The King George and four more races you won’t want to miss this Xmas
The grandstands may be sparse at Kempton, Leopardstown and Chepstow this Christmas but there’ll be no sparsity when it comes to the action on-track with a festive schedule packed full of star quality.
It all begins on Boxing Day with the Ladbrokes King George and the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle before Desert Orchid Chase Day on the 27th alongside the Coral Welsh National.
Attention then turns to Ireland on the 28th for something other than Brexit with a tip-top renewal of the Savills Chase, featuring a whole host of Cheltenham Gold Cup fancies.
We reckon it’s going to be a Christmas period to remember, and we’ve previewed each of the five biggest races before the first set of tapes go up on Boxing Day.
Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (14:25, Sun 26th Dec)
Epatante won the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle en-route to the Champion Hurdle last term and Nicky Henderson’s champion will follow the same path again in 2020.
She’s a comfortable favourite after blowing away the field in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, with Goshen, Sceau Royal and Silver Streak expected to line up as the main challengers.
It’s difficult to see any of those beating the jolly, although Silver Streak likes it around Kempton and appears most likely to hit the frame after finishing second in the International Hurdle at Kempton.
Ladbrokes King George (15:00, Sun 26th Dec)
Clan Des Obeaux is 7/4 favourite to follow in the hoof-steps of Kauto Star and land a hat-trick in the King George, although Paul Nicholls’ inmate might not get it all his own way with a stellar field on show.
Cyrname bombed at Kempton 12 months ago but produced a taking comeback to win the Charlie Hall in October, and connections seem positive of an improved performance this time around.
He’s 15/8 second-favourite ahead of 2019 Gold Cup runner-up Santini at 11/2, with Lostintranslation and Monalee available at 8/1 apiece, although the inclusion of the latter is in doubt.
Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase (14:30, Sun 27th Dec)
The Desert Orchid has been a bit of a nothing race in the recent past, but that’s not the case this time around with Altior and Put The Kettle On set to lock horns in a fascinating renewal.
The former skipped the Betfair Chase on account of poor ground which means this will be the first run the two-time Champion Chase winner has had since February 2020.
With question marks over Altior’s age, fitness and preparedness, last season’s Arkle winner Put The Kettle On will be on hand to clean up if there’s anything amiss with the favourite.
Coral Welsh National (14:50, Sun 27th Dec)
The Coral Welsh National is a more testing affair than getting through Christmas Day without having a row with the family, and that means it requires a horse with extreme stamina.
Our traders reckon Secret Reprieve has the tools for the job after hacking up in the Chepstow Trial, although he’s yet to prove his stamina the 3m 6½f distance on offer here.
Truckers Lodge finished runner-up in the race 12 months ago and is expected to go close once again, while our old favourite Yala Enki has hit the frame in each of the last two seasons and is worth a look each-way.
Savills Steeplechase (15:00, Mon 28th Dec)
Plenty of familiar names are in contention to win the usual red-hot renewal of the Savills Chase, with last season’s RSA runner-up Minella Indo the favourite with our traders.
Henry De Bromhead’s star was chinned up the Cheltenham hill in March but looks every bit a Gold Cup horse in waiting after back-to-back Graded wins at Wexford and Navan.
The good news for him is that he won’t have to face Champ, who is being re-routed from Leopardstown, although there’s still plenty of stiff competition to judge him against.
Presenting Percy looked back to his old-self at Thurles last time out, Delta Work ran a cracker in the Gold Cup, while the likes of Kemboy, The Storyteller and A Plus Tard can’t be discounted either.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing