Happy Boxing Day! That’s right, we made it. The crackers, the cooking, the washing up, the dire repeat movies and the conversation has been survived. I may have been away for a long time, but we are back, and now we step into one of the finest periods of the year for readers and punters alike – the Christmas season. There’s nine meetings today, as is tradition, but we will focus on three whilst also beginning to add to our ante post portfolio with the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National in mind later on. Without further ado, let’s look at the 18 or so races that will shape most people’s Boxing Day.
12.50 – 32Red Casino Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+): One of the best races of the day so far. Didtheyleaveuoutto and Thomas Darby had a real battle at Ascot when Didtheyleaveuoutto found just a bit more and jumped a bit better throughought the race before eventually winning. Didtheyleaveuoutto is 3lbs worse off with Thomas Darby for a head and that might be the difference but not much will separate the pair again.
Not much will separate much of the field, including The Big Bite who was a 19 length winner at Haydock last time to make it 2-2 over hurdles, and Mister Fisher, who receives 5lbs and upwards from those ahead of him in the market. Rouge Vif, a 10 length winner in a first-time hood at Southwell, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Fly To Mars improved for softer ground and a step up in trip when second at Plumpton on his hurdling debut but this could prove to be too sharp.
Advice: 1 pt win Thomas Darby (3/1 general)
1.20 – 32Red.com Chase (A Novices’ Limited Handicap) (Class 3) (4yo+ 0-140): Always one of the trickiest races of the day. It’s notable that there’s a lot of pace on – Lough Derg Spirit, Warthog, Lisdoonvarna Lad and Delire D’Estruval are all potential leaders- and this could lead to a hold up horse potentially having an advantage. Dell Oro ran into a very useful one in the shape of Chesterfield and had very useful form as a novice hurdler last year. A mark of 136 is very fair on that evidence and with improvement, he can take a step forward.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Dell Oro (15/2 Ladbrokes, 8/1 Sky Bet, Bet Victor)
1.55 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+): A corking renewal. Santini is all the rage for the RSA following a great chasing debut but this is a different sort of test around Kempton’s sharp three miles on better ground than he’ll have had at any stage during his career and he’s short facing such a smart field. Had Topofthegame consented to race maybe even half a second earlier he most likely would have won a deep novice race at Exeter and that was over 2m3f and if he goes with the field then he’ll have every chance. He did nothing but progress last season and he can serve it upto Santini.
Bags Groove has shown very smart form in his four chase starts as well and can be involved along with La Bague Au Roi. The World’s End is a very smart chaser but he may also want a stiffer test than this. Red Indian and No Hassle Hoff.
Advice: 1 pt win Topofthegame (9/2 general)
2.30 Unibet Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4YO plus): Buveur D’Air wins this, and on the bridle, barring mishap or accident. The race for the second spot will likely be competitive with Verdana Blue a worthy favourite to take that accolade based on her Elite Hurdle win and Greatwood fourth. Coral’s betting handicap is a fascinating market and the most interesting contender there could be Global Citizen. He gets 10 lenghts from Buveur D’Air, four lengths from Verdana Blue and three from If The Cap Fits.
He is haywire, but his performance in managing to blaze a trail in the Gerry Fielden Hurdle, being more than 20 lengths clear of the runner-up down the back straight before then holding off the progressive Lisp giving 10lbs, was very taking and that form was boosted when Lisp was then second in what used to be known as The Ladbroke at Ascot last weekend. He could go well around this flatter track on better ground.
Advice: 1 pt Global Citizen +7 lengths on Coral Handicap (5/2)
3.05 – 32Red King George VI Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4YO plus): Perhaps the most fascinating race of the year with so many questions and so much talent. In the end, perhaps the fewest of those center around Politologue who has not looked short of stamina since going up to 2m4f+ and who managed to give Charbel 6lbs and a beating in impressive style at Ascot on his return. The Melling Chase winner’s deceptive style of running – he travels beautifully and then does tend to respond only to racing a rival – could be just perfect for this pace set up and his speed will be an asset around Kempton.
If back to his best, Might Bite would be the choice and he is a fair price, so a dutch of the two is probably the option for yours truly, although the value lies with Politologue from the leading contenders from this point of view. Native River ran a fine race on his return in the Betfair Chase but he did not enjoy his last run here and might also want softer ground. Bristol De Mai was really impressive there, but his record away from Haydock is unimpressive for a horse of his ability; Will Thistlecrack bounce? If not he looked lively on his return at Haydock.
Waiting Patiently has been going through the grades in brilliant fashion but no horse has won this on their season return since the 1930’s. The rest of the field is hardly shabby although they do have a lot to find.
Advice: 1 pt win Politlogue (11/2 Bet365)
3.40 – 32Red Download The App Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) (3yo+ 0-140): Not a race to be chasing on. Ballyandy could find this is a helpful spot of placing although he is carrying a welter burden. However many of these don’t appear to be progressing or particularly reliable, something which can’t be said of Penn Lane. He ran into a really progressive horse in the shape of First Assignment back in January when the pair drew 10 lengths clear and the way he ground out victory on his return at Ffos Las was very impressive especially given his poor jump at the last. He handles better ground just fine and has form at shorter, so this course and distance ought not to be an issue and there’s lots to like about him.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Penn Lane (8/1 general)
I was never going to forget the brilliant card at Leopardstown, always a highlight of any racing fan’s calendar. There’s some fearsomely tricky punting contests but also some races that you cannot miss, so here’s the Irish pinstickers’ guide.
12.10 – 2m Tote Pays Dividends Maiden Hurdle (4yo): Always fascinating watching, as with many maiden hurdles over the next week, although there’s no obvious bet with French flat winner Vision D’honneur as short as 5/4 for his Irish debut. Klassical Dream was fourth in the Grade 1 Prix Cambacaeres and will probably have plenty of support given that factor whilst the debuts of Dancing On My Own and Entoucas were very encouraging.
Advice: Watching brief.
12.40 – 2m Tote Pays Dividends Maiden Hurdle (4yo): City Island was disqualified after his impressive win at the Galway Festival but he’s now a winner without a penalty thanks to that and if he’s fit and ready then this looks up for grabs with that form appearing to be stronger than what Raya Time, Defy De Mee, and Dallas Des Pictons.
Advice: 2 pts win City Island (11/8 general)
1.10 – Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (3yo): The form of the Fairyhouse Grade 3 is at the head of the market but given the amount of potential on show from La Sorelita, Maze Runner, Coko Beach, Got Trumped, and Filon D’oudairies, it really looks best watched. One for the DVR.
1.45 – Sky Sports Racing Novice Handicap Hurdle (4yo+): A few of these are last time out winners but the lightly raced Aforementioned and Mountain Fox beat up weak fields at Thurles and Limerick respectively and as such they are bypassed. Warnaq was a really smooth winner at Navan when he beat a next time out maiden winner by nearly three lengths with the reopposing Share The Honour in third and he could have doubled that winning margin if he’d wanted to.
Sir Bedford Wales is making a reappearance following a little break but is worth backing on the basis of his Autumn wins alone, with the last one particularly impressive as he won a Rated novice hurdle by four and a half lengths. He was giving upwards of 10lbs to his rivals and the third, beaten 10 lengths, has since won a Gowran handicap hurdle and the third has also won a handicap at Cork. Indeed, three horses since have won from that race so an 8lbs rise is entirely fair and Daniel Holden’s 7lbs claim negates a good deal of that rise.
Advice: 1 pt win Warnaq (4/1 general), 1 pt each/way Sir Benford Wales (8/1 general)
2.20 – Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) (4yo+): Always an informative and cracking piece of fun to watch. Mengli Khan had always looked as if he’d be a good chaser and his recent debut at Punchestown confirmed that he should be aiming to reach at least the same heights over fences as he did over hurdles. That will make the Royal Bond winner and Supreme Novice Hurdle third tough to beat here and he can justify favoritism, albeit at cramped odds.
He’ll have to work really hard to get the better of Voix Du Reve, an emphatic winner of The Craddockstown Novice Chase, and Le Richebourg, who was just beaten in the Drinmore Chase last time out. It’s 20/1 bar an easy to see why given the strength of the top three, as Us And Them was beaten 10 lengths by Hardline at Navan last time out (Hardline was seven lengths behind Voix Du Reve), Ellie Mac won on this card last year but is rated just 126, and Mind’s Eye was no match for Voix Du Reve at Galway.
Advice: 2 pts Mengli Khan (11/10 general)
2.55 – “Bet Through The Racing Post App” Handicap Chase (4yo+): So very competitive with many holding chances but the 7lb cliam of Michael Stenson could be the difference for Kildorrery, who ought to be much happier back down at 2 miles following a solid effort at Punchestown last time. On his chasing debut in October he got the better of Duca De Thaix, who has since gone onto take the Grade B EayFix chase. Cubomania was running well when falling in the Drinmore and perhaps this trip will bring out the best in him but Tisamystery, who won this last year off just a 4lbs lower mark, really caught the eye when second at Cork in November and could be ready to go again at the age of 10. Arcenfete is high on the shortlist but his jumping has been offputting.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Kildorrery (7/1 general), 1 pt each/way Tisamystery (9/1 Bet365)
3.30 – Tote Supporting Irish Racing INH Flat Race (4yo): Another one to set the recorder for as Allaho, second in a the Prix Rohan for Guy Cherel in March, makes his debut for Willie Mullins and the Chevley Park Stud. He is obviously of huge interest and so is Fury Road, an impressive winner of a maiden point-to-point at Dromahane in May before going to Gigginstown for €305,000 afterwards. They dominate the market but there are a number of interesting newcomers like Goodbye Someday, a half brother to winners out of top class race mare Liss A Paoraigh, and King Alex, a half-brother to four winners over obstacles.
Advice: Watching brief.
Ruby Walsh is an uncommon visitor to Limerick on St Stephen’s Day, but the upgraded Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase (2.00) sees Getabird make his second start over fences and it is a sign of the expectation the yard has for him that he takes the ride there and misses the first day of the Leopardstown Festival.
Getabird can be in and out, but when he’s good he’s very good, as he showed when smashing Mengli Khan in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle by nine lengths or when taking a Fairyhouse Grade 2 by 12 lengths, but he has also finished 11th, seventh, and been pulled up all in the last year. Conditions seem set fair, so we should see him at his best following a fine win at Punchestown although he is already very short.
Hardline, an impressive wide margin winner of a Navan Grade 3 and the ever consistent Jetz, third in the Drinmore, should provide decent opposition and also yardsticks for us to measure him by.
French formwatchers will be looking closely at Majurca, who is one of a clutch of horses moving from Guy Cherel to head to Ireland. Majurca was fourth in the Grade 3 Prix du Pericole after running out an impressive winner of the Pric Cadarium and should be able to find races although it is interesting to see Joseph O’Brien using this as a starting point.
The Greenmount Equine Hospital 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle (12.20) is another must watch or record race (however you want to put it) with another ex-Cherel debuatant in the shape of Mixmoon, who was third in a 12 furlong flat maiden at a Machecoul in Febuary. That was her sole start for Cherel but she’s of obvious interest.
But wait, there’s more? Another ex-Guy Cherel horse making a debut at Limerick today? That’s damn right, as Fine Brunello starts for Joseph O’Brien today. He had three starts, including a win by a nose at Vittel in an APQS race before a sound fourth on his debut in the Listed Prix Finot, although it should be said that race was restricted to other unraced horses.
Band Of Outlaws has already had a run and that probably should have been a winning one if not for a shoddy set of jumps up the home straight. With anutral improvement he ought to go close once again. Following two solid efforts over hurdles at Down Royal and Cork, Future Proof has a decent shout on paper but this ground is much slower than he’s raced on for some time and that could blunt his chances.
Much of the attention will be on Mixmoon but Gordon Elliot and does debut Great Vizier for Simon Munir and Isaaac Souede, and he is worth watching in the market although this ground is an unknown.
The Signsplus Hurdle (12.50) is a tight contest with Salsaretta currently favourite. She was an impressive winner in May after finding Graded company too hot and there ought to be more to come. However, we’ll see if she is improved given that Felix Desjy is taking a drop in class whilst Not Many Left is rated 135, the same as Salsaretta.
Gowran debut winner Inca Gold has a bright future for Joseph O’Brien but this ground is a lot softer than he’d want on the evidence of three flat runs.
These contests are much better than the Guinness Maiden Hurdle (2.35) in which victory looks well up for grabs. The Lyons Of Limerick Jaguar & Land Rover Mares INH Flat Race (3.45) looks much more fun with Listowel second Elieen O racing for Willie Mullins and the Supreme Racing Club, facing Durrow point to point winner Larqebuse, now in the Cheveley Park Colours for, you guessed it, Gordon Elliott.
Ante-Post Zone: We already have a strong ante post position for the RSA in the shape of Santini but it is hard not to be taken by the price of 14/1 for Topofthegame there. Whilst he’s got form over shorter, his biggest success came in February over an extended 2m7f and 3 miles around Cheltenham ought to really suit him more than today’s trip, just like Santini. Those who fancy their King George contender can consider a price for the Gold Cup beforehand but there could be better prices to be had after the event – Native River is one who will be much more comfortable running in the Gold Cup than the King George.