There’s no doubt that the King George VI Chase is the showpiece on Boxing Day, but the supporting card at Kempton is pretty good, too, with two additional Grade 1 contests being televised, along with a competitive-looking novices’ handicap chase and the Rowland Meyrick from Wetherby.
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This year’s renewal of the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle (2.35) looks very strong indeed, and Countrywide Flame will do for many following his emphatic victory over the re-opposing Cinders And Ashes in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
I am a fan of John Quinn’s charge, but I reckon his colours will be lowered at Kempton on Boxing Day by DARLAN who represents the same owner-trainer-jockey combination that tasted success in this race last year and in 2010 with Binocular.
The five-year-old quickly emerged as a leading novice last season and was travelling well when falling at the second-last in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February prior to chasing home Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
In my opinion, Darlan was beaten at Cheltenham not by a better horse, but by a stronger stayer. The selection went on to score at Aintree in good style the following month, looking more at home on that sharp, flat track than the undulations of Prestbury Park.
In essence, I reckon Nicky Henderson’s charge will have too much speed for Cinders And Ashes and Countrywide Flame at Kempton, while Raya Star and Dodging Bullets, talented though they are, will need to raise their game to trouble the ‘big three’ in this contest.
DYNASTE is hard to oppose in the Kauto Star Feltham Novices’ Chase (2.00), but won’t be much of a price and a more appealing betting medium is the William Hill – Download The App Novices’ Handicap Chase (1.35).
COOLE RIVER ran a fine race on debut for Emma Lavelle at Wincanton this month when returning from a lengthy absence. Though that was his first start over fences, he jumped like an old hand and only gave way to Grandioso close home. He will be sharper this time and looks well handicapped judged on his hurdles form in Ireland.
The Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby (1.45) will be a real slog and it can pay to side with the progressive BALLYOLIVER who handles plenty of cut in the ground and hails from a yard going great guns at present.
1.25 Coole River
3.10 Cue Card