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RacingFM’s Christmas Crackers Part 1

How strange it is to be devoid of racing for three whole days. Yes our lives are currently filled with last minute kamikaze Christmas shopping, resulting in worthless knick knacks that will never again see the light of day. Fear not though racing fans, this is merely the calm before the storm, as the action packed Christmas racing program is about to kick into gear.

 

Below we bring you through some of the Christmas crackers awaiting us on St Stephens Day, or indeed Boxing Day, depending on what side of the Irish Sea you currently find yourself.

 

1. Silviniaco Conti looks to retain his King George crown

The pinnacle of Boxing day at Kempton, the King George VI Chase is to the 26th December what Santa Claus is to 24 hours earlier for racing fans. Paul Nicholls has held a monopoly over the race in recent years, thanks mainly to the brilliant Kauto Star racking up a historic five victories. Nicky Henderson got in the way with Long Run on two occasions but Nicholls was back in the winners enclosure again twelve months ago, with Silviniaco Conti reeling in Cue Card in the closing stages.

 

That pair are set to renew their rivalry on Friday and they will be joined by a stellar cast for the 3m journey. Like Phil Taylor over at the Darts World Championship, Nicholls will also be firing three arrows, with Al Ferof and Wonderful Charm set to join the defending champion.

 

The all conquering Phillip Hobbs team will send out Menorah and they will be hoping for a better performance than last year where the now 9yo pulled up. He comes here in fine form and only has to find 2 lengths on Silviniaco Conti on their Betfair Chase battle last time at Haydock.

 

Champagne Fever will be the sole Irish raider for Willie Mullins, looking to bring the cup back across the Irish Sea for the first time since 2005 when Kicking King defended his crown for Tom Taaffe. Will the double Cheltenham Festival winner stay three miles? We don’t have long to wait to find out.

 

2. The monster Faugheen puts his unbeaten record on the line

What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster?? Well, in a word, yes! Faugheen, Willie Mullins’ powerhouse, will lay down a marker for his Champion Hurdle credentials when he puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Owners, the Ricci’s, may be in for the Christmas of a lifetime, with this so far unstoppable 6yo leading the charge.

 

Undefeated in seven racecourse starts, last year’s Neptune winner has raised many question marks about his current favouritism for the Cheltenham showpiece but he may be about to, quite literally, knock the stuffing out of his doubters. 9/4 does look extremely short in fairness but that could prove to be value come March if he lives up to the hype on Friday.

 

In some people’s minds, fellow Champion Hurdle contender, The New One, has swerved a confrontation with Mullins’ charge at Kempton, so that leaves Fighting Fifth winner Irving and Nicky Henderson’s Sign Of Victory to lay down a challenge to ‘the monster’.

 

3. Vautour continues his Chasing career at Leopardstown

Another Willie Mullins juggernaut will line up over at Leopardstown, with last season’s effortless Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Vautour, continuing his fledgling chasing career in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase. The current ante-post joint favourite for this season’s Arkle alongside stablemate Un De Sceaux, Vautour made a very impressive start to life over fences at Navan, thumping the field by an eased down 8 lengths.

 

Gordon Elliott’s Clarcam was on the end of that bruising defeat and he will turn up for round two on St Stephens Day. Fellow Gigginstown runner Real Steel, 3rd in the Drinmore, also lines up, with Chancol, Mr Fiftyone and Ted Veale making up the numbers.

 

4. The Limerick Christmas Festival kicks into gear

The Shannon Airport Christmas Festival kicks off at Limerick on St Stephens Day and it starts with a very special race for us here on RacingFM. We are very proud and honoured to be starting proceedings with the Download The Free Racing Fm App Maiden Hurdle and we very much look forward to handing out the trophy.

 

The feature race on day one is the Grade 2 Shannon Airport Novice Chase, featuring a crop of very talented youngsters that are sure to make their mark later in the season. Among them is Enda Bolger’s Gilgamboa, who has the potential to be a high class Novice.

 

If you tuned into RacingFM earlier in the week, you would have heard Bolger talk about his star turn and he is looking forward to taking on better horses after his debut success at Navan. Willie Mullins has Perfect Gentleman and the mare Adriana Des Mottes in the field, with Gigginstown being represented by Mouse Morris’ Band Of Blood and Noel Meade’s Wounded Warrior.

 

Drop in tomorrow for Part 2 of our Christmas Crackers!

 

Kevin Walsh  23/12/14

Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire


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