There’s no doubt that the King George is the most intriguing race of the season so far, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the easiest race to recommend a bet in.
Let’s get this straight, I strongly suspect Might Bite will win, and win well. I would be inclined to tip him, even at cramped odds if it weren’t for the threat of the ground deteriorating quite considerably. The likelihood is he’ll have to face horses who are rated his superior by the handicapper on ground which is softer than he will have encountered before.
So, while I’m as sure as I can be that he’ll win, I couldn’t possibly recommend backing him at the odds – so where does that leave us?
Possibly with Bristol De Mai, as we know that his connections will be thrilled with any more rain – the trouble is, is there’s not much juice in his price either. You could argue that he was overpriced at the beginning of the week and everyone’s seen the weather forecast and realised that even if his Haydock win was freaky, he’s a very high class horse who’s progressing.
It’s amazing to think Thistlecrack is third favourite in a race in which he was so dominant in last year, but that tells its own story as to how things have gone for him since and, while I accept that he may have needed his first run over hurdles, I really didn’t love his finishing effort.
My suspicion is that Whisper has been working well enough to persuade the Henderson camp to have a go at this race, in addition to his owner being keen. For all the trainer’s protestations about him going up in the weights after Newbury, it was indicative of what an impressive race he ran.
Nicky Henderson has rightly been praised for a number of training performances over the years, but getting this horse to work out an even better chaser than he was hurdle ranks quite highly amongst them given how inauspicious his early chasing career looked. Much of the credit for that has to go to Davy Russell, who rides him brilliantly.
Now, given that there’s likely to be a frenetic pace on in this King George I suspect that Whisper will attempt to sit away from that battle for the lead and one or two that crack upfront may present the opportunity for him to pick up the pieces, and who knows, he might just do a little better than that. At the likely odds, playing Whisper each-way is the percentage call.
I’m not inclined to have a bet in the Christmas Hurdle, because as Tom Segal rightly wrote in his weekend column, the cupboard is disappointingly bare with regards to the 2m hurdling division and as admirable as horses like The New One are, it’s hard to recommend backing him. Buveur D’air looks to have everything in his favour and should probably be a 1/9 shot.
There do look to be some decent punting opportunities outside those two big races, though. In the Feltham, I’d be very keen on Elegant Escape to confirm Newbury form with Black Corton, even on 3lbs worse terms. He’s always been campaigned like a smart horse & I don’t think we’re anywhere near the bottom of him yet.
Finally, in the concluding handicap hurdle, Kildisart has been found a lovely race by Ben Pauling, who might easily have been tempted by a Graded Novice Hurdle after his win at Ascot. The fact he’s running here tells me he knows he has a very well handicapped horse on his hands. Be mindful of Doesyourdogbite as a potential danger.
Nick’s Boxing Day Picks…
1.55 – Elegant Escape
3.05 – Might Bite or Whisper E/w.
3.40 – Kildisart
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.