Festive racing that raised the spirits
Festive racing to raise the spirits
Once again the festive period delivered plenty of racing that produced some stars and intriguing performances as the season reaches halfway.
On the shortest day, the traditional pre-Christmas highlight was Ascot. Despite concerns for both days of racing, they got through all the planned contests. Well done the groundstaff teams up and down the country especially after the high rainfall totals that have been increasing in the last few weeks.
The feature race, the Grade 1 Marsh Long Walk Hurdle did take a blow with the all-important non-runner Paisley Park. However, it was still exciting, with an excellent run by the old boy L’ami Serge who looked dangerous. It was, though, The Worlds End who showed the stamina to take the big one.
I think the Henderson veteran showed us there is something left in the engine with both names to keep in mind.
Boxing Day had severn fixtures to supplement the four-day break with Kempton Park hosting their signature fixture – the Ladbrokes Christmas Festival.
Showing some class
The opening hurdle contest featured some inexperienced but noticeable names with Fred showing some class to take his first victory in Britain at the third attempt. Ecco and Getaway could only manage the places and were beaten some way. Fred jumped well and I think the Spring festivals could be in his sights.
Chris Gordon had a good Christmas with an excellent effort from Highway One O One on day two but one performer went even better. Commanche Red stayed the distance to take his first chase success in what appeared an open and competitive renewal of the novices limited handicap chase on Boxing Day.
The Kauto Star novice chase was a fascinating renewal. Master Tommytucker, an eight-year-old on his fifth career start, Danny Whizzbang who was another for team Nicholls, The Mighty Don stepping up in class considerably , as was Jarveys Plate, and Black Op all strong contenders.
A dramatic business-end conclusion to this Grade 1 resulted in Slate House finding his groove once again to win in determined fashion for the Tizzard’s. The Mighty Don made a simple mistake that ended his race and I think could be interesting with more experience.
A similar situation for Master Tommytucker who smashed through four from the finish which stopped the progress for Danny Whizzbang and Jarveys Plate – very unlucky at a crucial time. Both to keep in the notebook for future runs with better luck.
The Ladbrokes Christmas hurdle had a large field compared to recent years with Henderson still prevailing as King in this division with Epatante quickening in eye-catching fashion to be the star. This has at least cleared up the Champion hurdle picture slightly with a firm shortlist contender.
Fusil Raffles may have had a off-day as he pulled up in the home straight alongside Getaway Trump. The Australian challenger added an extra spice to the race but couldn’t fight out the final stages of the grade one.
The Ladbrokes King George VI 2019 only featured five runners but still looked an excellent Christmas present for racing fans. It could be that efforts from Ascot on 23 November were a drawback as both Lostintranslation and Cyrname were disappointing by failing to get home.
However, the star of the show, Clan Des Obeaux was laughingat his stablemate with two furlongs to race by breezing past to take a second consecutive win in this historic race and provided the King of Christmas, Paul Nicholls a ninth win in this race in this century and 11 in total. An incredible achievement by team Ditcheat. An exciting future for awaits the seven-year-old.
Jumped to perfection
Down the M4 and over the Severn Bridge to the biggest day in the horse racing calendar in Wales, the Coral Welsh National. Seventeen runners took their chance which seems a reduction to recent renewals, but the dragons roared loud after a 54 year wait to gain a Welsh winner, as Christian Williams produced Potters Corner to take gold.
It was a plan that paid off in the best style – he jumped and stayed to perfection for young jockey Jack Tudor. A Christmas fairy-tale.
I thought The Two Amigos, who made the running, ran very well and looked like he may have added another national to his CV.
Another Chepstow highlight was Friday’s only Grade 1 contest. Allmankind appeared to handle the rain, mud and fog by racing keenly and going clear to take the Coral Finale juvenile hurdle and remains unbeaten over hurdles.
Global Citizen showed he is an Arkle contender by taking the Wayward Lad in controlling style. Bun Doran gained a valuable success in a graded race by staying strongly in the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase which was the highlight on day-two of the festival back at Kempton.
Travelling across to the Emerald Isle where the racing has been relentless with some stand-out performances that have added some ingredients to the Cheltenham Festival, which is only 68 sleeps away when the clock ticks to 2020. (A great race name on Wednesday at Cheltenham!)
Notebook gained a third consecutive chase win by leading the field home in the Racing Post novice chase over two miles. Leopardstown also staged the seven-year-old mare Apple’s Jade’s return to the winner’s enclosure after almost a year without success.
The Savills Chase was a fantastic race, with Delta Work depriving Monalee of victory. Both names appearing in the Gold Cup picture now.
Following the Christmas fixture of Kempton and Chepstow is Newbury and their feature was the grade one Challow hurdle where Thyme Hill, trained by Philip Hobbs (pictured) had the speed to reimburse the mistakes in the jumping department to take the victory and remains on course as a shortlist contender for a novice event at the festival.
A traditional excellent festive season that hasn’t disappointed and 2020 is sure to be exciting. Some names and races look to be special in 2020 with Cheltenham, Tiger Roll’s bid for Grand National history (fingers crossed for no issues), Pinatubo and
the return of the Queen of racing – Enable.