Kempton Race Preview, 26/12/2019

Boxing Day

Kempton 2.30
Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle Class 1 Grade 1
2m – Going: Soft – 10 runners

After a couple of middling runs in handicaps, was dropped in trip and stepped up in grade in International at Cheltenham earlier this month and did well, shuffled back to rear after 2nd, nudged along after 5th, raced wide, slow 6th and lost ground, made ground and midfield going to 2 out, slow there, pushed along, headway approaching home turn, every chance straightening as the sprint finish started, ridden, stayed on, just over a length down approaching last, switched off stands’ side rail and put under pressure, stayed on strongly last 150 yards to go 2nd, closing on Call Me Lord till no extra last 75 yards. Would have been better served by more of a test at the trip – surprised more use wasn’t made of him – so under the circumstances a good run, which entitles him to claims in this which, like the International, lacks a top-class hurdler
Big Blue
High-class Australian-trained dual purpose gelding by Galileo. Ran best race to date over hurdles, presumably high-class form, in Galleywood Hurdle at Warrnambool on May 1st (started from stalls), slow 1st, midfield to rear, headway wide after 2nd and midfield, in close to 6th, tracked leaders after, ridden into 7th, headway to dispute lead 8th, moved comfortably, arguably moved best after 3 out, pushed along 2 out, stayed on into a 2-length lead home turn, was 3 lengths up last, hard driven, changed legs once in line for home, ridden out, workmanlike and decisive from Mr One Eleven (the former Willie Mullins-trained Ivan Grozny ran last). When last seen out ran a belter on the Flat at Flemington in a 1m6f handicap on the Melbourne Cup undercard on November 5th, broke well, tracked leaders, briefly niggled along after 9f, moved well enough home turn, pushed along turning in, effort and led 2f out, hard driven, soon headed by Shared Ambition, chased winner a furlong out, kept on, lost 2nd close home, stuck to task. Probably a very good run, up with the speed throughout; the winner was trained in Ireland for his first three starts and beat a 98-rated horse at levels before heading down under, so that could be smart form. Forced to miss an intended outing in the International at Cheltenham due to a bad scope, if coping with ground likely to be on the soft side, he could well be good enough – more on the LTO Flat-run than his hurdles win, but he did the right things in the Warrnambool race (both races are on YouTube)
In this race in 2016 ran 3rd to Yanworth, allowing those ahead first run; didn’t take part in the 2017/18 renewals. Wasn’t sure what to expect on his reappearance, but ran to his very best in 3rd to Call Me Lord in International at Cheltenham on December 14th, tracked leaders 3rd, chased leader travelling comfortably after 6th, poised home turn, pushed along once in line for home as the sprint finish started, led narrowly under a ride approaching last, lugged left nearing it, mistake, hung left, hard driven, headed, kept on under pressure last 150 yards, lost 2nd and no extra close home. Hung left when first put under pressure, but that apart hard to fault, and three years on from when he last ran in this, has a realistic win-chance
Elixir De Nutz*
Made all to take the Tolworth at Sandown back in January from Grand Sancy, not going best approaching last but kept finding on the run-in; didn’t run again last season. Ran as though needing the outing in International at Cheltenham on reappearance, for all it was a tough ask, set a steady to medium pace, a little keen, field closed up going to home turn, pushed along once in line for home as the sprint finish started and headed approaching last, faded, well held jumping, put under pressure, no more, weakened last 150 yards, dropped back to last. More needed, but the flatter track could help in that regard
Fusil Raffles
Took the Adonis at Kempton on debut for the Henderson-stable, missed the Triumph at Cheltenham and took the Punchestown equivalent in May, mistake 3 out, closed on leader, pushed along home turn, stayed on under pressure, led last, hard driven, drew clear, stayed on well to beat Fakir D’Oudairies – a genuine performance, but not flashy or impressive, and his reappearance win in Elite at Wincanton in November was the same, mistake 3rd, niggled along off home turn, pushed along and not going as well as Grand Sancy approaching 2 out but the better jump, put under pressure, stayed on, drew upsides approaching last, led jumping, hard driven, stayed on well last 125 yards. Got it done, but was not expected – by the betting at any rate (SP 4/7) – to have been put under pressure between the last two hurdles. On a line through the runner-up he should dead-heat with Elixir Du Nutz, who’s expected in this corner to do better than last time – if he does then Fusil Raffles, with his street-fighting run style, will be in there too
Getaway Trump
Had a lot of chances over hurdles but improved towards the end of the season, with his best performance coming at Sandown on the final day, winning a novices’ handicap hurdle, prominent, travelled comfortably, sent on jumping 2 out, ridden 2 lengths clear, was that amount ahead last, ridden out from subsequent Greatwood Hurdle-winner Harambe. Sent over fences this season (chasing type in appearance), has run below expectations in two runs at Cheltenham, last time behind Put The Kettle On travelled best of the field as chased leader off the bend, ridden into 2 out but blundered, stayed on, was in a line of 3 disputing 2nd last, hard driven, no extra, faded last 150 yards, looked heavy-legged close home, eventually running 3rd. His form over fences lags even his second- and third-best runs over hurdles and I can’t see anything much happening. Wears a tongue-strap for the first time
Quick Grabim
In a productive first season’s hurdling the last of three wins came in a weak renewal of the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse on December 2nd 2018,  was joined up front 3 out, pace increased and  took narrow lead nearing 2 out, shaken up on landing, ran on, drew clear approaching last, some 3 lengths up jumping, driven out, ran on well to maintain clear advantage over Triplicate and showing himself well equipped if ever they start having six-furlong hurdle races. Not running at the Cheltenham Festival, disappointed in Champion Novice at Punchestown behind Klassical Dream, raced 3rd, 1st 2 went clear after 1st, disputed 3rd 4th, lost ground from 3 out and niggled along, hard ridden after 2 out, faded and beaten in excess of 20 lengths. Returned to form in Prix La Barka at Auteuil in June when last seen, giving the strong impression he should have finished closer to his then-stablemates Mr Adjudicator and Bapaume than he did, after the pace increased struggling in rear 8th, pushed along home turn looking well held, left alone approaching 2 out, kept on approaching last and appeared to be closing on the rest, finally hard ridden after last and ran on, passed beaten ones, running on very strongly at the end and was closing on 3rd and 4th. Possessing more speed than stamina the way he’s raced up to now, if new connections – this is his first run for Fergal O’Brien – have done their homework, they’ll ride him for a turn of foot (although hopefully not drop him out to the extent that he was in the Prix La Barka)
Silver Streak
Has run some stormers over hurdles, notably when a closing 2nd to Brain Power in the 2018 International at Cheltenham, surviving a blunder two out first. Not troubled to take a Listed race at Kempton on reappearance, lagged his best of last season when 3rd to Cornerstone Lad and the below-par Buveur D’Air in Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, held up rear, went slightly right 3rd, mistake 4th, nudged along home turn, made ground and prominent in chasing group approaching 3 out where mistake, outpaced under a hand ride approaching 2 out, put under pressure after, steered left towards inside and stayed on approaching last, at least 5 lengths 4th jumping, driven, soon took 3rd, closed on Cornerstone Lad and Buveur D’Air under a hand ride last 150 yards, nearest finish. Having become a regular in the best hurdle-races and often 2nd or 3rd, he won’t convert places to wins unless he’s ridden closer to the pace and jumps better – given what happened to Buveur D’Air, the Fighting Fifth should have been his chance
Won two out of three over hurdles, but disappointing in Dawn Run at the Cheltenham Festival (15/8 favourite), firmly ridden approaching last, stayed on till no extra nearing it, pushed out, no impression close home, eased late and nearly lost 9th post – almost nursed home after the last, perhaps the jockey sensed that there was nothing left – three mistakes a contributary factor. On reappearance, left that well behind when running away with Gerry Feilden at Newbury, midfield on inner, mistake 3rd, ridden into 4th and 5th, gradually edged closed approaching 3 out going comfortably, disputed lead when mistake and went left 2 out, shaken up and not going as well as French Crusader approaching last, stayed on under a ride, led last, ran on and drew clear, ridden out, continued to run on last 150 yards, readily. Fairly high style marks here and possibly more to come, although she’ll need it here
Verdana Blue*
Had the ground in her favour when taking last year’s Christmas Hurdle (officially good to soft) – good ground going comfortably to close on 1st 2 home turn, ridden 2 out, stayed on, every chance last, 1st 2 clear, stayed on strongly under only a hand ride, closed on Buveur D’Air last 150 yards, led post – and Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr (officially good), good headway on home turn and made significant ground to get in touch with leaders by 3 out going comfortably, mistake there, further good ground and yet to be shaken up when chased leader 2 out, going best of the field when sent on approaching last, ran on to draw well clear under a hand ride run-in, readily from Dino Velvet to whom she gave 13 lbs. Ran well in Sagaro Stakes at Ascot on the Flat in May when last seen. Seems sure to go close on reappearance, although the likelihood of soft ground means she’s no stand-out (I’m half expecting her to be withdrawn)

Shortlist: Ballyandy, Ch’tibello, Verdana Blue, Elixir De Nutz

Kempton 3.05
Ladbrokes King George VI Chase Class 1 Grade 1
3m – Going: Soft – 6 runners

High-class chaser who’s best on soft, but struggled with 3m when running well for most of the way in Charlie Hall at Wetherby on reappearance, hard ridden and started to fade from 2 out, no more approaching last behind Ballyoptic. Checked out when it mattered behind Top Notch in Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last time. Not hard to oppose here on account of the trip
Clan Des Obeaux
Last year’s King George winner beating Thistlecrack, closer order approaching 12th, prominent 14th, pushed along home turn, headway to chase Thistlecrack approaching 3 out, 1st 2 pulled clear, upsides 3 out, travelled the better from that point, brushed 2 out, asked to go on last, ridden clear, idled last 100 yards, ridden out.closer order approaching 12th, prominent 14th, pushed along home turn, headway to chase Thistlecrack approaching 3 out, 1st 2 pulled clear, upsides 3 out, travelled the better from that point, brushed 2 out, asked to go on last, ridden clear, idled last 100 yards, ridden out. Faded from the second last behind Al Boum Photo in Cheltenham Gold Cup and could do little about Kemboy in Bowl at Aintree subsequently. Good reappearance behind Road To Respect in Champion Chase at Down Royal on reappearance, with leader as pace increased 9th, quickened again as they went for home from approaching 3 out, travelled best, briefly led approaching 2 out but soon headed by Road To Respect, hard ridden, stayed on, one pace from last, stuck to task under pressure but always held. Obvious contender again but best chance of a win is if Cyrname fails to stay

Once stepped up from the minimum trip last season he turned himself into a Grade 1-horse, bossing an Ascot handicap in January then taking the Ascot Chase the following month; with his well-documented preference for going right-handed, he wasn’t seen out again. With no excuses for Altior his reappearance-win in the hyped-up 1965 Chase at Ascot can’t be anything other than a career-best, making all and always holding his rival from the second last. The further he went last season the better he got, and, on this first run away from Ascot since November 2018, there is every chance of him bossing this
A little inconsistent and not always the best of jumpers; flopped in the Ryanair Chase at the latest Cheltenham Festival, niggled along after 3 out some 5 lengths off leader, ridden along off home turn, one pace approaching 2 out, took off too early, hard driven, carried head to one side and weakened between last 2, looked tired, well held last behind Frodon. Reappearance win apparently proved his stamina over 2m6f at Thurles on November 21st, beating Mala Beach 10 lengths, but it’s not top class and for me he’s an unlikely stayer
Putting together a superb record over fences, only once out of the first two in his eight chases to date. After making all to win Colin Parker Intermediate at Carlisle on reappearance, was dropped in in Betfair Chase at Haydock and it worked a treat, travelled strongly, started to close 14th, brushed 15th, still last turning out of back straight but travelled comfortably, readily closed on Bristol De Mai and travelled much the best from 3 out to next, shaken up from 2 out, didn’t put it to bed immediately, staying on and upsides when brushed last, asserted run-in and went a length up, driven out, all out, stayed on well last 150 yards. A first two-finish here looks a certainty, but a win depends on Cyrname’s stamina failing

Three years ago he beat Cue Card to take the King George; a year later he was below his best behind Might Bite, but last year was almost back to his very best when runner-up, definite but slender lead when in close to 4 out and pushed along away from it, pressed on in front home turn, was joined by Clan Des Obeaux 3 out, 1st 2 pulled clear, shaken up, stayed on but not going as comfortably as challenger approaching 2 out, hard ridden, no stride approaching last, headed, immediately beaten once landed, kept on. On the sharp end from a long way out in a well-run King George, and pressing on with five to jump (much like Remittance Man in 1991), had nothing left to give when Clan Des Obeaux went on (much like Remittance Man in 1991). Reappearance over hurdles, ran well when giving Paisley Park a hell of a race in Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month, the pair pulling clear from the last but the top staying hurdler pulling out more. Now 11 and not the consistent horse of old, others likely to have his measure

Selection: CYRNAME – Alternative: Lostintranslation

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