Wednesday 26th December 2018
A big welcome to my Boxing Day Preview, as always there’s a real quality day’s action in store at Kempton with some of the best National Hunt horses in training set to take each other on. We all know the best part of Christmas is the racing on Boxing Day so if your partner is planning on a cosy afternoon in watching Love Actually advise them to Sky Plus it and strap in for the roller coaster of emotion that lies ahead at Kempton Park.
The 1.55 is the first piece of Grade 1 action of the afternoon and it’s the Kauto Star Novice Chase which is contested over a distance of three miles. This is one of the best novice chases you’ll likely ever see with a whole host of potentially really smart sorts lining up to take each other on. The current market leader comes in the form of Nicky Henderson’s Santini who made the perfect start to life over the bigger obstacles with a very taking victory last time out at Newbury. He looks to be tailor made for chasing and there’s likely a big future that lies ahead for him, this is also reflected in his position at the top of the market in this particular assignment. Nico de Boinville is in the saddle. Bags Groove has been stringing impressive victories together in rapid style so far this season for Harry Fry and also has won around here before albeit over hurdles. Noel Fehily renews the partnership and he’s a general 5/1 chance in the betting. Paul Nicholls sends Topofthegame to take his chance here, a smart hurdler on his day he made a solid start to life over fences when finishing second the last day at Exeter. He’ll likely come on for that here and have a big say under Harry Cobden. I was at Cheltenham earlier this month and witnessed the demolition job served up by The World’s End. He’s in much more testing company here and its not likely he’ll get as easy a time in the lead but he shouldn’t be underestimated and could have his say once again. Gavin Sheehan takes the ride and he’s around 6/1 in the betting. La Bague Au Roi teams up with Richard Johnson again here on the back of two consecutive chase victories at Newbury and is another who certainly enters calculations. This talented mare could well play a serious role should she get in a rhythm under the champion jockey. Red Indian and No Hasslehoff conclude the field and are 33/1 and 50/1 respectively.
A sublime renewal we have on our hands here of which I struggle to get away from Santini. I think Nicky Henderson’s charge has the potential to be a class above and if turning up in the same form as his Newbury win last time he could well prove a very tough nut to crack. The calibre of this race however see’s the majority of the field posing a very live threat as each of Bags Groove, The Worlds End, La Bague Au Roi and Topofthegame are all very serious players if turning up on song.
SANTINI – (13/8)
The King George itself kicks off at 3.05 and we really have got a stellar renewal this time around littered with Grade 1 winners and some of the best horses you’ll see within the National Hunt sphere. The race see’s last year’s winner Might Bite sit at the top of the market for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville at around the 11/4 mark. He won this race in smart style last year and followed up with a hearty effort when runner up in the Gold Cup and then a demolition job at Aintree. His reappearance at Haydock last month in the Betfair Chase didn’t go to plan though. Despite being heavily fancied and seemingly having conditions in his favour, he ran no sort of race and was tailed off. He has to bounce back to best here should he feature. One of the most exciting horses in training and one of my personal favourites is Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently. He’s unbeaten over fences and was absolutely fantastic last season progressing in immense style at every assignment that was put in front of him. It’s a tough ask coming straight here for his first race of the season but connections clearly feel he’s up to the challenge as this has been the plan for some time. He’s around the 9/2 mark in the betting and once again has Brian Hughes in the saddle.
Gold Cup winner Native River comes here off the back of a solid reappearance effort when second in the Betfair Chase last time. He’s likely going to be all the more tuned up for that effort the last day at Haydock and could well make this a true test from the front under the champion jockey Richard Johnson. You can find him trading at around the 7/1 mark. Thistlecrack seemed to look a bit more like his old self in the Betfair Chase last time, the 2016 winner of this didn’t jump all that well but made eye catching late progress and stayed on to take third. If returning to anywhere near the form of his 2016 win here he’s a live player with his old partner Tom Scudamore on board. The Betfair Chase has been a key topic so far in this preview and quite incredibly i’ve yet to mention the winner, who also takes his place here. That’s of course the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Bristol De Mai who maintained his formidable Haydock form by retaining his crown within the Grade 1 affair last time. He has questions to answer away from there though as he ran below par in this last year which is the obvious negative, you wouldn’t want to completely write him off though. The Grade 1 winners just keep on coming in this spectacle as the first of two Paul Nicholls representatives comes in the form of last year’s Tingle Creek winner Politologue. This strong travelling sort made his reappearance within Grade 2 company last month at Ascot where he out battled the smart Charbel to cling on to victory. Another step up is needed should he play a part here but he could well have it in him. Sam Twiston-Davies renews the partnership once again and he’s a general 6/1 chance. Clan Des Obeaux is the second of the Nicholls runners, he ran a decent enough race last time at Haydock for his price but will need a big step up to make a challenge for the frame here. He is lot less unexposed than some though. The 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree ran a fine race at Cheltenham within handicap company last time, he’ll likely try to kick on from a prominent position again here. Last year Double Shuffle and Tea For Two made up the places behind Might Bite and they take their chances again this time around both at big prices.
Now where do you start with trying to find the winner of this? If the Might Bite of last season turns up its very likely he’ll retain his crown. However would you want to be taking odds of 11/4 on the back of that Haydock effort? Not for me. My heart lies with Waiting Patiently, I loved this horse last year and I would absolutely love it if he was to run a big race here which he has every chance of doing. However it really is a tough ask to have your first run of the season in this behemoth of a contest. Therefore at the prices i’m going to take a chance on Native River. It’s likely he will of come on for that fine effort last time at Haydock and if getting in a nice rhythm in front under Johnson I see no reason why last season’s Gold Cup winner can’t run another big race.
NATIVE RIVER – (7/1) (E/W)
(1.20) (Kempton Park) (Class 3) (32Red.com Chase – Handicap) (2m 4f 110y)
I always like to put a big priced fancy in my Previews and I think i’ve got one in one of the Handicap Chases earlier on in the card. The 1.20 to be precise. A real competitive affair of which I think Paul Nicholls’ Envoye Special has a decent chance. An interesting recruit from France who made his debut for this yard last month when finishing second behind Kalashnikov. He won’t be facing anything near his kind of level here and I don’t think connections have recruited him just to make the numbers up. Carrying the colours of the likes of Old Guard and Black Corton I think this interesting contender could prove to be half decent.
ENVOYE SPECIAL (14/1) (E/W)