By William Hill
Last Updated: 24th December 2019
For racing fans, aside from the Cheltenham Festival, the festive period is arguably the best time of the year. With high-class action from both sides of the Irish sea, there is something for everyone and here is our look ahead to the best bets during this jam-packed few days.
King George VI Chase
If people are feeling a bit blue post-Christmas then the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is sure to get the heart pumping again. Though only a select field of six are set to go to post, it’s a top-class group with 16 Grade Ones between them. Paul Nicholls is responsible for two of the first three in the betting, with his Christy 1965 Chase winner Cyrname likely to go off favourite at around 13/8.
The seven-year-old has been a revelation in 2019, reeling off three consecutive victories at Ascot at a combined winning distance of over 40 lengths. Having beaten Champion Chaser Altior convincingly last time, he has every right to be favourite here, though given this is the first time he has tackled three miles, there has to be a slight doubt whether he’ll see out this trip. There’s no real reason to suggest he won’t and if he does, he’ll be very tough to beat. However it’s a big enough concern to pass him up and instead it’s Lostintranslation who gets the vote.
Though he was a solid-enough hurdler (second in a Grade One at Aintree), Colin Tizzard’s son of Flemensfirth was always viewed as a chaser in the making and spent the first half of 2019 battling Defi Du Seuil over middle distances. He got the better of that rival on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham before twice being beaten in the Scilly Isles and JLT. He was then stepped up to three miles for the first time and the extra distance seemed to work wonders as he won the Mildmay Novices’ Chase by six lengths.
He begun this season with a routine victory at Carlisle and was victorious in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, beating Bristol De Mai. Everyone knows Bristol De Mai’s record around there, so it was an incredible performance and should have put him spot on for this. He still has a bit to find in terms of ratings with Cyrname, but this is a chaser going places and he can take this at 15/8 before heading to the Gold Cup in March.
Binocular, Darlan, My Tent Or Yours, Yanworth and most recently Buveur D’Air. Owner J.P. McManus has dominated the Christmas Hurdle in recent years and he can win it again with the improving mare Epatante.
Firstly, we have to be honest and say this isn’t a vintage Grade One, with a number in here having questions to answer ahead of the Boxing Day race. Fusil Raffles will probably go off favourite and although he’s unbeaten since moving to the Nicky Henderson yard, he looks a weak favourite based on what he’s actually done. He was an impressive winner of the Adonis at Kempton on his British debut, though the form of that win is questionable and while he won a Grade One at Punchestown, the form is again open to debate. He did beat Arkle favourite Fakir D’oudairies there, but given he was made to work hard to beat 252-rated Grand Sancy in the Elite Hurdle on his seasonal reappearance, he looks very short at 7/4 and must be taken on.
He might spearhead the Henderson challenge, but Epatante can be the one to give the Seven Barrows handler a third consecutive win in the race. She came over from France with a lofty reputation and having won two races in comfortable fashion at Kempton and Exeter, she was sent off favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, where she finished a disappointing ninth. The undulating track probably didn’t suit her there and she showed her liking to a flat one when a good six-length winner of a Listed intermediate hurdle at Newbury at the end of November. The handicapper raised her 13 pounds for that win so clearly thought she was better value than the winning margin suggests and she looks ready to strut her stuff in deeper waters here.
Being a mare, she gets seven pounds from her rivals and she looks the bet at 5/1.