Kempton Race Preview, 26/12/2020

Boxing Day

Kempton 1.50
Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase Class 1 Grade 1
3m – Going: Good to Soft – 7 runners

After coming off second best behind The Mighty Don at Chepstow on chasing debut, won at Exeter on November 3rd beating Darlac, travelled better than leader as closed up approaching 3 out, readily led approaching 2 out, pushed along and hung left but stayed on approaching last, some 5 lengths up jumping, hung left again (into left-hand whip) till straightening once against stands’ side rail, at most pushed out, eased late and was closed on final 50 yards, won readily. Unexposed
Golan Fortune
Successful chasing debut at Ludlow on December 2nd beating Champagne Well, and now connections have removed cheekpieces and put back a visor – he travelled more comfortably than he usually does when 3rd to On The Blind Side in a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November and might do something
If The Cap Fits*
After a decisive chase debut-win from Fiddlerontheroof at Ffos Las in October, was given a big ask considering he’d had just the one chase when 2nd to Pym in Future Stars Intermediate at Sandown in November, mistake 3rd, niggled along approaching 3 out, hard ridden home turn, not fluent 2 out, ridden and no impression approaching last, kept on one pace run-in.  He started 2/5 and defeat was considered a flop by some, but I think he ran well and has a chance here
Rather regressed from a successful chasing debut at Newbury when 3rd to Next Destination and One For The Team there on November 28th, led, clear 3rd, jumped left 5th, ridden into 10th and 11th, not fluent 13th, not so far clear turning out of back straight, mistake 5 out, pushed along from 4 out, went left and not fluent 3 out, staying on under a ride when mistake 2 out and headed, faded,still half a chance last, weakened run-in. His jumping went to pieces and he didn’t see out the longer trip; not for me here

One For The Team
Yet to win over fences but considerable improvement when 2nd to Next Destination at Newbury last time, disputed 2nd when not fluent 4 out, kept on from 3 out, some 3 or 4 lengths behind 1st 2 over the second last, hard driven, stayed on well approaching last and was a length down on Next Destination jumping, hard driven, one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task. Doesn’t win often, but in the mix

Shan Blue**
Very impressive when winning at Wetherby on both his chase starts, on the second occasion over 3m on October 30th from Snow Leopardess, chased leader, jumped soundly, led 3 out, soon clear without being hard ridden, clear 2 out, drew further ahead by last, readily; that runner-up franked the form when winning at Haydock next time. Up to now this one has shaped like he’ll be one of the top novice chasers come April

The Big Breakaway
Failed to impress when beating Doc Penfro on chasing debut at Cheltenham in November, led 8th, clear approaching 9th, not so far ahead 10th, tried to pull himself up bend turning on to back straight and headed, niggled along approaching 12th, led again 13th, ridden into 14th, went 2 to 3 lengths clear, drew further clear and going best after 3 out, markedly steadied into 2 out and allowed 2nd and 3rd to close, pushed along and stayed on between last 2, ridden out hands and heels; again tried to pull himself up a circuit out at Exeter on December 4th, led 7th, 1st 2 pulled clear turning out of back straight, pushed along from 4 out, a length up under a ride to approaching 2 out, was challenged last, readily headed, no extra run-in as Bold Plan went on. Not for me

Selection – SHAN BLUE: Alternative – If The Cap Fits

Kempton 3.00
Ladbrokes King George VI Chase Class 1 Grade 1
3m – Going: Good to Soft – 9 runners

Black Op
Best of two runs this season when 4th to Imperial Aura at Carlisle in November; well beaten in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time, not fluent 12th and niggled along, niggled again after 16th, lost place under a push turning out of back straight, made ground back and vigorously ridden along disputing 3rd home turn, put under pressure straightening, hard driven and fading when pecked on landing 3 out, well back 2 out, tailed off 9th behind Cloth Cap. Comfortably outclassed

Clan Des Obeaux *
Winner of the last two King Georges, in last year’s renewal beating a below-par Cyrname, headway to chase leader 12th, reached for 14th, moved best when produced to challenge Cyrname home turn, slight lead 3 out, the better jump and asserted 2 out, ridden well clear, some 20 lengths up last. On reappearance this season was 2nd to Bristol De Mai in Betfair Chase at Haydock, headway to chase leader 13th, moved best within 2 lengths of Bristol De Mai home turn, shaken up 3 out, couldn’t find extra, held under a ride between last 2, kept on from last. Seems sure to do better than that back at this track
As everyone knows, after the racing media sucked connections into taking on Altior at Ascot he wasn’t the same horse for the rest of the season and was below his best behind Clan Des Obeaux in the 2019 King George, was strongly challenged when ridden along after 4 out, narrowly headed 3 out, hard ridden, mistake 2 out and left well behind, no more. Back with a bang in Charlie Hall at Wetherby on October 31st, tracked leaders, keen, chased leader 11th, led 14th, headed after 15th, chased leader closely travelling comfortably turning out of back straight, travelled equally as well as Aye Right with whom he was disputing the lead home turn, upsides 4 out, travelled best approaching 3 out, definite lead there, not shaken up and pulled clear on the bit approaching 2 out, at most niggled along and maintained clear lead approaching last, pushed out, stayed on well till eased when safe last few strides, readily by 2 lengths from Vinndication. Expect a better show from him this year

Winning reappearance when carrying top weight to beat West Approach at Cheltenham in October, led, still travelled comfortably in front at the top of the hill after 4 out, asked for a jump 3 out and moved best after, led a length and a half home turn, going equally as well as the pursuing West Approach approaching 2 out, shaken up for the first time on landing, stayed on approaching last, about the same distance in front jumping, found extra under a hand ride, drew clear up the hill, was closed on last 150 yards but always holding on. Was a long way off that when behind Lake View Lad in Many Clouds Chase at Aintree next time. Won’t be able to dominate this, and if I was Paul Nicholls, knowing that big weights are no problem to this one I’d have gone for the Rowland Meyrick…

After winning the 2019 Betfair Chase, he was a flop in last year’s King George, niggled along from 10th, more firmly pushed along in last approaching 12th, had made a place when mistake 13th, effort 14th, disputed 2nd when ridden into and reached for 4 out, ridden and lost place after, weakening home turn, pulled up before 3 out; bounced back to form in Cheltenham Gold Cup, good 3rd to Al Boum Photo. On heavy going, poor reappearance when tailed off behind Bristol De Mai in the latest Betfair Chase at Haydock, tracked 1st 2 from 13th, hard ridden and weakened home turn, tailed off from 2 out. Opposed in this corner, not because of last time in the Betfair Chase, but because of last year’s King George-run – like Looks Like Trouble, this one looks better at Cheltenham than Kempton

Real Steel
On what turned out to be his last run for Willie Mullins, surprised many by finishing 6th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, good ground on the bit approaching home turn, within 2 lengths on straightening, arguably travelled best for a couple of strides approaching 2 out, every chance jumping, hard driven, no extra approaching last, driven, faded and wandered, stuck to task but continued to lose ground on those ahead last 50 yards, beaten just over 7 lengths behind Al Boum Photo. On reappearance and first run for Paul Nicholls, was 3rd of three finishers to Imperial Aura in 1965 Chase at Ascot, held up in touch, chased winner and travelled the better coming up from Swinley Bottom, ridden home turn, didn’t find anything, faded after 2 out and lost 2nd before last, no more run-in. Having failed to last home in the Gold Cup I think the Ryanair is the race they should be going for in March, but he found little at Ascot, so for one or other of those reasons – stamina or resolution – he’s likely to be found wanting here

Saint Calvados
Held consistency after a winning reappearance at Cheltenham last season, and best form when 2nd to Min in Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival, tracked leaders on inner home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out with 2 lengths to find, effort between last 2 and stayed on well to be at most a length down approaching last, every chance when mistake, hard driven, switched to challenge on Min’s outer final 175 yards, stayed on well under pressure, was closing on Min final 125 yards but never quite getting there. It’s possible that, had the ground been more testing, the first two there would have finished the other way round; as regards this one’s chances of staying 3m, pedigree is a blank canvas and he wasn’t stopping at the end of the Ryanair, so it’s worth trying, but for one who’s shown his best form on soft or heavy going, this ground is unlikely to be testing enough 

Much his best effort last season when beating Bristol De Mai in Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham; his 2nd in the Gold Cup behind Al Boum Photo came as a surprise, the going less testing and the latest Gold Cup not strongly run. On reappearance, stayed on at the end but could find only the one pace passing the omitted fences in the home straight when 2nd to Lake View Lad in Many Clouds Chase at Aintree earlier this month. Rather surprisingly supplemented for the King George, I just can’t have this one round Kempton with the going only good to soft

Waiting Patiently*
In the 2018 King George, he was travelling comfortably when brought down 9th (officially he was ‘unseated rider’, but it was effectively a brought-down as a result of Bristol De Mai’s fall). On his only start last season, in December 2019, was a very good 3rd to Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux in a super renewal of the Tingle Creek at Sandown, holding every chance at the last. Perhaps a bit more is known about his stamina two years on from his last attempt in this race – his well-known half-brother, McFabulous, was in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and for me failed to last home there. Not sufficient evidence to put anyone off supporting this one though I don’t think, and he might be a good each-way punt (started only 4/1 for this in 2018)

Selection: CYRNAME
Alternatives: Clan Des Obeaux, Waiting Patiently