A feast for St Stephen
A feast for St Stephen’s day
Boxing Day is great for a sports nut like me. A full programme of football, top rugby games, and, this year, there are two test matches in the cricket.
My formative years involved staying up late on Christmas Day to listen on the radio to the first session of the Boxing Day test when the Ashes were at stake down under.
But as I got older Kempton became the focal point of St Stephens Day. I am too young to have seen Arkle’s romp in 1965 but I was lucky enough to really get interested around the time of Silver Buck, Burrough Hill Lad, and, three-time winner, Wayward Lad.
And I am afraid we are off down Memory Lane again.
In 1985 I was working in my parent’s pub. I had to as father, and a couple of the regulars, had decided to take a trip to Kempton. Dad lost a little on the day but his mate, Conn, was a massive fan of Wayward Lad.
Recoup the losses
He had lost when the Michael Dickinson runner was third the year before so was hoping to recoup those losses. It was a great finish but Wayward Lad held on to deny the previous year’s runner-up, Combs Ditch. The starting price was 12/1.
I am not sure how much Conn won that day but he asked mum to lock most of the winnings in the pub safe until the next day. And he still had plenty left in his pocket to buy several drinks for us all.
The Desert Orchid era followed with the legendary grey horse winning four of the next five runnings. The one he missed was in 1987, and it was also the first time I managed to find the winner.
Nupsala was 25/1 and I figured that if Francois Doumen thought it worthwhile to travel him over during Christmas a small each way bet couldn’t hurt.
My support for French horses in the race at this time paid off twice more with The Fellow and Algan winning for me. I can’t remember why I didn’t have The Fellow on his second win or why I deserted First Gold, a horse I had backed a few times, but them’s the breaks as they say.
Kauto and Kempton
One Man winning his first King George was emotional and he followed that up the next year. He was such a brilliant horse.
What can you say about Kauto Star and Kempton?
Six runs at the course, all in the King George and five of them were wins, including the ridiculous thirty-six length destruction in 2009.
But possibly more remarkable was his win two years later when some, me included, thought his best days were behind him. He beat Long Run that day. That horse had won the race the season before and was to win again the year after.
Cue Card overhauling Vautour on the line in 2015 was one of the most exciting finishes of the race. That could be matched this year as any one of the small but select field could win
More for Christmas racing
Welsh Grand National key stats http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3ac