Thursday, December 24, 2009

Boxing Day selections

The weather is likely to have its say with many of the scheduled cards, so I've concentrated on the King George meeting at Kempton and added a couple of observations for Wincanton which doesn't have an inspection planned at the time of writing.

My local Ladbrokes has a big sign in the window, encouraging punters to come in and have a bet on 'Kauto Star Day'. I'm a Kauto Star fan and hope to see the great horse win the King George for the fourth time but I won't be backing him at 4/7. I'm going to bet an each-way chance at bigger odds and the three that make most appeal are Barbers Shop, Deep Purple and Nacarat. Nicky Henderson's Barbers Shop finished fourth in the Hennessy and has plenty to find on official ratings but this three mile trip should suit better; 18/1 in places is tempting. Deep Purple proved he stays three miles when winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and has since won a competitive-looking Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon. This is a step up but the handicapper rates him the fourth best horse in the race (behind Kauto, Imperial Commander and Madison Du Berlais). The stable is in form - 14/1 is generally available. I've a mention for front-runner Nacarat as Tom George's stable jockey Sam Thoams has chosen this one rather than Tartak. Nacarat won the Racing Post Chase over course and distance in impressive fashion last February. He clearly likes Kempton but his two runs this season have been dismal; having said that, Tom George's yard is firing again now. I've already taken out a small interest in Barbers Shop; looking at the above, the percentage each-way call appears to be Deep Purple.

The Christmas Hurdle (2.30) is intriguing. Binocular is the best horse in the race but he disappointed badly in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle the last time, a race won by Go Native who reopposes here. That race was something of a tactical affair; once again it's not immediately obvious where the pace will come from. A mention for Starluck, a speedy course and distance winner; he's a horse I like but as a four-year-old looks up against it. The word is Binocular is back to his best but I'm tempted to go with Go Native - Noel Meade has won this race in the past with Harchibald (twice) and Jazz Messenger.

Many will think the Feltham (1.55) is there for Nicky Henderson's French purchase Long Run, receiving weight from all his rivals; the owner's son takes the ride. Having had my fingers burnt in this particular race on a couple of occasions in the past, I'll watch from the sidelines; the Kempton fences are plenty stiff enough for novices learning their trade.

Bellvano, currently second favourite behind Dunguib for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, is likely to be a short price in the opener. Inventor beat King Olav one and a quarter lengths at Ascot seven weeks ago (Manyriverstocross third); on the bare form King Olav might be expected to reverse placings eight pounds better off but the winner won well enough. Philip Hobbs' Menorah is well regarded and didn't appear to appreciate the set up in trip the last time while course and distance winner Cootehill is likely to race from the front. The winner has come from the first three in the betting eight times in last nine years; Bellvano is the one to beat but I'm going to play King Olav each-way if the price is big enough.

At Wincanton Nick Gifford's Royal Wedding is noted in the 2.20 although the yard hasn't had a winner for well over a month. Some interesting runners in the 3.25 - Ashkazar was sixth in the Boylesports International at Cheltenham a fortnight ago. Venetia Williams, another who hasn't been in the best of form, fields four, stable jockey Aidan Coleman opting for Chief Yeoman. Aachen is well regarded but in contrast to most of his opponents this is his first run since the spring. In the concluding bumper I'd be tempted to take a chance with Megastar if not priced up favourite - the last time he had Nicky Henderson's Master Of The Hall back in fourth and that one has won since; the jock's seven pound claim offsets the penalty incurred for the win.


Noel Bell said...

Hey GeeDee I like Go Native too.

GeeDee said...

Hi Noel - fingers crossed... ;)

Whatever happens, have a happy Christmas - G.

GeeDee said...

Kauto Star (8/13f) went into the history books by becoming the first horse to win the King George on four consecutive occasions. The great horse didn't just win, he trounced a high-class field, beating his nearest pursuer Madison Du Berlais a distance. This was surely his best ever performance in this race. They took no prisoners up front with Nacarat and Ollie Magern setting a fearsome pace; coming to the home turn, the brave Nacarart (25/1) had shaken off all bar the favourite but simply had no answer to the class of the winner. KS is now as low as 5/4 with some layers for the Gold Cup next March - most go 12/1 bar two for that showpiece. Deep Purple (opened 14/1, sent off 17/2) lost his place as they raced past the stands on the first occasion and was pulled up shortly afterwards; it transpired he had broken a blood vessel. Barbers Shop (14/1) finished a length behind Madison in third with Nacarat back in fourth.
Go Native (5/2) won the Christmas Hurdle by a fast-diminishing short head from Starluck (100/30), with Binocular (11/8f) one and a quarter lengths further away in third. As they came to the last, Davy Condon sent his mount on, but the winner idled in front and gave supporters (myself included) plenty of anxiety on the run to the line. In the post-race interview the jock apologised to trainer Noel Meade - Paul Carberry is likely to be in the plate when connections attempt to claim the £1 million bonus put up by by winning the Champion Hurdle in March.
The four-year-old Long Run (11/8f) won the Feltham but his jumping left plenty to be desired. There's no denying the horse is a fine prospect but this didn't look the hottest renewal - I'm reserving judgement.
Philip Hobbs' Menorah (7/2) took the opener in impressive style, beating Bellvano (8/11f) twelve lengths, with the rest of the field nowhere; Bellvano is no longer quoted for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle while the winner is generally a 12/1 chance. King Olav (16/1) was left for dead three out, finishing a remote sixth.
At Wincanton Venetia Williams claimed a welcome double with Plein Pouvoir and Green Belt Elite. In the bumper 6/4 favourite Megastar could find no answer to shock 33/1 winner Johnny Mullen, going down by two and a quarter lengths - the winner could be worth keeping an eye on.