I haven’t done one of these for a while but, as it’s Christmas, I’m previewing the entire card at Kempton to come up with a few selections.
The opening novices’ hurdle (12:50) is as open as they come, a theme which the rest of the day follows. Didtheyleaveyououto and Thomas Darby had little between them when they met last month and the latter is now 3lb better off but THE BIG BITE is two from two over hurdles thus far and is already rated at least 6lb superior to them both. He won very easily at Haydock latest and would benefit from any rain which may fall before Wednesday. Mister Fisher and Rouge Vif can also be considered as likely improvers.
- The Big Bite
- Thomas Darby
(1:20) This novices’ handicap was won last year by the progressive Mister Whitaker and it pays to have recent winning form in the book. As such, LOUGH DERG SPIRIT, who has won his only race over fences looks to hold the key for Nicky Henderson. He was among the antepost favourites for the 2017 Supreme and faced some very tough assignments towards the end of last season over hurdles when finishing midfield in handicaps won by Kalashnikov, Blow By Blow and Soul Emotion, all of whom have gone on to bigger and better things. He won well enough at Wetherby on his chasing bow to suggest 136 is a mark keeping him onside. Dell Oro may have bumped into a useful opponent on his fencing debut while Vivas has already won thrice over fences and could spring a surprise.
- Lough Derg Spirit
- Dell Oro
(1:55) Named after Kauto Star, this novice chase looks set to live up to the name of Paul Nicholls’ quintuple King George winner. Santini could be a monster in waiting and the form of his first run over fences has worked out improbably well. Then again, arguably more impressive was TOPOFTHEGAME’s second in a hot race won by Defi Du Deuil when left 20 lengths at the start upon whipping round. The step up in trip will suit this giant horse. Both Bags Groove and The Worlds End jumped superbly during recent victories and if the rain stays away both will shorten while the mare La Bague Au Roi looks the most exposed of the likely candidates despite her 7lb allowance.
- The Worlds End
(2:30) A BUVEUR D’AIR defeat in the Christmas Hurdle would be the shock of the season but that almost certainly won’t happen. Verdana Blue has proven that she’s a useful stablemate but the best bet could be to go Global Citizen each way as he’s achieved form of second, first despite pulling the arms off his rider on both occasions. If he settles, even in this field, he could prove he has the heart for this level though he will be significantly inferior to the dual champion hurdler.
(3:05) If Might Bite had even shown an ounce of his ability on comeback in the Betfair Chase, he’d be an easy option in what is the most puzzling of championships. His Haydock flop makes him too difficult to side with despite being the defending title holder here. Native River could find this on the quick side though he is a doughty battler and he will likely give punters a run for their money. That said, his run here as a novice doesn’t inspire confidence so both heart and head side minutely with THISTLECRACK. He won this as a novice two seasons back and though he’s had just three runs over fences since, his third in the Betfair inspired huge confidence that he retains his swagger, especially as he’s capable of jumping far better. Kempton’s flat track evidently suits him and he will stay better than young pretender Waiting Patiently. Ruth Jefferson’s star is undefeated over obstacles but he is having his first run in over ten months and he is thrown right in the deep end. Politologue’s connections are remarkably bullish for their grey’s first run over three miles but he gave weight and a length to subsequent Grade Two winner Charbel when winning at Ascot last month and he has a fair shout. A mention to Double Shuffle at 33/1 as he surprised us all with a huge run last season and horses for courses have performed particularly well so far this season – he could again.
- Thistlecrack 2. Politologue 3.Might Bite
(3:40) Although Ballyandy may well be suited on his return to hurdles ERICK LE ROUGE has been in top form recently and can continue his winning run with 7lb claimer Chester Williams likely to be a benefit. Stowaway Magic is a potential danger as well.
- Erick Le Rouge
- Stowaway Magic