St. Stephens’ Day is always an absolute cracker, full of class racing both in England and in Ireland. It’s a day that every racing fan looks forward to each year. When you’re full up on turkey and chocolates, get on the sofa, put the racing on and be prepared to be entertained.
It’ll be a brilliant race (13:55) between Bravemansgame and Ahor Senor, who was super at Newbury last time. On this quicker track, I’m going to side with Bravemansgame , who has been epic this year in two runs. He was awesome the first day and was even better at Haydock last time. Paul Nicholls has always said he thought he’d develop into a Gold Cup horse in time.
The Christmas Hurdle (14:30) is a rematch of the Fighting Fifth, when Epatante and Not So Sleepy dead-heated. Despite the fact the forecast rain would suit Not So Sleepy more, I still think Epatante is just a better, faster horse and getting 7lbs should help her get back to winning ways. You’ll know from the first half mile if she’ll win as when she’s on her game, her jumping is deadly.
The King George (15:05) is an absolute corker this year and it’s great to see some more Irish horses coming over for it. If Minella Indo jumps with speed I think he will take all of the beating. He’s a Gold Cup winner, and it takes a good horse to win one of those. People are talking about whether Kempton will be too much of a pace test for him – I guess we’ll find out.
I also like Asterion Forlonge . I know he’s not the most reliable, but he was tanking at Cheltenham last year when he finished behind Chantry House, and he was coming to win his race last time but unshipped his rider when looking like the winner. He’ll get it all together one day.
Sir Gerhard , who won the Cheltenham Champion Bumper last season in the Maiden hurdle, will be no price but he’s clearly a very good horse and is very exciting for novice hurdles this season. The thought of him and Jonbon could be a really cracking way to get the Cheltenham Festival off to a flyer in the Supreme Novices (12:35).
Fil Dor is now two from two and should take all of the beating in the Juvenile Hurdle (13:10). He doesn’t have a lot to beat, but he does have a penalty to carry and that can often be the difference between winning and losing. As of now, though, he’s the most talented juvenile we’ve seen this season.
Ferny Hollow is one of the most exciting novice chasers in training and it would be good to see him win. He’s 2/1 favourite for the Arkle at the moment and winning this (14:20) will no doubt make him a lot shorter, in a division that doesn’t look very deep at all. I think Gordon’s horse Riviere D’etel will go from the front and try to make the most of her fillies and age allowance and Paul will sit and stalk on Ferny Hollow. There is lots of galloping from the third last to the winning post, so that’s where races usually start to change and take shape. It’ll be a good performance if he can give a good, fit horse that much weight.
Ross runs Realistic Optimism who has a good chance of getting placed in the bumper at Down Royal. He had no luck on his debut, but he showed plenty of promise that day and should go close again (15:35).
The Grade 1 at Limerick (14:40) is everything you’d expect or at least like to see from a Grade 1 at this meeting. You could make a case for most of the field and each time I look at it, I like a different horse. I think you could run this race five times and get five different results. It’ll be good to see how it pans out though.
Cloudy Glen was a good winner last time out at Newbury, and I don’t think it was a fluke. He’s shouldering plenty of weight, but I think he’s got a great chance of getting placed in the Rowland Meyrick (14:10). Venetia’s horse are flying at the moment, too.
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