Simon Holt previews the key Boxing Day action at Kempton and Wetherby

Don't miss Simon Holt's latest preview
Don't miss Simon Holt's latest preview

Recommended bets: Boxing Day

1pt win Coneygree in 3.05 Kempton at 33/1

1pt win Ballyandy in 3.40 Kempton at SP

1pt win Wakanda in 2.10 Wetherby at 4/1

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

THIS year's 32Red King George V1 Chase, the traditional centrepiece of the Christmas racing action at Kempton on Boxing Day, looks wide open, and a chance is taken on the 11-year-old CONEYGREE rolling back the years.

The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner's career has been punctuated by long absences but, when his unfortunate fragility doesn't get the better of him, he remains a serious chaser.

It was only three runs ago, in April 2017, that Coneygree put up a superbly game effort behind Sizing John and Djakadam at Punchestown and, while he bombed out in two starts last season, he returned with a great deal of vigour at Cheltenham last month when showing much of his old zest and jumping tremendously well until weakening into third behind Rock The Kasbah.

Off a mark of 160 and 11st12lb top weight, that was a more than creditable effort and, having flown round this course as a novice, he looks quite capable of serving it up to some younger and better-fancied rivals who all have questions to answer.

Many people make the mistake of assuming that the King George, run on such a flat course, is not a stamina race, but the pace is invariably un-relenting and, typically, the non-stayers fall away from the home turn.

On this subject, both Politologue and Waiting Patiently need to prove they can stay. Both have recorded decent victories on the course and they are arguably the two most progressive horses in the field, but the trip is an unknown.

Of the more established performers who ran in last month's Betfair Chase at Haydock, it is hard to know what to expect. The winner Bristol De Mai, disappointing in this race last year, is unbeatable at Haydock but less reliable elsewhere.

Last season's Gold Cup winner Native River was in top gear all the way that day but, as usual, battled away to the line. Colin Tizzard's admirable stayer will be well fancied by many here but, on his only previous visit to Kempton, he jumped away to the left and his best performances have generally come on big, left-handed courses.

Stable-companion Thistlecrack, winner of the 2016 King George (and without a victory since), pleased connections with his third to Bristol De Mai and is clearly no back number if unlikely to be the force of that golden year when he won seven times including at Cheltenham and Aintree.

With all due respect to Clan Des Obeaux (fourth at Haydock) and last year's runner-up Double Shuffle and third Tea For Two, both of whom have been below that form since, the other serious if perplexing candidate is Might Bite.

A short-priced favourite and not overly impressive when beating the aforementioned pair here 12 months ago, Nicky Henderson's handsome and usually brilliant jumper may have run the race of his life in that epic duel with Native River at Cheltenham in March after which he slammed Bristol De Mai, Clan Des Obeaux, Tea For Two and Double Shuffle at Aintree.

But how to explain away Might Bite's shocking failure in the Betfair Chase when fading tamely approaching the final fence? It is difficult to support him here after a performance like that, while acknowledging that he could still be the class act in the field.

In the 32Red Download The App Handicap Hurdle which concludes the card, top weight BALLYANDY may have a class edge.

A disappointment over fences, although he was travelling well before being hampered four out in last month's BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham, the seven-year-old was a smart hurdler winning the Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Newbury in February, 2017 after which he started joint favourite for the Supreme Novices at the Cheltenham Festival.

It is interesting to reflect on what appeared to be a slightly under-whelming fourth behind Labaik that day given that subsequent Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon finished second, River Wylde third and the now 150+rated Cilaos Emery was back in fifth.

Any close reproduction of that effort would give Ballyandy a great chance here despite his big weight but off a rating of 142.

Meanwhile, at Wetherby, WAKANDA is fancied to make it third-time lucky in the racingtv.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase.

Sue Smith's steely chaser has finished second in the last two runnings and, in hindsight, ran a tremendous race when splitting Definitly Red and Blaklion here in 2016.

Last year, Wakanda was only just denied by an on-song Get On The Yager in a bunch finish but then went onto prevail at Doncaster beating the recent Aintree winner Warriors Tale with a well-handicapped L'Ami Serge in third.

For the first time since 2014, Smith gave the nine-year-old a run over hurdles here just over a fortnight ago on his seasonal debut and, having shaped well enough under top weight then at an inadequate two miles, he should be spot on now for another bold bid.


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