Once the high-class jumps meetings of Boxing Day are safely negotiated, the horse-racing world can really wait with building excitement for the big one, the Cheltenham Festival, which looms on the horizon.
Naturally, the meeting held at Kempton on the 26th will provide plenty of pointers for any would-be Prestbury Park punters looking to get ahead of the bookies with some favourable ante-post odds, but what signs should they be looking for?
The big race over the Christmas period is the King George VI Chase at the Sunbury course, for which defending champion Silviniaco Conti is the 9/4 favourite.
No matter the result of his title defence, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding is expected to lineup for another tilt at the biggest prize of them all come March, as a current 6/1-shot for Cheltenham’s Gold Cup.
Having taken the King George over Cue Card 12 months ago, the eight-year-old was well fancied for the biggest jumps prize in racing and jumped the last in front only to fade in the dying embers of the race.
While Nicholls seems confident of a far better showing in the Gold Cup this year, it could be worth keeping an eye on the rest of the field with a view to backing them in the Ryanair Chase.
All seven of the previous winners of the Grade 1 2m5f event have appeared in the King George VI over the festive season, with Cue Card and Dynaste the last two members of that club.
There are four horses on the entry list of this year’s King George that can be backed on the ante-post for the Ryanair; Dynaste, Champagne Fever, Wishfull Thinking and Johns Spirit.
The defending Ryanair champion is 7/1 to beat Silviniaco Conti to the Kempton post on Boxing Day and is 6/1 favourite with Ladbrokes to reclaim his Ryanair crown in March, although Champagne Fever, at 3s and 8s for each race respectively, could provide stern opposition on both fronts.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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