The inclusion of Smad Place in the King George line-up has put a smile on Tony Calvin's face with his early antepost pick confirmed for Kempton. Tony reflects on the Kempton feature race and the best of the Boxing Day racing in his weekly antepost piece...
"Even after Smad Place's remarkable 12-length Hennessy Gold Cup win off 155 at Newbury, he has a fair bit to find with the likes of Don Cossack and Cue Card - in fact, Timeform have him rated 15lb and 14lb inferior to that pair - but he is clearly an improved horse this season, with the scope for further progress."
Alan King gave Smad Place's King George ante-post backers an early Christmas present - horrible phrase, but at least we have got it out of the way now - when confirming him for the race on Monday, and he must rate a serious player in the Boxing Day contest.
And of course that was very welcome news in this quarter too, as we now look to have got our two November 23 recommendations - read it here - to the post, at least.
And, thankfully, at bigger prices than they currently trade at, with Silviniaco Conti and Smad Place tipped up at 13.012/1 and 40.039/1 respectively.
Silviniaco Conti is clearly no forlorn hope to record a third successive King George win - it could be that his problems with sarcoids (google them) maybe didn't see him at his best at Haydock - but obviously the bet I am getting most excited about is the one on Smad Place.
He was very impressive when beating Fingal Bay on his reappearance at Kempton, showing a verve and enthusiasm that was missing from many of his performances last season, and that is probably attributable to a summer wind op that corrected a trapped epiglottis.
I shied away from putting him up for the Hennessy after that victory in the belief that the extended 3m2f at Newbury might stretch his stamina, especially in testing ground, but reasoned that an attacking ride over 3m around Kempton would be ideal for him.
And I think it will. Ok, even after his remarkable 12-length win off 155 at Newbury, he has a fair bit to find with the likes of Don Cossack and Cue Card - in fact, Timeform have him rated 15lb and 14lb inferior to that pair - but he is clearly an improved horse this season, with the scope for further progress.
He probably rates what value there is left in the race at around 9-1 each way, but I'd recommend that you only get involved in the race when the final declarations are made at 10am on Wednesday morning, and it obviously becomes no-runner, no-bet.
Smad Place's participation looks to favour the hold-up horses as, even in Coneygree's absence, there are now four potential pace angles in the race.
The grey likes to force it, as do Vautour and Road To Riches, and of course Silviniaco Conti made all when winning this race last season. All of the quartet can take a lead, too, though, so the tactics will be fascinating, but we look to be assured of a strong pace, and that will suit closers Don Cossack, Cue Card and Al Ferof.
This is the best King George that I can remember in recent years in terms of depth, but I am firmly in the camp that Don Cossack is the right market leader here at around the 3.45 mark.
Any of his last four wins would arguably give him a favourite's chance in this race, and he clearly has not got the credit he deserved for that consistently high level of performance, not least that stunning 26 length defeat of Cue Card.
It may seem strange to say this given the excellence of Gordon Elliott and the fact that he is owned by high-profile owners in Gigginstown, but I seriously think were he off the Mullins-Ricci production line, he may be nearer a 6-4 chance here.
Anyway, we will revisit this brilliant race in our Boxing Day column.
Talking of Mullins and Ricci, they will be mortified if Faugheen gets beaten in the Christmas Hurdle. But for all that defeat at 1-6 in the Morgiana Hurdle raised concerns, I don't think that is likely, even if Old Guard is re-routed to the race.
Old Guard is our 33-1 each way fancy for the Champion Hurdle but after his win in the International last month Paul Nicholls said he wouldn't mind going straight to the Festival in March with him, and has admitted this race is an "afterthought".
That is never an ideal scenario in racing, let alone for a top-class race, and from a selfish point of view I hope he sidesteps the Kempton challenge with his progressive 4yo.
Faugheen is clearly a worthy heavy odds-on poke and I suspect that a reversion to front-running tactics here will see him make all, as I don't fancy The New One at all.
Like I said earlier, it is a fascinating Kempton card - I am particularly looking forward to seeing Tea For Two and Native River lock horns in the Kauto Star chase - but we will return to the meeting in the coming days for bets.
And that is also true of the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby.
I do fancy one at a price in this, but the shape of the race will be dictated by whether Sam Winner (rated 160) and Holywell (159) run, so I will keep my thoughts under my chapeau for now.
Have a good one over Christmas and savour the fantastic feast of racing.