Strap yourselves in for a feast of top-quality action over the festive period with 27 meetings and 13 Grade 1s over the next week. Here is our look at the pick of the racing.
King George VI Chase: Cyrname stamina doubts can bring Lostintranslation a King George win
Only a select field of six are set to go to post for the Boxing Day spectacular, but what a top-class group they are with 16 Grade 1s between them. Paul Nicholls has won the race a record 10 times and he is responsible for likely favourite Cyrname who is set to go off around 13/8.
The seven-year-old comes into this having won his last three, all at Ascot at a combined winning distance of over 40 lengths. He beat Altior well last time, and on the back of that he has every right to be favourite here, though he tackles three miles for the first time. In a race of this depth and quality, there has to be a slight doubt whether he’ll see out this trip and although there is no real reason to suggest he won’t, it’s a big enough concern to take him on with Lostintranslation.
Since making the switch to fences, Colin Tizzard’s son of Flemensfirth spent the first half of 2019 battling Defi Du Seuil over middle distances. He got the better of that rival on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham before being defeated in both the Scilly Isles at Sandown and JLT at the Cheltenham Festival. He was then stepped up to three miles for the first time at Aintree and that looked an inspired move as he won the Mildmay Novices’ Chase by six lengths, beating RSA winner Topofthegame.
He begun this year’s campaign with an easy victory at Carlisle and was then victorious in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, beating Bristol De Mai. Bristol De Mai is virtually unbeatable at the northern track record, so it was a superb performance to lower his colours there. He’ll need to improve again to take this, but connections have been very strong on his chances and with the slight doubts surrounding his chief market rival, he can take this at 7/4.
Welsh Grand National: Now is the time to back McGinty
Just a day after the King George, we are treated to further high-class action with the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow. Last year’s winner Elegant Escape heads the market at 4/1 and he looks to have a favourite’s chance of going back-to-back. He stayed on very encouragingly in the Ladbrokes Trophy last time off a really big weight and providing another hike in the weights isn’t too much for him, he should be there or thereabouts. However, in a race as gruelling and competitive as this, he’s pretty short and must be taken on.
He’s got plenty of ability but could find it hard giving almost a stone to Now McGinty especially if the ground gets really testing. Stuart Edmonds’ eight-year-old has really come into his own as a chaser, particularly over the past 12 months where he’s put in a number of impressive performances. He beat Ladbrokes Trophy winner De Rasher Counter by six lengths at Chepstow at the start of 2019 before finishing a close second to Mister Malarky at Ascot on his next start. Connections could have gone for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, but instead decided to run him in the Grade 1 RSA where he was finished down the field.
He shaped very encouragingly on his first start this term when only just touched off by Gold Cup fancy Santini at Sandown over three miles and he looks sure to improve for this marathon trip. He’s up just three pounds for that defeat to Santini and looks a very dangerous contender off a mark of 147. The 6/1 could look a very big price come Friday afternoon.
Best of the action in Ireland: Samcro and Kemboy can star
As if the action wasn’t good enough in Britain, there is some fantastic action in Ireland too. We’re in for a cracker on Boxing Day as Samcro takes on Faugheen in the Grade 1 at Limerick and the former has to be the bet at 4/6. Big things were expected of the Gordon Elliott-trained runner when he won the 2018 Ballymore at Cheltenham, but things didn’t go to plan last season where for whatever reason he wasn’t himself. However, having missed the back end of that campaign and now running over fences, it looks as if we might finally be close to seeing the old Samcro.
He was impressive on his chase debut at Down Royal before he fell at the crucial stage when travelling like a dream in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse. We’ll never know if he would have beaten Fakir D’oudairies that day, but he looked sure to play a big part and can take out Faugheen here who looked very novice-like in his chasing debut. He won’t be able to make the mistakes he made at Punchestown here and Samcro can take his first Grade 1 since that win at Prestbury Park in March 2018.
Later in the week, there’s another potential Christmas cracker on the cards in the Savills Chase. Al Boum Photo, Delta Work, Road To Respect and Presenting Percy are all set to line-up, but this can go to Kemboy who makes his belated seasonal reappearance. Issues with his ownership group have delayed the Punchestown Gold Cup winner from racing this year, but with those now sorted, he’s back and ready to dominate the three mile staying division.
He unseated the rider at the first in the Gold Cup earlier this year, but subsequently put in dominant displays at Aintree and Punchestown. Apart from that spill at Cheltenham, he’s won his last six races and seems to be thriving with every run. He’s won on all types of ground, so should be fine if it gets testing and he looks the best bet at 15/8. The only slight concern is the lengthy absence, especially as his rivals all have match-fitness on their side, but he’s gone well fresh in his career so far, so there should be no worries on that front. Connections clearly think he’s in top-form to be running him in such a good race first up and he should backed as the seven-year-old seeks to win the race for a second year in a row.
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