Paul Nicholls: The views on my seven Boxing Day runners at Kempton

Paul is hoping Irving can put up a bold show against Faugheen
Paul is hoping Irving can put up a bold show against Faugheen
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It's an exciting day ahead for Paul Nicholls with some top prospects in action and some well-established chasers going for the King George VI Chase. Here the Betfair Ambassador talks exclusively about all their chances...

14:35 Kempton - Irving

"Worked really well on Saturday and he is probably in the best all-round shape that I have had him."

13:25 Kempton - Katgary

I can't work him out as his efforts on the track this season bear no relation to what we see at home, and he hasn't come close to reproducing the form he showed when an unlucky second in the Fred Winter last season. So we try him over fences here and over a longer trip, and see if that relights the fire.

He has schooled well - I have been quite taken by his jumping, in fact - and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest were he good enough to win this off a mark of 135 on his chasing debut, as he has the ability. But obviously you can't be confident until he shows us more on the course. What I can tell you is he looks fantastic at the moment, is bred to be suited by this trip and I think the better ground will suit.

14:00 Kempton - Two Runners

Saphir Du Rheu

Not many hurdlers could match the level of his Welsh Champion Hurdle defeat of Whisper last season and he clearly went into this season as one of our big hopes among the novice chasers. So it was a bit frustrating to say the least that he unseated Sam at Newbury first time out. But you couldn't fail to be impressed with him at Exeter last time, where he looked a natural.

Form-wise you can pick holes in the form, but we didn't need that race to tell us we have a top class prospect on our hands - a hurdle rating of 165 tells you that - and I am really looking forward to seeing him against better horses today. This won't be easy and the likes of Sausalito Sunrise and Virak who have some high class form to their name already, and he does have to prove that he stays 3m. Clearly. we have high hopes for him, though.


As long as these valuable chases keep on cutting up, then I am happy to go in two-handed in these races. I wouldn't be doing my job for my owners if I wasn't; in fact, we won a couple of big races with Sam Winner and Vibrato Valtat recently after seeing that they were only going to be small fields just before declaration time.

But, make no mistake, Virak fully deserves his place in this line-up after three impressive wins, He has surprised me a little with the manner of those victories but the bare form of his Haydock and Doncaster successes make him one for all the opposition to respect here, even if he would be a lot more at home on softer ground. Is tough and stays, and he will find any holes in the opposition, if they have them. Will have a break until February after this.

14:35 Kempton - Irving

Many are expecting Faugheen to breeze this, and the Champion Hurdle favourite probably will, but we are not prone to ducking a challenge here at Ditcheat. And in Irving we have a horse on the up, too.

He came back coughing from Cheltenham last season and then dived at the last and fell when coming to win his race in the Elite on his reappearance, so I was more relieved than anything when he won the Fighting Fifth last time. Particularly as it was Ditcheat's 100th Grade 1 win, as well! His jumping can still improve, though Nick was very happy with him on that front at Newcastle, and the form of that win last time probably still leaves him a stone below the best.

But he is an improving course and distance winner, with only seven races under his belt, so we are more than happy to throw our hat into the ring. And like my King George horses, we have really worked on his jumping this past fortnight, including over 32 obstacles on Monday. and he is a lot sharper and better. Worked really well on Saturday and he is probably in the best all-round shape that I have had him.

15:10 Kempton

King George - see main story

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