Good morning all,
I hope you all made the best of Christmas Day in these strange times and are ready for some great racing over the next few days, starting with the King George today, and the Welsh National tomorrow. I have previewed both of these big races on today’s Punt, although please bear in mind that declarations for the Welsh National are not completed until 10am today, so the final field is yet to be decided.
King George Preview
Nine runners line up for the Kempton Boxing Day showpiece, and it looks a pretty strong renewal.
Clan Des Obeaux heads the list at the time of writing, around a 7-4 chance, and it must be said that I think he’s the most likely winner. History tells us the KG is a race that is often won multiple times by the same horse, and Clan, having taken it for the last two years, can complete the hat-trick. This, quite simply, is his race – the track suits him, the trip is ideal, the ground should be perfect and he’s been brought to the boil perfectly having travelled like the best horse in the Betfair Chase, but couldn’t break Bristol De Mai at his home fixture. Well, this is Clan’s home fixture, and 7-4 looks a fair price.
Cyrname has 21l to find with him on last year’s form and whilst, to an extent, I can buy the “came into it off a hard race” angle of last year, 21l is still 21l , and that’s an awful lot of ground to make up. Supremely talented, and whilst he does stay 3m, I still think that ultimately he may be at his very best at slightly shorter.
Santini got a surprise entry at the start of the week, with Nicky seemingly having a total change of heart after saying he definitely wouldn’t be going to Kempton, but I have the same reservations about him that most seem to have, namely this tight track is hardly likely to bring out the best in him. The more rain the better, but it isn’t hard to see him getting too far back, and he was held quite easily in the 2018 Kauto Star here.
The track, and indeed wellbeing, are two questions for Lostintransaltion to answer now. He blew out in the race last year, never looking comfortable and often on the wrong leg into fences, so I’m struggling to see why this year is going to be any different. It was a laboured effort in the Betfair Chase too, and for now he has a bit to prove.
The others, to varying extents, have things to prove as well. In the case of Saint Calvados, it is the trip, and that goes for the talented Waiting Patiently as well. He’s also coming back from a long absence and has plenty to do. Frodon won the Silviniaco Conti here in January but that was over 20½f and with respect to Keeper Hill and Top Notch, who he beat that day, that form needs improving upon. Real Steel ran a cracker in the Gold Cup and ran okay on his first start for Paul Nicholls, but I suspect this is merely a stepping stone to Cheltenham, and the addition of the tongue tie here is more of a concern than a positive.
All of that leaves us with Black Op, who on the face of it has no realistic chance, but Tom George has a knack of getting big-priced outsiders to run well in this and with so many question marks about a few of these, it isn’t hard to see him running okay without threatening the principals. Second to Slate House in the Kauto Star last year, he stays, won’t mind any more rain, acts on the track and it is worth remembering he was only beaten a length by Champ in the Berkshire last year, another decent bit of form. I’d like to see him ridden positively from the off and a top four placing isn’t out of the question. That’s the way I’ll be playing him.
I ought to write a couple of hundred words about the Welsh National too, as it’s a race that’s often kind to me from a punting point of view. Slow old boats in heavy ground, hook it up to my veins, good people.
I want to be against favourite Secret Reprieve, as he’s yet to win in excess of three miles, and I simply can’t back something with unproven stamina for a test such as this. If he stays and wins then fine, I’m wrong, but there are a whole host of alternatives.
Truckers Lodge is 16lb higher than when second to Potters Corner last year but he hosed up in the Midlands National after that, and looks to have a bit of class to go with his stamina. An unseat at Kelso last time is hardly the ideal prep, but his record on heavy ground reads 2112, and at Chepstow, 112412. It’s hard to see him out of the frame, at worst.
My old friend Big River, who has twice got me a few quid at Cheltenham Festivals (thank you, extra places) will love this stamina test, although I have slight reservations about the track – I hope they don’t simply get away from him before his undoubted stamina kicks in in the last half mile. His record on heavy reads 11P121, and if his jumping holds up – it doesn’t always – he’ll be sticking on when others are crying enough. Extra places again, anyone?
Today's selection – Clan des Obeaux 3.00 Kempton
Good luck with all your bets today,