I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas and we have three Grade 1 races at Kempton Park to whet the appetite this Boxing Day as well as some tremendous racing across the Irish Sea.
We start at Kempton where Nicky Henderson has saddled the winner of the opening novice hurdle four times in the last eight years. The trainer runs two this afternoon Fred, who is the mount of Barry Geraghty, and the hurdling newcomer Vegas Blue (12.50) who get the vote.
The filly is unbeaten in two starts in Bumpers including in listed company last time and is bred to make a jumper being a half-sister to the stable’s lightly-raced winning hurdler Rathhill. The four-year-old – 25/1 with BetVictor for the Mares’ Novice hurdle at the Festival – receives plenty of weight from the previous winners and is taken to make a winning start to her hurdles campaign.
I’ve been waiting for the reappearance of Hold The Note (1.20) in the extended two-and-a-half-mile novice handicap chase since his debut at Ludlow although I was hoping for better ground for Mick Channon’s five-year-old who certainly has the scope for fences. The each way selection is 11/2 with BetVictor and has most to fear from top-weight Simply The Betts and the penalised Roll Again who was a facile scorer at Ludlow over 3m last week. This is a stronger race, but he won with plenty in hand from a well-treated rival in Bobo Mac.
Epatante (2.30) did us a favour when winning at Cheltenham – albeit in lesser company – earlier in the month and at 6/1 she gets the each way vote stepping up in grade in the Christmas Hurdle. Henderson saddles the first three in the betting with Fusil Raffles (7/4 at BetVictor) and Verdana Blue also representing Seven Barrows. All three stablemates are C&D winners, but I felt Epatante should be followed until beaten when scoring last time and I will be disappointed if she doesn’t run a big race.
She still has some way to go before she can depose Lostintranslation (3.05) as my favourite horse in training, however, although this is the acid test for the Colin Tizzard trained 7-year-old who is unbeaten in two starts over today’s trip of three miles. The selection – 15/8 at BetVictor – must improve on the form of his Betfair Chase success last month as he is meeting the highest rated horse in training in Britain in Cyrname who beat Altior at Ascot last time.
Cyrname – 13/8 favourite at BetVictor – is the mount of Harry Cobden who deserts last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux despite the fact that the market leader has yet to race at today’s trip although he is unbeaten in two previous starts at Kempton. This is a much better renewal of the great race than in 2018 but it is Lostintranslation for me.
Over to Market Rasen and I’m still coming to terms with how Cloudy Glen (1.40) was caught on the line at Carlisle last time when he would surely have won had any of the fences in the home straight not been omitted due to the low sun. He can race from the same mark this afternoon and Hugh Nugent takes off 5lbs.
In the Roland Meyrick at Wetherby I hope to see a big run from Rocco (2.10) for Nigel Twiston-Davies. The each way selection carries just 10st 4lbs against largely more exposed rivals and at 15/2 with BetVictor he is open to further significant improvement.
The clash between Laurina and Fakir D’oudairies (2.20) in the G1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown is an absolute belter with preference for the gelding whose fast, fluent jumping has been a hallmark of his two chase wins so far this term.
Whether he would have beaten Samcro had the latter stood on his feet at Fairyhouse is anyone’s guess – I think not – but that was over an additional half a mile and, back at the minimum trip, the mare Laurina will have to jump better than she did at Gowran last month on her chase debut although her fencing ddi improve as the race progressed. The selection is 6/4 at BetVictor.
The aforementioned Samcro (2.40) gets the vote against Faugheen at Limerick in their Grade 1 over 2m 4f. Samcro did not jump with the same alacrity as Fakir D’oudairies at Fairyhouse last time, but he was just putting it up to the eventual winner when he came down two out. There can be no more excuses for Gordon Elliot’s charge who is 4/6 at BetVictor.
For all your racing odds go to BetVictor.com