Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day but today is a wonderful day of sport with Kempton’s King George VI Chase the highlight of a wonderful card.
The meeting opens with a 2m Novices’ Hurdle and If The Cap Fits (12.45) must give weight to his seven rivals but is hard to oppose given the fluency of his two wins over timber. The selection beat Dan Skelton’s Solomon Grey by nearly three lengths at Bangor last time and meets that rival on 4lbs better terms as the latter has since hosed up at Plumpton.
Nicky Henderson has saddled the winner three times in the last six years and his Diese Des Bieffes has won his two starts over timber including at Taunton last time.
The first of the Grade 1 contests is the Kauto Star Novices Chase and the mare Mia’s Storm can take advantage of the 7lbs she receives from the geldings. The Alan King-trained seven-year-old has won both chase starts impressively including in a listed mares event last time and she has ideal conditions this afternoon. She lacks the chase experience of Black Corton but her fencing has been exemplary to date and at 11/4 with BetVictor, she must go close.
Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air cannot be opposed in the Christmas Hurdle and do note the Nicky Henderson trained champion has been backed into 7/4 favouritism to retain his title in March.
Might Bite (3.05) has long been my fancy for the KIng George although he has been backed into 11/8 favouritism at BetVictor and is unlikely to go off much bigger than that with conditions. Seemingly, ideal. The horse would have won last year’s Kauto Star by a minute but for falling at the last and his subsequent wins at Cheltenham and Aintree showed him to be the champion novice.
He returned in a modest four-runner Graduation event at Sandown last month but turned that into a procession jumping well and making most. He doesn’t have to lead of course and the younger Bristol De Mai (7/2 with BetVictor) is likely to blaze the trail but does the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Betfair Chase winner need deep ground?
Colin Tizzard’s Thistlecrack won a substandard King George last year and he emptied quickly in a Hurdle on his reappearance – there must be a slight reservation that he is quite as good as he once was.
If there is a danger to Might Bite, I believe it will be the other Tizzard-trained representative Fox Norton who has hinted that this step up to three miles will suit. The gelding was a facile winner of the two-and-a-half mile Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree back in the spring and the decent ground (described as good to soft at declaration time) will help if the petrol starts emptying as he tries this trip for the first time.
The Roland Meyrick is the feature at Wetherby and Richard Johnson is booked for Aloomomo (2.10) who ran a good race over timber at Southwell last time and will appreciate today’s soft ground and return to fences.
At Wincanton Theatre Territory (3.15) can go one better in the Mares’ Novices Chase despite being rated 11lbs inferior to the chasing debutante Jessber’s Dream over timber. The selection finished runner up at Cheltenham last time – jumping boldly – and that form has already been franked when the winner Ms Parfois followed up in a listed contest at Newbury.
I’m going to give Knocknanuss (2.35) another chance in the two-and-a-quarter mile handicap hurdle at Fontwell going into handicap company for the first time. The selection failed to give a well-bred juvenile 19lbs at Plumpton last week but the selection can run from the same mark and make a bold bid to make all.
In the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen, I like the chances of Cyclop (2.10) who ran a terrific race in the Sussex National last time and can defy a 3lbs rise.
Over at Sedgefield Star Tackle (2.05) can defy top-weight for Harry’s Whittingham and Bannister. The selection was just touched off at Ffos Las on heavy ground over further and this slight drop back in trip should suit.
The Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown sees the exciting pair Death Duty and Footpad (2.20) go head-to-head and preference for the latter is marginal over this extended two miles on decent ground. I have never considered Death Duty a genuine stayer, but I think he may be done for toe by the Willie Mullins-trained runner who was so impressive on his chase debut at Navan.