Native River & The New One are the picks in the supporting Kempton races.
If the three days off from horse racing has starved punters of action, Boxing Day never fails to provide the perfect medicine after the indulgent festivities, with no less than eleven horse racing meetings on either side of the Irish Sea to look forward to on Saturday.
Kempton Park’s King George card is without question the leading attraction for race fans, but in the first of two main supporting races, NATIVE RIVER looks a strong proposition to land the Kauto Star Novices Chase over three miles at 2pm.
With Cue Card back in full swing this season and Thistlecrack taking the staying hurdle division by storm in recent weeks, life is all gravy in the Colin Tizzard camp at the moment and on the evidence of what we’ve seen far from Native River, he could well have another star on his hands. He was a fair novice hurdler, but found the going too hot in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham back in March after a successful campaign up until that point.
Returning to action in a novice chase at Chepstow in October, he could only manage third place behind Cocktails At Dawn, but he improved from that to score by sixteen lengths at Exeter three weeks later. Next up in a Grade 2 at Newbury, he went off a relatively unconsidered 8/1 chance with the like of Un Temps Pour Tout, Value At Risk and Beast Of Burden in opposition. The two latter mentioned horses fell early on in the contest, but it may not have made much of a difference. The favourite Un Temps Pour Tout ran his race and Native River beat him quite impressively.
This step up to Grade 1 company is another big test, his main threat looks to be Tea For Two, who was immaculate in his novice chase last time out and steps up to three miles for the first time here. But Native River has the form and proven stamina to earmark him as a worthy favourite and he can provide the ideal start of another big day for the Tizzards.
In the William Hill Christmas Hurdle at 2.35pm, champion hurdler Faugheen bids to regain winning ways, having lost his unbeaten tag at Punchestown to stablemate Nichols Canyon on his seasonal return. Last year’s winner of this race beat Purple Bay and Blue Heron in 2014, but faces a slightly tougher field this time. Old Guard is a fast-improving horse who could take a hand, but perhaps THE NEW ONE is the one to make the red-hot odds on favourite for this really work for it.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star could only manage fifth place behind Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle in March, but the winner rather got the run of the race there and The New One is unlikely to give Faugheen much rope in this race. He was suffering from a kissing spine last season, an issue which has since been operated on and a course and distance win in October will have blown away any cobwebs.The New One has won three at Kempton in the past, so is something of a course specialist and although he’s been around a long time, it is easy to forget he is only seven. On his day, the turn of foot The New One possesses is as lethal as any hurdler in training and at the likely odds, he looks a value play to give Faugheen a fright. We know he’s not unbeatable now, which does help when assessing whether or not it is worth taking him on!
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