King George and Kempton betting special: Ultimate guide, tips and predictions for massive Christmas cracker

CHRISTMAS might not look the same this year, but at least the top-class racing looks as good as ever.

From Boxing Day we have a feast to enjoy. The King George, the return of Altior and Grade 1s galore in Ireland all play a starring role.

The Ladbrokes King George, Saturday 26th, 3.00pm

ACE jockey Bryony Frost will be going  Fro a slice of history as she bids to become the first girl to be the King George queen.

Brilliant Bryony raised the roof when she won her first Grade 1 on Frodon at the Cheltenham Festival.

And many will start to believe in Christmas miracles if the eight-year-old sweeps red-hot Frost to Kempton glory.

Frost, 25, said: “Everyone knows how much I love this horse. He’s my best pal and it will be a dream to ride him in one of the biggest races of the year.

“He gave me a great day when we won the  Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last year when we beat Keeper Hill. He also won a novice chase at the track in 2017 so we know he likes the place.”

Although the bookies have Frodon as the 25-1 outsider of the four Paul Nicholls runners, Frost is confident he will give a good account of himself.

She said: “Of course it’s a very hot race  — it always is — but Frodon deserves his place in the line-up. He is a Grade 1 winner and is only rated 3lb behind horses like Clan Des Obeaux and Lostintranslation so he must have a solid each-way chance at the least.

“I have ridden him at home and he is squealing and in great health.”


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Frodon had a rare off day on his last run at Aintree earlier this month when he trailed home 82 lengths behind the winner in the Many Clouds Chase. However Frost is confident he will bounce back to his best.

She said:  “The ground was very tacky between the fences at Aintree and I know some people say I’m making excuses, but it’s a race that just didn’t happen for us.

“We will push it under the carpet and he has come out of it great. He is all heart so we will take our chances.

“Cheltenham seems like a long time ago now but the memory of that day, when he picked me up and told me ‘don’t give up’ is etched in my mind. To win the King George would be amazing. I know we are big outsiders but I know with Frodon anything is possible.”

Dual winner Clan Des Obeaux and stablemate Cyrname are joint favourites at 7-4.

Last year Clan Des Obeaux beat Cyrname by 21 lengths but trainer Paul Nicholls is struggling to pick between his star pair.

He said: “Cyrname has had a different preparation this year. It has been a good couple of months since he won the Charlie Hall.

“Last year he had a hard race first up and he was nowhere near his best for the King George.

“There is not much between Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux at all.

“We’ve got two fantastic horses this year — as well as Real Steel and Frodon. It’s a great team."

PREDICTION – 1. Cyrname 2. Clan Des Obeaux 3. Real Steel

Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle, Saturday 26th, 2.25pm

ANOTHER Nicky Henderson star should take the leading role here.

Epatante already looks miles clear in this division and she will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in the Grade 1.

Henderson has won the race a staggering nine times through the years and it looks the perfect stepping-stone on to a potential Champion Hurdle defence.

Her trainer said: “Everything has gone very well since her win in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

“It was an unsatisfactory race with Not So Sleepy causing chaos but this was always the route we were going to take.

“I know that only a really good performance is going to satisfy the pundits here.

“What makes these elite hurdlers so special is their technique. She is over them before you can blink.

“It’s natural talent, you’ve either got it or you haven’t.”

Epatante is likely to face off with old rivals Sceau Royal, Silver Streak and Ballyandy.

Added into the mix could be Gary Moore’s Goshen who would be on a major retrieval mission following his Cheltenham flop.

But barring a Christmas miracle it should really be a tenth victory in the race for Henderson and co.

PREDICTION – 1. Epatante 2. Silver Streak

Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase, Sunday 27th, 2.30pm

AFTER the late Tingle Creek no show, Altior has been re-routed to this Grade 2 at Kempton.

And his trainer Nicky Henderson is desperate to prove he is still the best around.

“The stats will tell you he’s still the best horse in this division,” reported his handler this week.

He does have questions to answer over age and fitness, but if he returns close to his best he should wipe the floor with these.

Henderson added: “He’s only ever been beaten once over fences.

“We thought what we did at Sandown was right and I don’t regret that. But he will run this time, I have no worries.

“He’s got a point to prove I know that, there are doubters out there, but we’re very happy with where we are.

“After Sandown I said it was a shame people didn’t get to see him, so it makes it even sadder that there will be no crowd at Kempton.”

But it will be far from an easy post-Christmas stroll for Henderson’s star.

Arkle and Shloer winner Put The Kettle On is hoping to make the trip for Henry De Bromhead and the likes of Rouge Vif and Duc Des Genievres will also take aim.

PREDICTION – 1. Altior 2. Put The Kettle On

Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novice’s Chase, Sunday 27th, 1.20pm

AFTER a perfect ‘ten out of ten’ on his chasing debut, Shishkin takes a step up in class in the Wayward Lad.

The horse is about as exciting a talent as we have to look forward to in Britain, hopefully for years to come.

But these reputations can burst in an instant and he won’t have it as easy as he did on his first start over the bigger obstacles.

Philip Hobbs could run Gumball, and the likes of Tamaroc Du Mathan and Quick Grabim are credible threats.

His trainer, Nicky Henderson, said of last year’s Supreme winner: “This is the same route Altior took.

“But that’s where the comparisons begin and end at the moment.

“But he is a gorgeous looking horse with a lot, a lot of talent. And he’s one of those horses that knows he is good too.

“His win in the Supreme was extraordinary. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.

“You talk about horses being forced into the car park, he was forced into the Guinness tent as well!

“Then he was brave enough to tussle his way into the battle and win, it was a very impressive performance.

“He needs more experience over fences though. We’d prefer him to get some company this time round, there should be some competition and he’ll need to improve.”

PREDICTION – 1. Shishkin

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Coral Welsh National, Chepstow, Sunday 27th, 2.50pm

CHEPSTOW’S big day won’t quite be the same.

There will be next to no one on course bar the horses and jockeys.

But there’s only been one horse most punters have been interested in the build-up to this race anyway.

Evan Williams’ Secret Reprieve is as short as 100-30 after trouncing his rivals at the same course earlier this month.

He’d been as big as 25-1 for this pot before then and he gets in here off the same mark with a 4lbs penalty.

He will only have to lumber ten-stone one, and that could prove massive given the stamina-sapping trip and bottomless ground.

But as is customary in any race with a decent pot, Paul Nicholls will take aim with a pair of live chances.

Yala Enki with Bryony Frost and Truckers Lodge with young conditional Lorcan Williams will lead the Ditcheat charge.

Their trainer said: “Both are in great shape and we know they won’t mind the slog. In my eyes it’s the ideal race for them.

“Truckers Lodge had only his fourth run over fences in it last season when he was second and won the Midlands’ National next up.

“Yala Enki has to carry top weight but he’s as well as ever and was second by a neck in a top race at Cheltenham.”

PREDICTION – 1. Christmas In April 2. Secret Reprieve 3. Prime Venture

Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase, Leopardstown, Sunday 27th, 1.10pm

MIN versus Chacun Pour Soi this early in the season is surely too good to be true?

But stranger things have happened.

It looks the perfect spot for both horses at this stage and their trainer Willie Mullins looks to have a stranglehold of the race.

The majority of the eleven entered are pencilled in elsewhere and he may be able to run these two against one another knowing full well he could dominate a small field.

On paper, the only threat to the pair should be Notebook. But even De Bromhead’s Grade 1 winner has plenty to prove in open company.

Samcro is likely to race elsewhere and Put The Kettle On and A Plus Tard have other targets too.

Douvan won this race in 2017 in the same Min and Chacun Pour Soi colours, but after the latter was turned over in this at 8-15 last season, there is some unfinished business to attend to.

Min may have to find another race, but even if that’s the case, we’re set to learn a heap more about the Champion Chase favourite.

PREDICTION – 1. Chacun Pour Soi

Savills Chase, Leopardstown, Monday 28th, 2.25pm

THEY don’t get much better than this.

All the big names are set to compete in this Grade 1 over three miles. It’s arguably stronger than the King George.

And it could be De Bromhead and Blackmore to the fore again with the exciting Minella Indo likely to be the hot favourite.

He’s probably best known for his agonising defeat to Champ in the RSA last season, but has romped home twice this year, albeit in lesser races.

This will be his toughest assignment to date by a long way, but he remains firmly on the up and has the hallmarks of a real Gold Cup type.

Blackmore said: “We couldn't have asked him to do any more in Wexford or Navan.

“This is another step up, but we're really looking forward to him for good reason.”

Then of course you have the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott challenge.

Elliott is likely to reply on Presenting Percy and Delta Work, while Mullins hopes will be headed by Allaho and Kemboy.

There are Christmas crackers and then there is this.

PREDICTION – 1. Presenting Percy 2. Minella Indo 3. Delta Work

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Challow Hurdle, Newbury, Tuesday 29th, 

PAUL Nicholls gets excited about lots of his horses, but Bravemansgame has him purring even more than usual.

‘We’ll take the Denman route’ was the quick reply after he demolished a strong field at Newbury last time out.

Denman won the Challow before reaching Gold Cup heights and it’s chasing that Nicholls can’t wait for with this horse.

But there’s no doubt he’ll be a big player in the spring time over hurdles and he could add a Grade 1 to his CV on just his fourth run over hurdles.

Kim Bailey’s Does He Know is unbeaten over hurdles and a Grade 2 winner last time out. He’ll likely be the main competition.

Matheson Hurdle, Leopardstown, Tuesday 29th, 2.25pm

PROVIDED all goes to plan for Epatante at Kempton, all eyes will be on Saint Roi three days later.

As things stand he looks the only realistic danger to Henderson’s mare come the spring.

But Willie Mullins’ five-year-old was turned-over last time out and has a dented reputation to bring to battle here.

Connections will be hoping he races much smarter here and a less tactical affair than what may have got him beaten at the hands of Abacadabras in the Morgiana.

But that rival is set to re-oppose and it’s the old Elliott-Mullins rivalry in the limelight once more.

Might Abacadabras be a Champion Hurdle dark horse? Is he not getting the credit he deserves?

We should know plenty more by the time this race is done and dusted.

Then again, it may be naive to rule out Saldier and Aspire Tower launching themselves into the mix too.

PREDICTION – 1. Abacadabras 2. Saint Roi

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