Racing Expert & Columnist
Alex Hammond: Festive highlights!
Last Updated: 23/12/19 3:52pm
Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond fancies Yala Enki to go well in the Welsh Grand National as she goes through the form ahead of the festive highlights.
The King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day dominates the Christmas racing schedule in Britain. Who wins the 2019 edition?
Cyrname is clearly the buzz horse coming into the race, as he deserves to be as the highest rated chaser in Britain. He has received the Harry Cobden vote of confidence too with Paul Nicholls' stable jockey picking him over last year's winner Clan Des Obeaux.
Part of his reasoning for the choice was that he would be more annoyed seeing someone else winning on Cyrname than he would Clan Des Obeaux, so he has nailed his colours to the mast of Sky Bet's 15/8 joint favourite.
Sam Twiston-Davies is the lucky recipient of the ride on his rejected mount who is currently 7/2 to repeat his win of 12 months ago. As the former stable jockey at Ditcheat, Twiston-Davies has ridden and won on the horse before.
Nicholls has reported the horse has come on for his reappearance run at Down Royal where he was runner up to Road To Respect. Cyrname came out on top in the highly touted clash of the heavyweights with Altior in the Christie 1965 Chase at Ascot, but whilst his rival was entering uncharted territory at Ascot, Cyrname will now be doing so at Kempton.
He has yet to be tested over three miles, with the 2m5f trip of his most recent victory being the furthest he has raced over. Those who know him best seem unfazed about it and he goes there with an outstanding chance.
However, regular readers of this blog will know that I'm clutching a metaphorical betting slip for Lostintranslation to win the Gold Cup in my grubby mits and I'm a huge admirer of Colin Tizzard's young chaser.
Such is the confidence behind the Betfair Chase winner that (at the time of writing) he Is now 7/4 second favourite. We know stamina for the trip won't be in short supply for this fellow, but he doesn't strike me as just a plodder, he also has a touch of class.
I get the feeling the Gold Cup is the best fit for him though and connections feel obliged to go to Kempton with the significant incentive of a £1 million bonus if he can add this race and the Cheltenham blue riband to his Haydock victory.
That doesn't mean he won't win at Kempton, but I think he'll excel at Prestbury Park in March. Having said that, I'm loath to desert him now and hope he can gallop his rivals into submission on Boxing Day.
The Coral Welsh National at Chepstow offers a good chance to land on one at a big price… where should we be looking for value?
I'm really looking forward to being at Chepstow for Sky Sports Racing on the 27th and you might even catch me running the Welsh National track and trip before racing to try and shift some of those mince pies!
I possibly lack the requisite stamina, but the horses in the line up won't, so it might be safer to leave it to them. I think this is the most intriguing race of the festive period with cases to be made for many of the runners.
At the risk of stating the obvious, last year's winner Elegant Escape is bang up there despite running off a 9lb higher mark, but at 7/2 with Sky Bet, I think we can do better, despite a very promising third place in Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy.
He has top weight to carry now in the absence of stablemate Native River. Now McGinty carries almost a stone less, with Stuart Edmunds' eight-year-old recording some smart form since going chasing, including a defeat of subsequent Ladbrokes Trophy winner De Rasher Counter at Chepstow in a novice chase back in January.
He is unexposed and looks to have plenty of stamina, so should cope with this test. He's 6/1 joint second favourite with Truckers Lodge, who gives Paul Nicholls a good chance of winning the race for the first time in 14 years.
He's an exciting young chaser with only three runs over fences under his belt. I think his new stablemate Yala Enki has potential to win the prize though and he's one of two on my shortlist. Formerly trained by Venetia Williams, he joined Nicholls in the autumn and made his debut for the stable in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but ran out of steam on his first run since March. He was third in the race last year and runs off just a 1lb higher mark this time (9/1 with Sky Bet).
There would be no bigger cheer than if Potters Corner were to win for Welsh trainer Christian Williams (also 9/1). The Midlands National winner has been trained with this race in mind and he has all the attributes needed to win a contest like this.
He had a lovely spin over hurdles to win at this track three weeks ago and is a very likeable type. So for me it's going to be Yala Enki and Potters Corner, I can't wait to see who comes out on top.
No shortage of top-class racing in Ireland over the festive period… give us a flavour of who you're most excited about seeing in action.
Well there are a few horses I'm following this year in Ireland that are scheduled to be in action and Fakir D'Oudairies is one of them.
He has a tough task against Laurina at Leopardstown in the Racing Post Novice Chase on Boxing Day, but it should be a thrilling clash. There have been unfortunate circumstances surrounding Kemboy this season as he hasn't been allowed to race until his ownership issues were sorted, but thankfully the Gold Cup winner can now run and is entered in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday, a race he won 12 months ago.
We can also look forward to seeing if Samcro has brushed his jumping up after tipping up at Fairyhouse at the beginning of the month in the race won by Fakir D'Oudairies.
He faces one of the oldest novice chasers (and one of the most talented performers of all time over hurdles) in 11 (soon to be 12) year-old Faugheen, who showed no signs of slowing down when winning on chase debut at Punchestown last month.
He wasn't completely flawless, but will have improved a bundle for the experience. There's so much to get stuck into both sides of the Irish Sea, so put your feet up and get studying and whatever you're doing for Christmas, I hope it's a peaceful one. I'll see you on the 27th at Chepstow!