One of the things that we love about Christmas – apart from eating too much and the explicit nods to capitalism – is that a packed sporting schedule awaits us, and while the football calendar and the World Darts Championships are the obvious standouts there is also a rather tasty couple of National Hunt meetings to enjoy.
Starting with Ascot this weekend and principally the Long Walk Hurdle, anticipation is building towards the Boxing Day meeting at Kempton Park – most notably the King George VI Chase.
There is plenty of betting intrigue here – the continued ‘will they run, won’t they’ saga involving Thistlecrack and Douvan has discombobulated the market somewhat, with the former available at 4/1 and the latter at a huge 10/1.
This is ante post betting so the risk of losing your stake without even getting a run is very real, and while both horses are listed as entrants to the King George as we know that does not necessarily mean they will take to the paddock at Kempton. Douvan, a two-mile specialist, is expected not to make the step to three miles. As for Thistlecrack, well, he is rated ‘50/50’ by owner Colin Tizzard, with the final declaration date of December 23 looming ever closer.
One thing that is sure is that even if these two heavyweights don’t appear, punters are still in for a mini classic on Boxing Day.
Play Your Card Right
Looking to retain his King George VI Chase crown is Cue Card, who saw off the sadly-departed Vautour in the 2015 renewal. There is previous of back-to-back winners in this race, with both Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti accomplishing that in the past decade. It is not beyond the realms of possibility then, and at 13/8 the Tizzard-trained gelding is a worthy investment.
2015 was a halcyon year for the ten-year-old, who was a whisker away from completing the Chase Triple Crown and netting £1 million for his ownership team. Victories in the Betfair Chase and King George were followed by a fall three from home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and redemption will be sought this time around. The Betfair Chase 2016 is already in the bag, and with soft ground expected at Kempton it would take an optimist punter backing against him to claim the double once again.
Cue Card has already triumphed over the 5/1 hopeful Coneygree this term, and so perhaps it is only Thistlecrack that can shatter his dreams here.
Cavalier Approach May Pay Dividends
The nature of the surface at Kempton will determine who takes to the track and who performs admirably, and if the going is on good side of soft, rather than heavy, then Irish Cavalier looks a very interesting each way proposition.
With bookmakers paying out on a top three finish for each way punts, the seven-year-old – priced at anything between 25/1 and 100/1 across the board – becomes of interest should the ground hold up.
This is a horse that triumphed in the Charlie Hall Chase at the end of October – beating the likes of Cue Card and Blaklion in the process, while a third in the Betfred Lotto ‘100k Cash Giveaway’ Chase earlier in December was overshadowed by a mistake at the twelfth flight.
A nose away from finishing in the places in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier this year, it is unlikely that Irish Cavalier will trouble the leaders – but a third-place finish is not beyond the realms of possibility, and at three-figure odds he simply cannot be ignored.