One of the biggest races outside of the Cheltenham Festival this historic contest returns 79 years after it was first run. Some big names in the world of steeplechasing have been crowned champions of Kempton by claiming this prestigious prize, names such as: Desert Orchid, One Man, See More Business, Best Mate, Kicking King, Long Run, Kauto Star and last years winner, who looks to retain his crown, Cue Card. Sadly this years race has been decimated and only five runners take up their spot in the Grade 1 chase. The race has been built by most as a dual. A dual not just between two horses but two from the same stable. Colin Tizzard is having somewhat of a renaissance this year and has a serious number of top class horses at his disposal this term. Two of his biggest stable stars enter the race in the form of last years winner Cue Card and promising youngster Thistlecrack. Many punters can’t see past these two runners and in fairness I’m struggling to see beyond them both as well. Ten year old Cue Card crushed former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Conneygree at Haydock in the Betfair Chase by a staggering fifteen lengths last time out. That kind of form makes him a more than worthy favourite. As a proven contender at this level who’s form around Kempton reads well he’s going to be hard pressed not to retain his crown. Stablemate and the “talking horse” in this years race Thistlecrack is unbeaten in his last eight outings and many see him as the young pretender with the potential to be the next big chasing superstar. High praise indeed but he’s barely put a foot wrong in his young chasing career. That being said many first year novices often struggle once they’re stepped up to contest top Grade 1 chases. The big question is wether or not Thistlecrack can convert his sublime novice chasing form to become a Grade 1 chase winner. If he can improve further then we could see the beginning of what may be a very big future. Of the remaining runners 2014 winner Silviniaco Conti looks to recapture his former success and despite being miles away from his best in recent outings if he’s given an easy lead he may be hard to peg back. Another former course and distance victor Tea For Two may be overlooked as he doesn’t come from one of the big stables but having never lost in three previous runs here at Kempton cannot be dismissed readily. Form around this specialist sort of course cannot easily be ignored and despite falling short at the highest level may do better than expected. The last but by no means least runner is unbeaten in two starts this term as Josses Hill looks to make it three wins from three starts this season. A win over Tea For Two in a Grade 2 race looks like decent form and on fire jockey Daryl Jacob takes the mount to help aid his chances. Hailing from the top yard of Nicky Henderson he has to be respected but he’s got more questions to answer than his rivals in regards to being able to topple the top two in the betting. Although it’s not necessarily a conclusion that took an abundance of working out I’m following the general consensus that the winner is destined to come from the Tizzard yard. Although Cue Card is the class horse in the race his form has been sporadic and inconsistent so I’m of the hope (more so than belief) that Thistlecrack could be something special and that potential could be realised come 15:20 on Boxing Day. THISTLECRACK (WIN)
BIG RACE TRENDS: 10 out of the last 10 winners have won over 3 miles or more. 10 out of the last 10 winners had raced 1 to 3 times already that season. 10 out of the last 10 winners came from the first 3 in the betting. 9 out of the last 10 winners had finished first or second over the course and distance. 9 out of the last 10 winners had raced in the past 40 days. 9 out of the last 10 winners had an official rating of 172 or more.