Our racing expert Ben Linfoot has four Christmas crackers for you at Kempton on Boxing Day including in the Christmas Hurdle and Kauto Star Novices' Chase.
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The Ladbrokes King George VI Chase (3.05) headlines the Boxing Day action at Kempton and it’s all set up to be a thriller with some superb young chasers clashing along with the veteran Thistlecrack.
He’s one of two former winners in the race with last year’s hero, Clan Des Obeaux, also back for more, but this looks a tougher renewal than either former winner won in the past thanks to the presence of Cyrname and Lostintranslation.
These two could both end up being rated 180-plus come the season’s end and that’s something I think the four other horses will struggle to deal with on Boxing Day.
If it does develop into a showdown between the top two in the market I expect Lostintranslation to prevail.
While Cyrname has proven himself over 2m5f, he’s yet to tackle three miles and, while I don’t particularly feel he won’t stay, if he’s as good over three miles remains to be seen.
We know how good Lostintranslation is over three miles and more, as he showed us in the Betfair Chase when beating Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai, and there could be more to come from him yet.
He’s a brilliant jumper and jockey Robbie Power is riding with confidence. He can track Cyrname and pounce late in the piece, but it’s just fingers crossed the King George field serves up a Christmas cracker.
WATCH: King George VI Chase video betting preview
Whether Nicholls wins the King George or not, he could have a good day at Kempton anyway as he’s got some interesting runners on the undercard starting with GETAWAY TRUMP in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (2.30) at 9/1 (William Hill, Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power).
This horse is reverting from novice chasing and that’s not a surprise, as he travelled with his usual zest on both runs at Cheltenham but showed scant regard for his fences on occasions.
Certainly, two from home last time he basically ran through the fence and it knocked all the stuffing out of him, but he travelled like the winner prior to the mistake.
It looks like Nicholls will now preserve his novice status until next season but he wouldn’t be the first horse to blossom returned to timber and he was developing into a really fluent hurdler in the spring.
He skipped over them at Sandown when giving Greatwood winner Harambe a stone and a beating and on that form this strong traveller has got a chance in an open Christmas Hurdle.
Fusil Raffles heads the betting but all of his potential is factored into his odds, while stablemate Verdana Blue wants better ground with at least some good in it to be at her best.
Epatante won a handicap off 137 last time so this is a huge step up, while the market looks to have got that International Hurdle form (Ballyandy, Ch’tibello, Elixir De Nutz) about right.
Earlier on the card it could be worth chancing Nicholls’ ENVOYE SPECIAL at 16/1 (General) in the Ladbrokes ‘Where The Nation Plays’ Chase (1.20).
He was given a mark of 137 when he came over from France and he was sixth in this race last year on his second start for Nicholls, before he returned to Kempton over two miles in March where he was second off 132.
That was a promising run and he had wind surgery in the summer before returning at Sandown in November where he shaped much better than a 27-length sixth suggests.
He was still bang in contention at the Pond Fence and had coped with the Railway fences well, but when he lost his pitch at the turn for home Bryony Frost let him come home in his own time.
Dropped another couple of pounds for that, he’s beginning to look well treated off 129 and Lorcan Williams takes another 3lb off as well.
If he comes on for that seasonal reappearance it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see him in contention and it’s worth a roll of the dice at 16s that he can take advantage of his sliding mark.
Nicholls could win the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (1.55), too, as he’s double-handed with Danny Whizzbang and Master Tommytucker, but the pair have been well found in the market considering their respective achievements.
Slate House is the one to beat, but the one that has been underestimated by the betting is Fergal O’Brien’s JARVEYS PLATE and he’s well worth chancing at 16/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power).
He’s a little bit in and out but he looks very good on a going day as he showed when winning a Cheltenham novice hurdle by 13 lengths last season, while he beat subsequent winner Reverse Tank on his chasing debut, too.
Sent off 7/4 for a graduation chase at Haydock after that, he travelled into contention quite nicely before reaching for the fourth last, a mistake that ended his challenge.
He’s worth forgiving that, especially now he’s back at level weights over three miles, a trip that could really bring out the best in him.
A former point-to-pointer that’s bred for a trip, this is his first go over three miles under Rules and the cheekpieces are there to presumably try and help him travel with these Grade One horses.
If he’s still there three out there’s a chance he could outstay these rivals and 16/1 looks too big on the back of that one disappointing blip last time.
This is only his third chase start, after all, and it’s too early to be dismissing him from a race like this just yet.
Finally, Alan King’s Mr Pumblechook has been backed into favouritism for the closing Ladbrokes Football ‘Acca-Boosty’ Handicap Hurdle (3.40) but his stablemate ELYSEES shouldn’t be forgotten about at 14/1 (General).
He had an uninspiring two-run Flat campaign but he’s better over hurdles and is dead interesting now he steps up in trip to 2m5f.
With five runs over timber under his belt the furthest he’s gone is 2m3f at Newbury and he ran on really well to finish a close-up fourth under top weight that day after being outpaced.
That was off 132, so up just 2lb he’s of interest now he tackles another two furlongs and four-year-olds have a great record in this race, winning in the last five years they’ve had representation.
Posted at 1410 GMT on 24/12/19
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