Don Cossack Can Claim Kempton Glory
No sooner has the turkey been disposed of on Boxing Day than punters will be turning their attention to a different kind of treat.
Racing Post Novice Chase
That’s the one provided at Leopardstown where all eyes will be on Douvan (1/2) in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase (2.55pm).
Willie Mullins’ 5yo has already racked up a couple of Grade 1’s over hurdles, and served notice on his chase debut last month that he will be just as good over the bigger fences. Sent to the front by Ruby Walsh, Douvan simply ran his rivals into the ground from the front to win eased down by 9l, having never put a foot wrong at any of the fences.
Although that was only a non-Graded beginners chase, there was enough evidence to suggest his rivals on Boxing Day will have their work cut out, especially as Mullins has a good record in the race.
Racing Post Trends
Of the last 10 winners…
10 made the top two last time
9 had two or more chase runs
8 ran during the previous 25 days
7 arrived via Fairyhouse (4) or Navan (3)
W Mullins won it three times
Ttebbob The Value
The fact Douvan looks set to go off at odds-on will give followers of Jessica Harrington’s Ttebbob, plenty to look forward to at odds of 4/1. Unbeaten in two outings over fences (both this season), Ttebbob recorded a career best in taking a Grade 3 at Navan 13 days ago (2m1f, heavy), setting a good gallop from the front.
Douvan may well have “sexy profile”, but Ttebbob offers tremendous value, especially as a 6yo, an age-group that won eight of the last 12 renewals of this race; for the record, 5yo’s (Douvan’s age-group) won just once from 16 runners during the same period.
Sizing To Emulate Europe?
Another who will not simply be making the numbers up is Henry De Bromhead’s 5yo Sizing John (11/2) who also won both chase outings this term, including an impressive 8l Grade 2 win at Punchestown last month (2m, soft). Beaten 7l by Douvan when placed in two Grade 1’s last spring, he will need to step up if looking to beat the favourite.
But, with winners at 8/1, 10/1, 10/1 and 12/1 in this race since 2005, it could pay to consider those at bigger odds.
They include Alan Fleming’s 6yo Velvet Maker (14/1), and while he jumped a bit high that day, he is unexposed and is capable of making the frame at big odds.
It’s hard to get away from Douvan, but with 6yos just favoured in this race, the vote goes to Ttebbob, who is just as unexposed over fences and could force the jolly into mistakes at the fences.
King George VI Chase
Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase at Kempton (3.10pm) is always one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the festive period and this season’s renewal promises to be a real Christmas cracker.
Hail The Don!
Currently heading the betting is last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third, Don Cossack (9/4), who gained compensation for that tremendous effort by landing three Grade 1’s at Aintree, Punchestown and Down Royal (2m7f/3m/3m1f) – the last of which came two months ago.
The manner in which Don Cossack came 8l clear at Down Royal demonstrated his wellbeing, and the expected good to soft ground will be in his favour. Another fact to take into account is Don Cossack’s place in the betting, as fancied runners were favoured in this down the years.
King George Trends
Of the last 10 winners…
10 returned 6/1 or shorter
10 won a Grade 1 chase
9 were either officially rated 172 or more, or had no rating (Irish-trained)
9 arrived via a Grade 1 race
9 won during their last three runs
8 arrived via Haydock last time
P Nicholls won it seven times, N Henderson twice
Vautor Back For More
Also from the right end of the market is Willie Mullins’ 6yo, Vautour (11/4), who was mightily impressive in landing Cheltenham’s Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase last March (2m4f, good). It was a performance that marked Vautour as potentially top-class, and having won a Grade 2 at Ascot last month (2m5f, good to soft), he will head into this with all guns blazing.
The only question mark regarding Vautour’s chances is the 3m trip, though the manner in which he grinded it out at Ascot suggests he has every chance of staying.
Card and Conti Clash Again
One who won’t have any concerns about the trip is Colin Tizzard’s 9yo, Cue Card (7/2), runner-up in the 2013 renewal of this when 3l behind Silviniaco Conti (8/1). He is another who arrives at Kempton in top form, having recently beaten Silviniaco Conti 7l in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock (3m, soft), and his chance is there for all to see.
But, what of Silviniaco Conti’s chances of landing the hat-trick in this? Well, his odds have drifted out to 8/1 following two runner-up efforts this season.
But it’s worth noting that he was also beaten by Cue Card when third in the 2013 Betfair Chase, before coming on to land this.
Don’t Forget Smad For A Place
Smad Place (8/1) cannot be overlooked, having recorded a career best in taking the Hennessy Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury last month (3m2f, soft). Alan King’s 8yo is clearly improving, but has to step up on a 9l defeat by Silviniaco Conti at Aintree in April.
Each-way backers may also be eyeing-up Al Ferof (16/1) to make the frame once more, having filled third place in the last two King George’s. He returned in top form when winning a Grade 2 three weeks ago, and should be thereabouts once more.
A case can be made for several in an open renewal, but Don Cossack is a chaser going places, and may well be made favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup if landing this.