Boxing Day is all about Kempton Park in the UK, their three top-level races all supplying is with value bets this time around.
Clan Des Obeaux goes for an amazing third King George title but has a terrific field to beat, while Epatante looks to stay on the road to a second Champion Hurdle success.
We have six bets in all with every one of them being at Grade 1 level; three over the jumps at Kempton and three in the States at Santa Anita which keeps us entertained long after the excess Turkey sandwiches have been polished off!
1.50 Kempton (Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – IF THE CAP FITS
A terrific race featuring several major stars of the future. Shan Blue is the one for money and there is little doubt that Dan Skelton’s double chase winner is among the best in the field.
The Big Breakaway is another who has gone well so far and clearly didn’t appreciate the drop down in trip last time, but at the prices the best value in the race is If The Cap Fits.
Harry Fry’s eight-year-old made what I believe to be the best chase debut of this bunch at Ffos Las and while he was a beaten odds-on favourite at Listed level next time behind Pym, it is more than possible that he hated the three-runner field element and the markedly quicker ground.
2.25 Kempton (Christmas Hurdle – Grade 1) – SILVER STREAK
The Christmas Hurdle has thrown up a few surprises before and it could easily happen once more in 2020. Epatante, there is no doubt, is a great mare and getting 7lbs from her main rivals is a crucial point, but even in winning the Fighting Fifth last time she wasn’t at her absolute best and she remains vulnerable.
Nicky Henderson’s horse will be long odds-on for this race, she is the champion hurdler and is 6/7 in this sphere, but she’s not that far ahead and just one chink in her armour will leave her exposed in a race like this.
At small stakes then and at the likely odds, a chance can be taken on Silver Streak. Evan Williams’ seven-year-old is admirably consistent at this level and rarely puts a foot wrong. He’s not a million miles behind Epatante at the weights and will be the one to cash in if his main opponent is less than perfect.
3.00 Kempton (King George VI Chase – Grade 1) – CLAN DES OBEAUX
Paul Nicholls saddles four runners here but all the talk, quite rightly, has been about the two challenging for favouritism. Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux are the pair in question and despite having confidently tipped up Cyrname before, I think a King George treble could be on the cards for his pal.
Clan Des Obeaux has been brilliant in this race the last two years and will once again love going around his favourite track, so while Cyrname has been then highest rated around, Santini was a close runner-up in the Gold Cup and Lostintranslation is no mug, the main man at Kempton has too much in his favour to ignore.
10.30 Santa Anita (La Brea Stakes – Grade 1) – FINITE
It’ll be a very different Boxing Day out in California with around 18 degrees forecast for Arcadia but what remains the same to us is matching value with racing quality. There are three stakes races staged at the very top level on the dirt and we have a selection for each of them.
The La Brea is a seven-furlong race for the three-year-old fillies and clearly the best of this bunch so far in similar conditions has been Finite.
Steve Asmussen’s filly gives away a couple of pounds but is flying at present and looks ready to go in again, so the fact that she has been priced up at around the 7/2 mark in the UK is somewhat of a surprise.
11.00 Santa Anita (American Oaks – Grade 1) – SHARING
We have a strong field for another fillies’ race, this time the American Oaks over 1¼ miles. Red Lark is arguably the yardstick given that she’s solid after 11 turf starts, while it’s hard to know whether or not Capital Structure or Duopoly can improve past her.
Much is expected of those two, however the most fascinating runner in the field is undoubtedly Graham Motion’s filly Sharing and she is taken to land the £135,000 first prize.
In winning a conditions race at Churchill Downs, running second at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes and landing a Grade 2 she has made good impressions all the way down the line this year. But it is even more prevalent that her standout run was when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2019 on the turf track at Santa Anita, where she now returns.
11.30 Santa Anita (Malibu Stakes – Grade 1) – NASHVILLE
This is a high-quality race featuring three horses who at one time or another were considered for the Triple Crown trail. Thousand Words, Independence Hall and especially Charlatan all gave their connections hope of winning the Kentucky Derby however they now drop down to seven furlongs.
Charlatan in particular is an extremely talented colt, a good winner of a division of the rescheduled Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) back in early May.
He has been off the track since and it could be that he needs to go a little further, something that opens the door right up for the fast-improving Nashville of Steve Asmussen’s barn.
Unlike the others he’s been doing his winning at six furlongs and has been mightily impressive. He is already beyond their level for me and may well improve over this trip, making him look a real star for next year.