We've got a fantastic day of racing on Boxing Day and Tony Calvin is here to look at the King George and the other key races at Kempton while he's also spotted a bet at Wetherby...
"The other bet in the race - along with Hold The Note - is William H Bonney. Given his stamina doubts, I am making him a win-only nibble on the Exchange at 19.018/1 or bigger.
I have ummed and ahed - I could also have aahed as I failed to find the definite spelling - since Monday as to whether put up Real Steel each way for the King George, but I concluded that I was looking for a bet purely because we all want to have an opinion in the big race, don't we?
But it doesn't work like that, and that is not a profitable long-term punting strategy. Play when you think the odds are in your favour.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't write a whole load of tosh earlier in the week, you can judge for yourself.
I stand by my comments that the way Real Steel shaped when sixth in the Gold Cup - he traded at 3.55 in running when tanking and looking the most likely winner between the last two fences - suggests that 3m around Kempton could be ideal for him.
That Cheltenham run showed this test should hold no stamina concerns, and he has the 2m4f pace (on right-handed) tracks, when trained by Willie Mullins, to engender even more positivity in this seven-year-old's chances.
But I had another couple of looks at his Ascot run on his debut for Paul Nicholls last month, and I cooled on him somewhat. He is entitled to improve physically and fitness-wise (he was pretty weak in the betting there) and I could rue my desertion, but I tip as I bet and there is nothing doing for me.
Clan Des Obeaux is one to beat in King George
I will quickly spin you through the field as I know many of you will be itching for a wager.
Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the last two renewals, looks the one to beat again after his Betfair Chase second last month, and he is preferred to Cyrname of the two Paul Nicholls' big guns. The latter could still have a stamina question to answer despite his Charlie Hall win at Wetherby, though he is probably the classier of pair in terms of talents.
But do their odds just in excess of the 2/1 mark on the Exchange represent a bet? I would argue probably not.
Gold Cup runner-up Santini is a more tempting price at around 7/1 if the formbook is your guide, but this was literally a lazy Sunday afternoon afterthought by Nicky Henderson it seems. You would want every millimetre of rain to fall from hereon in if you were backing him around here (and the forecast is a lot better than it was earlier in the week).
And maybe they are saving the first-blinkers that everyone has seemingly been clamouring for until the big day in March.
Saint Calvados and Waiting Patiently have the Grade 1 class to figure if they last home, and perhaps their price will tempt a few in, but you need to get every inch of 3m to win this - as connections of 2015 runner-up Vautour will testify to - and they have it all prove on that score.
Black Op surely has little chance (though we all said the same about the trainer's 50/1 poke Double Shuffle in 2017 when he gave Thistlecrack a right care) and Lostintranslation and Frodon come in here on the back of proper Barry Crockers.
No, I am happy to let the race go. But Real Steel remains the most attractive bet each way, or a bigger price win-only of 20/1+ Exchange, if you want a minor investment.
Red-hot Epatante will be hard to beat
There are four Kempton races on ITV, but two of the others have attracted less than eight runners. That is to be expected though, with races of this nature.
I am not necessarily knocking either on that score as they have plenty to recommend them to the purist, if not this particular punter.
Epatante is the predictable red-hot, odds-on poke in the Christmas Hurdle at 14:25 and no-one could argue she isn't deserving of quotes of around 2/5 on the Exchange.
She announced herself at the top level when convincingly beating Silver Streak and Ballyandy in this race last season, and nothing we have seen from her since - and those two rivals are her main market opposition here - to suggest she shouldn't have an equally easy time of it this time around.
It is obviously not that simple as racehorses underperform in every race of every week - she is 4/11 for that reason, and not 2/11 - but there was nothing in Silver Streak and Ballyandy's placed efforts in the International Hurdle last time, as creditable as those performances were, to indicate a peak-form Epatante won't win this well and harden further as the Champion Hurdle favourite.
Seven line up for the Kauto Star novices' chase at 13:50 and, once again, I have no beef with Shan Blue being the jolly here at around 2/1 after he has smashed up good horses at Wetherby.
The most recent victory at that track confirmed his 3m stamina and it has also been franked by the 16-length runner-up Snow Leopardess (who he was also giving 13lb to) winning a Haydock handicap next time.
This race has plenty of depth to it though, both from a form and clock perspective - I wouldn't be in a mad rush to lay One For The Team at a double-figure price myself after his Newbury second to Next Destination - and I would rather direct my punting guns at the extended 2m4f handicap chase at 13:15.
Hold The Note poised to profit from handicapper's generosity
First in my sights is Hold The Note at 10/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
He would remain a bet at 7/1 or bigger for me, with the extra place.
He represents the trainer-owner combination that took this race with Glen Forsa two years ago, and the handicapper has given him a huge helping hand here.
Indeed, the fact that he dropped him 3lb from a mark of 143 for his third behind Happygolucky over an extended 3m1f at Cheltenham last time was an act of notable generosity, as he clearly failed to get home there and shaped far better than the beaten distance would suggest.
That easing in the weights - they could have easily left his mark alone - allows him to get into 0-140 handicap, and he is poised to take advantage.
His Grade 2 Warwick run over 3m shows he stays that trip but his best form has come over shorter, notably his third to Imperial Aura and Galvin in a red-hot novices' handicap at the Festival in March, and he is already 5lb lower here.
I suppose I am slightly concerned by this being too sharp a test for him, but I wouldn't lay him at 6/1 myself given the leniency of the handicapper. He had a pretty hard race at Cheltenham but he backed up quickly when running so well to finish second in the aforementioned Warwick race last season.
In fact, that was only 16 days after pulling up when a 7/1 chance in this very race. You can easily forgive him that run though, as he was travelling well on the inner when Roll Again fell him front of him and brought him to a standstill.
Compensation awaits. Hopefully.
Bonney chance is too good to resist
Son Of Camas is a fair price at 12s with the Betfair Sportsbook (the 14s went on Wednesday afternoon) but the other bet in the race is William H Bonney. Given his stamina doubts, I am making him a win-only nibble on the Exchange at 21.020/1 or bigger.
He could be labelled a bit of a rogue, I guess, and he has not always being the stronger finisher at or near the minimum trip.
But his only start at this kind of trip was inconclusive - he was pulled up and was beaten far too early for it to have been the attempt at 2m4f - and he certainly shaped as if he was worth another spin at 2m4f+ when third on his chasing debut at Newbury last time.
He was dropped 1lb for that and that makes him very well handicapped on his hurdles form, and he is clearly open to progression over fences, too.
The less ran the better for him between now and Boxing Day, and it is worth noting six of his full brothers (two of which were trained by Alan King) got this trip and further, and I don't see much pace in here.
Skelton's runner can outclass rivals at Wetherby
We also have the Rowland Meyrick on the box at Wetherby at 14:05 and I am happy to have a small-stakes bet on Spiritofthegames at 7.06/1 or bigger.
Stamina is the question he has to answer too, in his case over 3m, but I reckon he can last home and give Dan Skelton another winner in this race after netting it in 2017.
You can see why Skelton is trying the horse over 3m for the first time - he won his only point over the trip that probably means very little - as he keeps on knocking at the door in the good 2m4f handicap chases and just coming up short.
He did again when second in the Paddy Power last month (he hit 1.845/6 in-running), and that was not the first time he had traded at evens or less and got chinned.
In fact, he hit 1.051/20 in the run at Cheltenham last December.
That may indicate he is a weak finisher over shorter and/or not the heartiest but I am not having that - he stuck on dourly when half-a-length second to Cepage at Cheltenham back in January off a 1lb higher mark than this - and I just have the feeling he could outclass this mob.
And he is a half-brother to three winners over this trip, so perhaps 3m is what he wants. I am paying to find out, anyway, even if the Boxing Day forecast at Wetherby looks pretty horrid at the moment.
Good luck all.
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