Tony Calvin is off to Kempton on Boxing Day to take in the King George and it's where his attention is focused for the Christmas tipping column, with a Wetherby bet thrown in for good luck. Read on for full details...
"You can make cases for most of these but the claims of the Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card are the most compelling form-wise. But it is just that one is trading at 3.613/5 and the other at 8.07/1, so that makes my mind up for me. As does the drying ground."
King George 15:10 - Cue Card
As my family and I are guests of Silviniaco Conti's co-owner Chris Giles at Kempton on Boxing Day, this is rather tricky.
And if there is a re-run of last year's race going to two out, then I will be cheering on his horse as much as he or fellow owner Jared Sullivan, trainer Paul Nicholls or the rest of the Giles/Ditcheat entourage.
It will be only that, unlike them, I will have at least backed the winner - call it a financial or emotional hedge, or simple logic, whatever takes your fancy - if Cue Card goes through with what he threatened to do in the King George on soft ground last year. He looked like taking the field apart and traded at 1.11/10 in running on Betfair, only to falter badly in the closing stages.
I'm backing the horse at 8.07/1 in the big one to redeem himself.
You can make cases for most of these but the claims of the Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card are the most compelling form-wise.
But it is just that one is trading at 3.613/5 and the other at 8.07/1, so that makes my mind up for me. As does the drying ground.
There are obviously questions for Cue Card to answer after two poor runs, but his Betfair Chase win last season was the equal of anything that his rivals can muster and this is the first time that he will have raced on good to soft or better ground over his optimum trip of 3m. Yes, I had to double check that, too.
At 7/1, he is worth one more chance to re-establish himself as the best staying chaser in training. Tactics could be key here - I think Cue Card should go on - but sometimes you just have to trust the man on board to make the right call at the right time.
Kempton 13:25 - The Skyfarmer
Earlier on the card, I think The Skyfarmer is overpriced at 15.014/1 in the 13:25.
He is currently rated 137 over hurdles - it was 140 immediately after running up a four-timer last season - but he can race off a mark of 129 over fences, and I make that generous.
He didn't cut much ice when upped in class after his winning spree last season or at Ascot on his seasonal appearance, but I thought that there was a glimmer of promise in his sixth at Taunton last time.
Ok, that wasn't much consolation for those who backed him there and his jumping still didn't convince. But he wasn't beaten that far, the handicapper has dropped him 4lb for it, and I reckon this better ground could be the key to him.
In short, I think he has far more talent than a chase mark of 129 suggests, and 14/1-plus is too big.
It won't surprise me if the Faugheen bubble bursts in the Christmas Hurdle at 14:35, but it looks a race to watch rather than punt on.
Kempton 14:00 - Sausalito Sunrise
I can't get excited by odds of around 5/4 for Saphir Du Rheu in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase - I gather there has been a bit of comment over the King George hero's career change while I have been abroad this past week - even though he is probably much the talented horse in there.
The facts are that he didn't complete at Newbury first time out, and is unproven over 3m. And he will need to stay every inch of the trip in this pace-fuelled line-up.
I think Sausalito Sunrise is a very fair alternative at 8.415/2 or bigger.
I was a little disappointed with him at Cheltenham last time - even though his two runs against the very talented Kings Palace just about make him the form pick - where he seemed to be ridden a little too much for speed for my liking, instead of trying to put it to the winner from a long way out.
Pace is not his forte, so expect him to be ridden with more aggression, even though a really strong pace looks assured with the likes of Coneygree and Virak in opposition.
Here is hoping that he can sit close to the pace, kick on between the last two and put the race to bed there and then by drawing the sting out of the Nicholls favourite.
Wetherby 13:45 - Dolatulo
I think Dolatulo is well worth chancing in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby and he rates a bet at 13.012/1 or bigger.
This race is much of a muchness, and if Dolatulo stays then I think he will just about win.
Granted, that is a fairly big if, but he stayed 2m7f well when winning on Stratford's admittedly tight track last season - after which he was controversially disqualified - and he has shown enough over shorter trips in two outings this season to suggest that he has a race in him off a mark of 139.
Indeed, his second to Sound Investment at Sandown is working out really well, with a few horses coming out of that race either winning or running well in defeat subsequently, though his Aintree last time was a touch disappointing.
Then again, that is why we are getting 12/ and not 6/1 today, so I am happy to take my chances.
Have a good one.
Back The Skyfarmer at 15.014/1 in the 13:25 at Kempton
Back Dolatulo at 13.012/1 or bigger in the 13:45 at Wetherby
Back Sausalito Sunrise at 8.415/2 or bigger in the 14:00 at Kempton
Back Cue Card at 8.07/1 in the 15:10 at Kempton