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Ruby Walsh: Here’s 10 to watch out for over the Christmas Festivals

Top jock Ruby Walsh marks your card on some of the contenders as the Christmas Festivals loom into view

by Ruby Walsh | December 2, 2013

1. Sir Des Champs (Willie Mullins)

Fell at the third in the the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on December 8 so effectively goes into the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28th making his seasonal debut. Won an Irish Hennessy before finding Bobs Worth too good in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Looks great after his summer break and I think he can build on last year’s second by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup this term.

2. Champagne Fever (Willie Mullins)

Won well on his debut over fences at Puncherstown. A tough and gutsy winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle – thanks to me – and has schooled well over fences. It’s a division he’s made for and could be an Arkle contender.

3. Just A Par (Paul Nicholls)

Made up for a disappointing run at Chepstow when winning well at Newbury last week.  A lovely, big chasing type, so should excel in the staying novice division over the larger obstacles this term. I might regret leaving him behind.

4. At Fishers Cross (Rebecca Curtis)

Runs at Ascot on Saturday after fluffed his lines a bit at Newbury. Was the best staying novice last year, progressing through handicaps to win graded novice races at Cheltenham and Aintree. Until Big Buck’s runs no one will be certain if he has retained his ability. Even if he has Rebecca Curtis’s runner could be the one to beat in the Stayers’ hurdle.

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5. Simonsig (Nicky Henderson)

Nicky Henderson confirmed that his season is over now but the plan is to aim him for the King George VI Chase in 2014. His ‘worst performance’ was his Arkle win last March when he ran very free. Having followed him around enough, I’d love to be on him when he steps up to three miles. Won’t be for another season now though.

6. Hurricane Fly (Willie Mullins)

Do I need to elaborate? Won ugly at Punchestown but that was his 17th Grade One wins was secured in the Morgiana Hurdle. A three-peat in the Champion Hurdle on March 11 will be his main target again. Priced up as favourite for the Ryanair Hurdle on Dec 29 at Leopardstown where he could face Our Conor, Jezki and one or two English challengers.

7. Boston Bob (Willie Mullins)

Looks like he’ll be be aimed at the World Hurdle now after a setback and could reappear at Christmas. Somewhat unlucky last year and tipped up at the last when a length up in the RSA Chase. He only really blossomed in March for some reason but looks better than he ever did this season and has a nice handicap mark.

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8. Annie Power (Willie Mullins)

Remains unbeaten after winning the Grade 2 hurdle Ascot from Zarkandar.  Next up could be the 3m Woddiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. No-one knows how good she could be. My advice would to be with her rather than against her this season.

9. My Tent or Yours (Nicky Henderson)

Did the job satisfactorily in the Fighting Fifth hurdle and I’d expect him to improve for the run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Can take a fierce hold but if learning to settle – and he’ll need to – with age he could become England’s leading champion hurdle hope. Won the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle in a canter and started a short-priced fav for the Supreme Novice Hurdle. Finishing second in the Supreme Novice behind Champagne Fever before bolting in at Aintree.

10.  Marito (Willie Mullins)

A very good second to Hurricane Fly in the Morgiana Hurdle on his seasonal debut. Won a few novices chases last season and wasn’t finished with when falling two out in the Jewson Novice Chase at Cheltenham and looks to have a mark that he could win off. Has an entry in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas. Might well be the right side of the handicapper for a two and half mile chase so put him in your horsetracker.

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