Paul Nicholls: The verdict on my Boxing Day runners at Kempton and Wincanton
It's a big day ahead for Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls who will saddle a couple of good chances in the King George as well as having other runners on Kempton's Boxing Day card and some strong contenders at Wincanton...
Best chance - 12:55 Wincanton Posh Trish - She is well clear on ratings and looks a holiday banker.
Going for that special something
13:20 Envoye Special
A nice prospect from France who made quite an impact on his debut by romping home by a wide margin over hurdles at Compiegne. He was also placed twice over fences before joining us in the summer when we gave him a wind op to sort out a little issue with his breathing.
As Envoye Special was a bit keen on his arrival at Ditcheat we have been trying to get him to relax on the gallops so I was delighted with the way he settled on his first start for us at Plumpton early this month.
While he faced an impossible task there against the red hot favourite Kalashnikov he jumped soundly before keeping on to finish a distant second.
He should run ok in what looks a hot race.
Will he be on top?
I love this horse who comes here in great shape after a highly encouraging return to action at Exeter where he gave himself a mountain to climb when he lost twenty lengths as he panicked and half whipped round after being startled by the starter's flag.
It was an unfortunate incident which I am sure will not happen again because there is not an ounce of malice in Topofthegame.
In the circumstances he did amazingly well to make up almost all the lost ground and finish only three and a half lengths behind Defi Du Seuil. He will appreciate the step up in trip here in what looks a proper Grade 1 Novice Chase.
Topofthegame jumps well, was always going to be a chaser and I'm excited to be running him in a race I like to target. It is shaping up to be one of the best races over the holiday period.
Fine form to compete
A high class horse who continues in fine form at home and comes here off the back of a tidy win in the Group 2 Chase at Ascot over two miles five furlongs where he was in front sooner than ideal.
The form of that race has been well franked by both the runner up Charbel and the fourth Benatar and its also encouraging that Politologue is unbeaten at Kempton.
He is a magic jumper of a fence and has the perfect blend of speed and stamina so he has a lot going for him in the King George which is the biggest challenge of his life.
Although he has yet to win over three miles I don't have any doubts about him getting the trip with Sam looking to play his cards late. Live chance in a cracking race.
More rain means a bigger chance
15:05 Clan Des Obeaux
The more it rains at Kempton the better for Clan Des Obeaux who ran very well in the Betfair Chase at Haydock against the best staying chasers around finishing just over four lengths behind the Gold Cup winner Native River.
It was like a promising young player having his first game in the Premiership and he can only improve for the experience.
Harry Cobden is very keen on Clan Des Obeaux who is slightly better going right handed and will get the trip.
I've no doubt there is a big race in him and I can't wait to see how he gets on.
Back and forth
15:40 Divin Bere
He hasn't quite lived up to our expectations over hurdles but bounced back to form off a modest mark on the flat at Bath in the autumn after a wind op.
He has been beaten a couple of times since on the all weather and judged on his fifth behind Fidux at Ascot early in November it looks as though he is up against it here even though he was dropped 1lb after Ascot.
Divin Bere would also prefer better ground than he is likely to get at Kempton where we are stepping him up to two and a half miles for the first time.
Frustrating but still a glimmer of hope
12:20 Southfield Tor
He could be interesting on his handicap debut although he is a bit tricky and needs to put his best foot forward after blowing his chance last time at Taunton by hanging right handed in the closing stages which is something he has done before.
We've tried a few things to discover why he does it and haven't come up with any answers which is frustrating.
While I can't be too confident about Southfield Torr's chances he is consistent and has the ability to win a race likes this off his current mark of 104 with Bryony Frost riding him for the first time.
Best chance on Boxing day
12:55 Posh Trish
She is proving a smart recruit to hurdles as I expected, is suited by the conditions of the race and with Lorcan Williams' claim cancelling out the penalty should be winning this without coming off the bridle.
I was confident Posh Trish would turn the form round with Lust For Glory last time at Newbury and loved the way she jumped there before coming clear on the flat.
Hopefully she can have a nice little school round at Wincanton before we raise our sights with her in the New Year.
Ten out of ten
13:25 Rhythm Is A Dancer
The ground should be perfect for Rhythm is a Dancer who has a lovely racing weight of ten stone in a better class of race than he has been contesting up to now.
While you can question the value of the form in some of his recent victories he is one of those horses that keeps winning and always seems to pull out a bit more when it is required.
We know he goes well at Wincanton as he has already won there twice and he might just be the joker in the pack in this from 3lbs out of the weights.
Blinkers over cheek pieces
14:00 Captain Bucks
It is disappointing that Captain Buck's has yet to win over fences from ten starts despite shaping as if he can do so on more than one occasion.
He hasn't really been finishing his races this season. So we gave him a day's hunting last week ridden by Natalie Parker when the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale pack met at home and he seemed to really enjoy the change of routine.
We are also trying blinkers on him now instead of the usual cheek pieces and Lorcan Williams takes a handy 5lbs off his back.
15:45 Flic Ou Voyou
Didn't shine on his debut at Fontwell last season over an inadequate trip but showed the benefit of a wind op over the summer with a much improved display when winning a bumper readily at this track in November, leading two furlongs out and drawing clear late on.
A nice prospect, he picked up a 7lbs penalty for that success so once again it makes sense to use Lorcan's claim.
Ready to run
15:45 Hugos Other Horse
A big, scopey half-brother to Cue Card, he cost £80,000 at Tattersalls Ireland November sale at Cheltenham late last year. After taking a while to come to hand he is ready for a run now and is bound to benefit from the experience.
Hugos Other Horse is one for the future and given his size and breeding you'd imagine he will come into his own over fences.