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Scrappy Christmas

No prisoners taken in race for King George and Premier League honours

Ed Chamberlin - Ed Chamberlin Posted 22nd December 2011 view comments

There's superb racing left, right and centre over Christmas.

As always the highlight will be the King George at Kempton. The resurgence of the great Kauto Star adds real spice to this year's renewal and it will spark Boxing Day scenes that we haven't seen since Desert Orchid if Kauto Star can regain his crown.

Resurgent: Kauto Star is back on the charge just in time for a Boxing Day showdown

Resurgent: Kauto Star is back on the charge just in time for a Boxing Day showdown

I'm sure Ruby Walsh will apply similar tactics to those he used with such success at Haydock in November. They will go from the front, taking no prisoners, and I reckon this is going to be a brutal King George.

Sky Bet's King George betting: 5/4 Long Run, 7/2 Kauto Star, 4/1 Master Minded, 7/1 Captain Chris, 10/1 Somersby, 14/1 bar

Will Kauto star like he did at Haydock? I'm not sure he will as he was trained specifically for that contest and has always been at his best with a big gap between his key races.

The former champion setting the pace will put plenty of pressure on the reigning champ, especially on his jumping. Long Run will have to jump better than he did at Haydock but he will be fitter and sharper on Boxing Day and is undoubtedly the most likely winner. However, there are enough question marks to put me off taking some of Sky Bet's 5/4.

Master Minded is going to have his stamina severely tested and I struggle to see him staying on in the straight.

It's a race that could be ripe for a surprise as I think they will go fast from the off and set it up for a closer in the straight to pick up the pieces.

I don't think Somersby is the best horse in the race but I think the chips might fall perfectly for him. I've always thought three miles was going to be his trip and I'm hoping he hasn't caught a bad case of second-itis. I think Simersby is worth chancing at 10/1 to cause an upset in a fascinating 2011 King George.

Giles Cross nearly caused a major upset in last year's Welsh Grand National when I tipped him at 33/1. We had to settle for second last year but I reckon he can go one better this time. Victor Dartnall has trained him specifically for the race this year and regrets not kicking on in the straight with him last year and putting the race to bed. He says they know the horse much better now and he will be ridden accordingly.

Back at Kempton I fancy Rock On Ruby to triumph in the Christmas Hurdle at 2/1 with Sky Bet, Grands Crus to win the Feltham and amongst some brilliant racing at Leopardstown, Rubi Light can establish himself as a future star in the Lexus Chase. Also look out for a horse called Born Again over Christmas. If Jonjo O'Neill runs him in a valuable handicap chase he is one to be on.

Premier League

Gold, Silva and three more points for Manchester City.

It was some finale to our Super Sunday Christmas Cracker as City beat Arsenal in what Graeme Souness described as the best game of the season so far.

Roberto Mancini's side have the look of champions and remain odds on at 4/7 with Sky Bet, having followed up Sunday's win by cruising past Stoke on Wednesday night.

Sky Bet's Premier League title odds: 4/7 Man City, 7/4 Man Utd, 16/1 Chelsea, 20/1 Tottenham, 28/1 Arsenal, 100/1 Liverpool

City are top of the tree at Christmas for the first time since 1929 but will they stay there? Some will say that we don't know how they will react to the pressure of a title run-in, with Manchester United breathing down their neck, but they look well equipped to me and the fact that they still have to play five of the top six teams at home is a massive factor.

Manchester United stayed hot on their heels with impressive wins at QPR and Fulham. On Sunday morning Gary Neville described those away matches as 'dogs' of games so it's no surprise that Sky Bet have shortened the champions to 7/4 after they came away from both games unscathed.

Next up for City (4/9) is a Boxing Day trip to West Brom (6/1), while United (1/6) host Wigan (12/1).

The Christmas period will be as crucial as ever and there is masses of football to get your teeth in to with every angle covered at Sky Bet.

My next live game is alongside Gary on the Monday Night Football on Boxing Day with Stoke (evens) against Aston Villa (12/5).

Stoke were second best on Wednesday night at the Etihad Stadium but have looked back to their menacing best at home of late and I enjoyed a chat over breakfast with a delighted Tony Pulis on Sunday in Manchester after their win against Wolves.

Aston Villa were much improved against Arsenal this week but if they play like they have been on the road of late, they will be in for a tough evening as Stoke will, as Gary Neville says describes them, swarm all over Villa like bees and could be a steal at even money.

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