My Tent is better than your One
Jack Nicol's horse-by-horse guide to Boxing Day's William Hill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park.
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My Tent Or Yours
Impressed when winning on reappearance in the Fighting Fifth last month, and while much has been made of the fact he pulls quite hard in his races, the flat-bred six-year-old is all speed and should be ideally suited to Kempton's flat track here.
The Desert Prince gelding was a top class novice last season and made a mockery of the Betfair Hurdle field when posting a hugely impressive five-length victory against more experienced rivals in February, a performance which earned him an official BHA rating of 162 and in turn raised questions about a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle instead of the Supreme.
It could be argued that connections made the wrong decision when they chose to take the sensible option and keep My Tent Or Yours on the novice route, as he contested one of the best renewals of the Supreme in many years when finishing second to Champagne Fever with subsequent Grade One winners Jezki and Un Atout in third and fourth respectively.
Switching back to Kempton and Nicky Henderson's charge should come on appreciably for his run at Gosforth Park last month; he seems to settle a lot more in his races now and is the one they all have to beat on Boxing Day.
The New One
Made a pleasing debut at this track in October but questions can be raised over the reliability of that performance with main rival, Rock On Ruby, since being switched to fences following a lacklustre effort back in second.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' five-year-old won a messy renewal of the International Hurdle on his next start but it was encouraging to see the horse quicken away up the hill, after appearing to idle after the last as Zarkandar made a final challenge.
That effort came just 12 days ago and it is a fairly quick turn out for the King's Theatre gelding with connections probably wanting a bit more time between races, however, there aren't many races between now and Cheltenham for the horse and their hand seems to have been forced.
But the Neptune Novices' Hurdle winner, who has now won nine of his 12 career starts, seems to take his racing well and has made quick reappearances in the past and is the other side of the match with My Tent Or Yours.
Will pick up some handy prize money if able to complete but even that's not guaranteed.
By far and away the most interesting runner outside the big two. Third in the 2012 Triumph before winning a Grade One at Aintree, he was off the track for almost a year until returning to action in the spring but connections have had a clear run with him coming into this season. Ran well for a long way in the Fighting Fifth until tiring close home and he can reasonably be expected to derive considerable improvement from that run. The winner did it easily though and it would be a shade surprising if he can bridge the gap at this stage of the season and there are concerns regarding the stable's form.
Duke Of Navan
Useful sort in his first season over hurdles and entitled to improve for his reappearance in the Fighting Fifth but impossible to see him turning the form around with the winner.
A 17 length third in the Triumph Hurdle behind Our Conor is a reasonable reflection of his ability. He has, however, returned to action in terrific form, only going down narrowly in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, without suggesting that he's capable of making the necessary improvement to trouble the principals.
This eagerly-anticipated race has developed into high profile clash between MY TENT OR YOURS and The New One with preference with the former.
It is good to see both horses stand their ground for what looks an intriguing contest in a week where the Champion Hurdle picture will become a whole lot clearer with the running of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday as Hurricane Fly, Our Conor and Jezki are set to lock horns.
My Tent Or Yours has had this race as his mid-season target for a while now while The New One was always being aimed at the International Hurdle ahead of this engagement. As it is, Nigel Twiston-Davies' runner makes a sharp reappearance in a race which is likely to turn into a tactical affair.
The outcome of the race is likely to be shaped around the actions of AP McCoy and how he goes about blunting the turn of foot from The New One.
Nicky Henderson's six-year-old is likely to have too much speed though, and he can stamp his class ahead of a tilt at the Champion Hurdle in March.
It is hard to get away from the fact that this is likely to be a match between both My Tent Or Yours and The New One but the former's speed is likely to give him the advantage in what is probably going to be a tactical affair.