise from connections and although it seems to have underperformed slightly I’m going to hope that it may live up to some of that promise today.
The other horse I’m plumping for also took on the big obstacles at Aintree and was travelling well enough in mid division when unseating its rider. Despite this however it has win over today’s distance, will relish the softer conditions and with trainer Richard Lee having some fancied runners over the next few days the yard should be ready to fire and Knock A Hand should be able to play a big part.
Knock A Hand (E/W)
Despite the fact this race has a very short priced favourite I certainly don’t think it is as one sided as it should be as Saphir Du Rheu still has answers to ask and at a price as short as 11/10, despite having a course win, it is far too skinny for me.
Coneygree has won five of its seven races and no matter what the level it certainly has to be respected. However I fear that coming from a small yard going up against some of the bigger stables it may come up short.
The Paul Nicholls yard doesn’t just enter the favourite here it also enters the promising Virak. A horse that at the age of five has won its last three chase starts with its latest win being most impressive. Unlike the favourite it has won over the distance and although it is seen as the stables second string may have enough to overturn the favourite.
Virak (E/W if 5/1+)
Unfortunately this years Christmas Hurdle isn’t going to be the battle we thought it was going to be as The New One no longer takes up its entry. This leaves the big Willie Mullins fancy Faugheen as odds on favourite. One of Rich Ricci’s next big things it is by far the one to beat and if it continues to progress and build on its promise it should definitely win this.
Obviously nothing in racing is a given with the Grade 1 winning Irving entered as well as the promising Nicky Henderson runner Sign Of A Victory. Although both of these horses have undoubted chances I just don’t think they have enough to over throw the Irish raider.
It is worth noting however that at a whopping 50/1 Sgt Reckless is massively overpriced. It has only ever been beaten by top notch horses and with a course and distance win to its name it certainly has a much better chance that its price should suggest.
All this said however I’d be very surprised if the favourite wasn’t to win.
We end our TV selections with the big showpiece race of the day the King George.
The race is packed with big name chasers but I fear most of them, even one with a previous distance win, do not actually want the three mile test. The bigger protagonists such as Cue Card, Johns Spirit, Dynaste and Menorah have put in much better performances over shorter distances and although they have great chances of putting in good runs and possibly placing, I can only see it being a two horse race.
Willie Mullins has sent a few horses over to Kempton and I think the most likely test to wrestle Silviniaco Conti’s crown away is the seven year old grey Champagne Fever. The horse is undoubtedly a classy performer but has only ever raced at Cheltenham when it has run in the UK. Yes the horse has a Cheltenham Festival win to its name when it picked up a novice hurdle but that was back in 2013 and with the ground expected to be good to soft I don’t know if it would prefer it on the softer side. There’s no worry that the horse won’t be ready for this but some of its wins in its native Ireland have been against much lesser opposition than today’s rivals and has more questions to answer than the favourite.
Although it may be seen as a bit of a boring selection I cannot look past the favourite. Paul Nicholls’s runner has beaten the majority of these competitors before and won the race last year, the ground conditions will not be of any concern and although its price may be slightly short it is a well deserved favourite.
Unless one of its previous adversaries has progressed in some way I can only see a repeat performance that will see Conti crowned the King of Kempton.
Silviniaco Conti (WIN)
by Rory Paddock