Yuletide Expectations …

December 20th, 2019 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there!

With heavy ground now general around the country it’s far from certain we will get a clear run of meetings over the next 10 days.

There is an 8.00am inspection at Ascot tomorrow (Saturday) while the conditions at Haydock will be very demanding.

Looking ahead to Boxing Day there is heavy rain forecast for the Sunbury area over the weekend and then an expectation for drier weather up to and including the big day.

The five-day entries came out earlier today, with seven horses left in the King George VI Chase. This is good news for the bookmakers, with just two places available depriving the each-way thieves of what many would have considered a ‘bet to nothing’ on last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux.

Footpad, at 10/1, would have appealed to many while 16/1 seems a long price about Thistlecrack, winner of this race in 2016 and fourth and second in two subsequent appearances here.

As I write Harry Cobden has not yet said whether he will ride Cyrname or Clan Des Obeaux. That decision may be public knowledge by the time you read this, with Cyrname the better on figures but unproven over the trip as against Clan Des Obeaux, who impressed in the race last year but against weaker opposition than he will face next week.

My view is that Cyrname will struggle to see out the trip. He is an exuberant sort, who was hard to handle just over 12 months ago, and his rider may have trouble getting him to relax enough to get home.

Clan Des Obeaux, by contrast, is a smooth traveller who came through to challenge on a tight rein last season. It may not be as easy to do that against a horse with the class of Cyrname.

Lostintranslation will probably end up, over time, being the best horse in the field. Having shown pace over shorter trips than this in a handful of encounters with Defi Du Seuil last season, he showed he had the guts and stamina to match when beating Bristol De Mai on his stomping ground at Haydock over an extended 3m 1f a month ago.

Footpad was beaten a long way on his only attempt over three miles – that was in a Grade 1 hurdle at Punchestown in April, 2017 – but Willie Mullins is on record as stating that he believes the horse will stay the trip. With his flat pedigree – by Creachadoir out of a Sadler’s Wells mare – I have my doubts.

Then we have the remarkable Thistlecrack, who looked as good as ever on his return when running Paisley Park to a length in a Grade 1 hurdle at Newbury.

It’s probably stretching things to suggest we can compare this year’s renewal with the great winners of the past – four-time winner Desert Orchid, five-time winner Kauto Star, dual-winners The Fellow, One Man, See More Business and Kicking King – but for the class and quality of entry this is probably up with the best of them.

If the winner were to go clear of the 177-rated Cyrname by 10 lengths then the assessor would be obliged to rate him in the mid to high 180s.

The Christmas Hurdle is just as competitive in it own right, with Nicky Henderson planning to run last year’s winner Verdana Blue, the impressive Newbury winner Epatante and the hugely talented Fusil Raffles.

Given that Fusil Raffles was my ante-post selection in the Dark Horses for the Champion Hurdle I hope to see him run well. He showed great tenacity to win at Punchestown last spring and then Wincanton on his return, but this will require more with last season’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Silver Streak in opposition.

We have a few big names due to run in Ireland as well, with potential superstar Chacun Pour Soi already odds-on to win the 2m 1f Grade 1 at Leopardstown on Friday and Burrows Saint out to redeem himself in the Savills Chase on the Saturday after Christmas.

It’s going to be a wonderful few days of top-class racing, with doubtless a little plot or two hidden away under the radar.

Happy Christmas and bye for now!