It’s the start of a fabulous festive feast of racing on Saturday as Kempton’s two-day meeting gets underway with the King George VI Chase card.
The three-mile Grade 1 is the centrepiece of the Boxing Day action and is supported by the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (1.50pm) and the Christmas Hurdle 2.25pm) on a six-race Kempton card (12.40pm-3.35pm).
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12.40 – Get Your Ladbrokes 1 Free Bet Novices’ Hurdle (2m)
On To Victory must improve his jumping but has been in good form on the Flat, while Go Sacre Go is a newcomer for the champion trainer to be noted. Giving an easy lead to Flic Ou Voyou would be unhealthy on the evidence of his autumn form but both he and Severance had their wings clipped at Haydock last time out.
THIRD TIME LUCKI couldn’t peg back the front-running winner in a Cheltenham Grade 2 last time but should be ideally suited to this track and Dan Skelton’s charge has the best chance on paper, with the better ground here also in his favour.
Selection: Third Time Lucki
1.15 – Play Ladbrokes 5-a-side On Football Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (2m4½f)
The Skelton brothers may have eyes on a quick-fire double here and Alnadam is a leading contender on the evidence of his convincing Sandown success last time out. He had plenty in hand over third-placed Killer Clown that day and is progressing.
Falco Blitz and Son Of Camas are respected for the Nicky Henderson team but MR ONE MORE may be able to build on this second at Chepstow (2m, heavy) last month. That introduction to chasing came after a 33-month layoff and the form has been held up by the third at Cheltenham since. Harry Fry’s charge is low-mileage and can make his presence felt again.
Selection: Mr One More @
1.50 – Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1, 3m)
The first Grade 1 on the card and it’s mouthwatering. Shan Blue looks an absolute natural over fences after two easy wins at Wetherby and could well make it 3-3, but this is a tougher assignment for Dan and Harry Skelton’s charge.
Enrilo, If The Cap Fits (best hurdler of these) and Kalooki all have some merit to them but THE BIG BREAKAWAY is tipped to cast aside memories of his odds-on Exeter defeat three weeks ago.
He had impressed on his chasing bow at Cheltenham previously over this trip and was caught out down in distance in what effectively was a match with Bold Plan. Sean Bowen gave the winner a clever ride and made the most of the 8lb he got from the second when dashing for him on the level.
Colin Tizzard has won this race twice since 2016 and The Big Breakaway can produce plenty more in this competitive line-up over a more adequate trip.
Selection: The Big Breakaway @
2.25 – Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m)
The reigning Champion Hurdle heroine EPATANTE made short work of winning the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on her reappearance and is impossible to impose in her attempt to retain this crown. On that comeback run, the Seven Barrows mare is potentially still getting better and a fourth successive Grade 1 win beckons barring an accident.
Silver Streak was luckless at Newcastle and has since run an agonising second in the International at Cheltenham, Evan Williams’ charge appeals as being second-best though the other Henderson mare, Floressa, could outrun her odds after a pleasing comeback win a Listed Newbury handicap.
Selection: Epatante @
3.00 – Ladbrokes King George VI Chase (Grade 1, 3m)
Paul Nicholls’ stranglehold on this Christmas prize won’t be released easily. Clan Des Obeaux is seeking a third straight win, while last year’s runner-up Cyrname – the highest-rated chaser in training – could give him plenty to think about after impressing in the Charlie Hall on his return. They dominate the market and rightly so. The noble Frodon and Real Steel give Nicholls a four-strong hand in his quest for King George win No.12.
Santini is surely too slow to win this, but Lostintranslation could easily leave behind his Haydock comeback last month now back on a sounder surface.
WAITING PATIENTLY was second-favourite for this two years ago on his only try at three miles, Ruth Jefferson’s charge impeded badly when he unseated Brian Hughes around halfway. He’s had just three starts since but showed his ability to come out guns firing when one-length third in last year’s Tingle Creek. He may be worth chancing at a massive price to make his mark on this race belatedly.
Selection: Waiting Patiently @
3.35 – Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Hurdle (2m5f)
Paul Nicholls has strong claims in the finale with SWITCH HITTER, a winner over C&D last month under Bryony Frost. That form has been advertised since and an opening mark of 127 looks manageable.
Nicky Henderson meanwhile has a strong team of three and, with Nico de Boinville on board, a positive run from another handicap debutante Barbados Blue wouldn’t come as a shock.
Selection: Switch Hitter
*All odds correct at time of writing