Published: 08:30 23/12/2011
For many racing enthusiasts the highlight of the holiday period will not be a man with a long white beard delivering presents, but a three mile steeplechase on Boxing Day that promises to be a real christmas cracker.
The William Hill King George VI Chase has all the ingredients to produce a festive treat that could live in the memory long after the previous day's unwanted presents have been confined to the loft, never to see the light of day again.
As well as the quality of the eight strong field, the fascinating thing about the race is the fact that there are so many questions to answer.
Will last years' winner Long Run put in an error free round of jumping?
Has age finally caught up with Kauto Star, despite an amazing performance in Haydock's Betfair Chase?
Have Master Minded and Captain Chris enough stamina to make an impact at this high level?
Are Somersby, Diamond Harry, Golan Way or Nacarat capable of causing an upset?
If Kauto Star were to regain his King George crown ( available at 7-2 with most bookmakers ), the race is likely to go down in racing folklore, but a herculean effort would be needed for that to come to fruition.
So easily did Long Run brush aside Paul Nicholls' charge last season that he would need to underperform on Boxing Day to produce a different result, and so the race revolves around how good a round of jumping Long Run produces.
Master Minded and Captain Chris have serious stamina issues, but either would play a huge part if the three mile trip proves to be within their comfort range. Master Minded is available at 6-1 generally but Ladbrokes are taking on Captain Chris by offering a standout 8-1.
12-1 Shot Somersby is capable of running a big race, as the step up in trip is sure to suit, while last seasons' Hennessy Gold Cup winner Diamond Harry can not be discounted. The value in the race, however, lies with Nacarat, who is available at 66-1 with both Sportingbet.com and Paddy Power, especially as both are offering a quarter the odds 1.2.3.
Tom George's grey could be regarded as an inferior Desert Orchid, but the 10 year-old loves Kempton, stays the trip well and should have his ideal ground. The son of Smadoun will almost certainly attempt to make all of the running, and if allowed to get into a comfortable rhythm can make a mockery of his massive odds. At over 16-1 to finish in the first three Nacarat is more than a tempting each-way proposition.
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