The main horse racing on Boxing Day in Britain came from Kempton Park Racecourse. The first day of a two day William Hill Winter Festival, included the King George VI Chase. Five jumps races were televised by Channel 4, four of the races coming from the Kempton Park track. With Cheltenham in mind, punters were on the look-out for pointers. Our first TV taster began with the 1.25pm- the William Hill-Download the App Novices’ Ltd Handicap Chase over 2miles 4furlongs. The winners prize went to the T.R. George trained Stellar Notion at odds of 4/1JF. With Paddy Brennan aboard he had the field struggling 5 out and apart from a mistake at the last, which allowed Knock House to run on for 2nd place, he deserved to pick-up the prize money, having lead from the start.
There were 7 runners for the 2.00pm-the Kauto Star Novices Chase over 3 miles. This turned into an eventful race with first Creepy, making a mistake and being pulled, followed by favourite, Saphir Du Rheu, slipping on landing and unseating Twiston-Davies. Carraig Mor and Sausolito Sunrise both fell, leaving the winners prize to Coneygree. The bay gelding, never out of the first two, won easily. The bookies offered a quote of 14/1 for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. You couldn’t take anything away from the 7 year old as he did all that was asked of him, possible ground conditions and the Cheltenham course will be a tougher task.
Six runners went to post for the 2.35pm-the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle, over 2 miles. Faugheen, the 4/11 favourite, didn’t fail to impress. Owner and trainer now have their eyes set on the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, where he is as low as 1/1. Blue Heron gave them a nice lead but Faugheen, never out of the first two, took it up 2 hurdles out and won without seeming to have had a race. This display was impressive but I still think The New One, the second favourite, will make a race of it at Cheltenham.
The final Channel 4 race was the King George VI Chase and what a race to end on. There was tremendous excitement from the huge crowd before the ten runners went to post. Past winners of the race included Kauto Star and Long Run. Last year’s winner, Silviniaco Conti, trained by Paul Nicholls, was again in the field and at the head of the betting market. Looking for his 9th winner in this famous race, Silviniaco Conti, duly did him proud. His jockey, Noel Fehily, knew exactly what a good horse he had under him. Taking the lead, he headed towards the first of the 18 fences with Champagne Fever keeping him company for a while, but he continuously piled on the pressure. With 3 fences to jump, they were lining up to take him on, with Dynaste looking the main danger. He pulled away again for a memorable win by 4.5 lengths. This was a superb ride and jumping display from jockey and horse, with Dynaste and Al Ferof, finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. Silviniaco Conti is now 4/1 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and on this performance he will take some beating.
by Bill Morton