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Happy Boxing Day, the best day of the festive period. Hope you all had a good Christmas, and hopefully you'll be able to pick some winners today. There's plenty of racing, but don't feel the need to be betting on every single race.
It's hard to go against my man, Sebastopol, but I think the forecast rain will turn the ground into soft, or at least soft in places, which should be enough to make his chances worse than if it remained good/good-to-soft. With that being said, DANNY KIRWAN looked like a horse who had bags of potential as a chaser, based on his sole run at Cheltenham. He jumped poor for the most part, but still managed to run a decent race to finish 2nd, in what appears to be a decent little novice which has produced some good form. The winner won the time after, the 3rd and 4th have close form to each other and the 5th won a X-country chase at Cheltenham in November. The ground which will hopefully be soft will be fine for him, and a return to a right-handed track should be what he wants, based on what we saw from him lto.
AHOY SENOR is the slight underdog, in what appears to be a match between him and Bravemansgame. Personally, I think the latter named horse will be a better chaser than hurdler, but I think he will still be in the shadow of Ahoy Senor, who pelted him in the novice ranks earlier this year. The Nicholls horse gets a lot of attention, and that will be due to the fact he is trained by the master trainer. He hasn't put a foot wrong so far in his chase races to date, but I feel like they have been cherry picked and he has been made to look good in those races. His jumping has been foot-perfect, but it will be interesting to see if that's the case when he is put under pressure by another top novice chaser.
Lucinda Russell's charge also looks like he'll be a better chaser, and I think he was always bought in mind as a future chaser. The forecast rain should be spot on for him, as he has been avoiding good and good-to-soft ground for the majority of his current season. He was running a good race on chase debut at Carlisle until he unseated his rider. That was over a trip too short, and was on the back of a 205 days absence. The form of that race has worked out well, with the winner running a huge race in the Ladbrokes Trophy. His latest run was a demolition job, and it appeared that he would be suited by a return to a right-handed track, as at time he did jump at to his right. He clearly appreciates flat tracks, as his romped home at Newbury, and beat Bravesmansgame at Aintree. It will be an intriguing match, hopefully it delivers.
He's probably shorter than I thought he would be, but I can't escape the chance of CLAN DES OBEAUX who is targeted for this race every single year, and more of than not he runs a blinder. It's hard to believe that this lad is still a 9yo! as it feels like he's been around for time. However, the King George has been good to this horse, previously winning it in 2018 & 2019. I think the best time to catch him is when he's fresh, which is why I think last years attempt to land the hat-trick wasn't the correct idea. He raced at Haydock the time prior to that, where he went up against Bristol De Mai in Heavy conditions, and I think that ruined his chances for this race last year as he didn't look the same horse of previous. This time around he comes here on the back of a 242 day absence, and Paul Nicholls seems very bullish about his chances, as he has been quoted saying the following in the Racing Post: “We set out our stall this year not to go to Haydock and run him in the Betfair Chase,” the trainer said. “We thought we'd try and go fresh because last year he had a very hard race in the Betfair Chase and wasn't quite at his best in the King George. He's had two awaydays. He had a racecourse gallop at Newbury and a gallop at Wincanton last week, he's done lots of work and I love running horses when they're very fit and very fresh. The way he looks now I couldn't be happier with him. I think it will pay off. From his point of view, he's had the best preparation ever going into the race.”
I think this lad rates the most solid contender in this race, and that's probably why his price is what it is. You can pick holes in the others, in my opinion. I can't see them letting Frodon get an easy time of things in front like they did last time. I'm not totally sold on Chantry House, as the form is still up in the air for me. Asterion Forlonge is the one we've got to be wary of as he a good horse, but the only problem for his supporters is his tendency to make a mistake. Minella Indo might need a more stamina based track, as he looks a stayer all day long, which is why Cheltenham brings out the best of him. The rest have even more question to be asked.
AN TAILLIUR is an owner's and trainer's dream, as he is a winning machine, and when he does win, he wins by small margins which means the handicapper can never really get a total grip of him, as he only wins by the amounts that he has to. Which is why I believe a mark of 129 is still within reach for him, despite the fact he always seems to look like he struggles in his races. I think this trip will be better for him, than the shorter trip he encountered last time out. There is a slight question mark of the ground if it does get soft/testing, as his wins have come on good ground, so he to prove he is just as effective. Even though he hasn't ran well on soft ground before, those runs came before he was put in handicaps, where he has done all of his winning, so I wouldn't be so concerned.
Jumping's the name of the game in this sphere, and GABYNAKO hasn't exactly looked the most fluent of jumpers, but what he does have is tonnes of ability, and I'm willing to chance him and his sketchy jumping in this. I think he would've won last time if he didn't jump through every fence like a snooker table, so it's credit to the horse that he finished as close as he did. When turning for home, he had many of the others in behind in a lot of trouble, but he pitched on landing and then clattered a few after which meant he had little to no chance of winning. I'm hoping that his jumping has improved from that race, which is a possibility as he's not been seen for a 28 days, and you better believe that he will have been thoroughly tested over fences at home by Gavin Cromwell and his team.