I do loathe and despise Christmas, it is horrible, insincere, phoney and the only good thing about it all is that the agony will end and we have some great racing to look forward to over the next few days.
Every year The Booby and I head to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle and King George VI Chase at Kempton. I always love the Welsh National at Chepstow and there are plenty of Festival pointers from the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, all leading up to the Cheltenham meeting on New Year’s day which is a great way to put the madness of Christmas behind us and look forward to 2016.
Here’s my round up of the Festive fixtures:
Christmas Hurdle, December 26, 2.35pm
Another heart and head race for me. My head says “the machine” Faugheen will bounce back from his surprise defeat at the hands of Nicholls Canyon at Punchestown in November, but his hanging all the way up the straight suggests that he was physically hurting. However as a big fan of The New One I would love to see him turn up on Boxing Day and put it to the favourite. It does seem a long time since he won at Kempton back in October. My Tent Or Yours, Hargam and Irving are all in the mix too, so will be a great race to shake off the Christmas blues.
MAC’S TIP: The New One
Racing Post Novice Chase, December 26: L’town 2:55pm
The highlight of the first day at Leopardstown and this race looks likely to be dominated by Douvan who has looked equally impressive over fences as he did when winning the Supreme Novices’ at the Festival. A slight mistake at the last at Navan did not halt his progress and he was well in command, he was very impressive in his jumping and seemed to attack the fences with relish. I can only see him improve race-by-race up to March. Henry De Bromhead’s Sizing John is is a big threat and was third to Douvan in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and two decent wins over fences so far.
Jessica Harrington’s Ttebbob is probably still under the radar in the UK but has being going through the gears nicely in Ireland and is progressive. Both have a a bit to find on the favourite still though and I can’t see it happening.
MAC’S TIP: Douvan
King George VI Chase, December 26: Kempton 3.10pm
I am a huge Don Cossack fan and signed off last season by destroyed the field by 26 lengths in the Melling Chase At Aintree to with Cue Card in his wake. He was super-impressive. Yes Cue Card has come back far stronger this season and the breathing op has done the trick for him. The way he won the Charlie Hall and then the Betfair Chase beating Silviniaco Conti by seven lengths makes him the one to fear on current form.
What about Vautour ? Well I am sure he will be far fitter than when labouring to victory at Ascot over Ptit Zig but what was more of a worry was his tendency to edge left when jumping, there must be question marks over him going right-handed around Kempton in a far more competitive race.
So I will be opposing him, no matter what positive remarks come out of the Mullins’ yard. Of the others the one I really like is Smad Place, who won the Hennessy with consummate ease at Newbury beating Fingal Bay at this track at the start of November he may offer real each-way value against the top of the market and would be my recommendation for each-way players. It should be a cracker.
MAC’S TIPS: Don Cossack to win Alternative: Smad Place each-way
Paddy Power Ipad App, Leopardstown: December 27, 1:15pm
Another race dominated by Willie Mullins in the form of Un De Sceaux who won the Arkle in style at The Festival and looked to have lost none of his talent when making his seasonal reappearance at Punchestown in the Ryanair Novice Chase, although he was careful at some of the fences, he still won comfortably and will be even sharper for this race. It is difficult to see any of these getting close to him.
MAC’S TIP: Un De Sceaux
Welsh Grand National, Chepstow, December 27, Chepstow 2.35pm
Chepstow is usually a real test at this time of year and this year looks no different, for a wide open Welsh National. However the Nigel Twiston-Davies entry Cogry is a dogged galloper, has bags of stamina and all the noises out of Grange Hill Farm have been very positive.
The yard knows how to get one ready with first Earth Summit, a three time course winner including the 1997 Welsh National and then Bindaree winning at Chepstow three times and the Welsh National in 2003. So I will have a small each way flutter on him this year.
MAC’S TIP: Cogry
Paddy Power Chase, Leopardstown: December 27, 2.55pm
JP McManus likes to target this race and already has two at the head of the betting already in Minella Foru and Gilgamboa. The latter was third on his seasonal debut to Djakadam in the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase and although he carries plenty of weight he is a Grade One winner (Fairyhouse last year) running in a handicap. The trip is an unknown but could just be worth chancing over the 3m as he is the class horse in the race. There’ll be 20-odd runners or more and you could get 8/1 the field on the day so each-way bets could be the play especially if Paddy goes 5 places.
Lexus Chase, Leopardstown, December 28, 3.05pm
We have the prospect of a battle royal in this year’s Lexus with Don Poli and Djakadam clashing. Both are unbeaten at Leopardstown but Don Poli gets my vote after his Topaz Novice Chase win last year here and the way he galloped up the hill at Cheltenham to win the RSA Chase which was hugely impressive. He looked a little less impressive on his seasonal reappearance but got the job done at Aintree earlier this month and forged clear at the end of the race. He is sure to be fitter for that run.
MAC’S TIP: Don Poli
Paddy Power Chase: Leopardstown, December 29, 1.55pm
I am nailing my colours to the mast of the Ted Walsh trained Champagne James who looks to have been targeted at this race, with a couple of runs over fences to start the season over trips which looked inadequate he will arrive at Leopardstown on a very winnable mark and the step up to 3m should bring out the best out in him.
MAC’S TIP: Champagne James
Ryanair Hurdle: Leopardstown, December 29, 2.30pm
As I spoke about earlier Nichols Canyon did the business against the mighty Faugheen at Punchestown and if he can repeat that performance he has to be on the shortlist in this race. Arctic Fire was a bit of a nearly horse last term, always seeming to find one too good up against the very best in the likes of Hurricane Fly and Faugheen.
However, he has come back this year with two wins from his two runs at Navan and Fairyhouse, although you could certainly argue they were not quite the quality he will face today. I am going for Identity Thief who is another real improver this season and from the look of his win at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth when he battled it out with Top Notch and had Wicklow Brave and Irving well behind, he could have plenty more improvement to come.