Updated: December 31, 2014

Boxing Day Racing Packs a Punch

There were three superb Grade 1 races for festive race fans to enjoy at Kempton and the weather held well until the darkening clouds gathered for the start of the King George VI Chase. The going was Good to Soft. Before the race meet commenced the five time winner of the King George VI Chase Kauto Star made an appearance to witness the unveiling of a statue in his honour. Since retiring Kauto Star has taken up the pursuit of dressage as a way of keeping his mind agile and his body fit. It is possible that the horse may compete at some events in 2015, although there is no expectation that Kauto Star will be any threat to the crown held by dressage stars Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin.

2.00 Kempton: Kauto Star Novice Steeplechase (Grade 1): Distance 3m: Fences 18: Runners 7

The race got underway after a false start but with fallers and horses pulled up only three remained to contest the race. Coneycree avoided the mishaps behind him to be in the lead with nine jumps to go. Three fences later Warden Hill put on a bit of a surge but Coneycree remained untroubled and was probably more than thirty lengths ahead of Virak in second place with three obstacles left. This distance was actually increased as the finishing post came into view with Coneycree at 10/3 odds winning by forty lengths! Warden Hill at 14/1 took second place passing a tiring 9/2 Virak in the home straight.

Coneygree winner by 40 lengths! Image credit @Channel4Racing

Coneygree winner by 40 lengths! Image credit @Channel4Racing

2.35 Kempton: Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1): Distance 2m: Fences 8: Runners 6

Blue Heron with Faugheen and Purple Bay were the leading three horses over the first fence and this status quo remained for a large part of the race. Purple Bay running on the outside of the field began to slow with 4 fences to go. Irving travelling well on the inner side was in fourth place at this point and Sign of Victory started to show signs of progress too. With two to jump Blue Heron remained in front with Faugheen in close second and Purple Bay having recovered momentum in third. Irving pulled up and Faugheen made his move taking the second last fence at the front. Blue Heron having led the field from the beginning began to fade a little and Purple Bay managed to overtake him here. Faugheen putting on the accelerator charged the final fence and stormed to the finishing post well clear of 11/1 Purple Bay in second, with 66/1 Blue Heron taking a well deserved (if exhausted) third spot. The winner at 4/11 odds won by a distance of eight lengths.

Faugheen in a league of his own. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Faugheen in a league of his own. Image credit @Channel4Racing

3.10 Kempton: William Hill King George VI Chase (Grade 1): Distance 3m: Fences 18: Runners 10

Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti and Champagne Fever took the initiative and went to the front at the start. Menorah was right behind them whilst Wishful Thinking took to the back of the field. The three leaders remained the same with Dynaste moving into fourth place with twelve jumps remaining. Cue Card hit the next fence very hard and had moved into third place going into the final circuit. Silviniaco Conti had about a two length advantage over Champagne Fever at this point whilst Wishful Thinking remained at the back. Dynaste travelling well moved into third spot nudging Cue Card into fourth with eight hurdles to go. Champagne Fever still looked full of running in second place although Silviniaco Conti stubbornly remained about two and a half lengths ahead at the front. Menorah having made up some ground almost fell with three jumps remaining and went out of contention for a place. Both Champagne Fever and Cue Card were ready to challenge Silviniaco Conti with two obstacles left but the leader steadily pulled away from them. Dynaste managed to manoeuvre past Champagne Fever before the last hurdle. 15/8 Silviniaco Conti took the last fence brilliantly and stormed to the finishing post four and a half lengths clear, becoming a worthy double winner of the race he won in 2013. Dynaste was second at 7/1 whilst Al Ferof also 7/1 came out of nowhere to secure third place, having remained consistently in the middle of the field for the race duration.

Silviniaco Conti looks cool before the race. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Silviniaco Conti looks cool before the race. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Welsh Grand National Thriller

December 27th: 2.35 Chepstow: Coral Welsh Grand National (Handicap) Grade 3: Distance 3m 5 ½ furlongs: Fences 22: Runners 19 NR Midnight Prayer

The race finally commenced after an initial delay and then a false start where Summary Justice was left far behind the main field. Amigo alongside Benvolio took to the front whilst Hawkes Point was in a midfield position at the first fence. At the second Shotgun Paddy almost unseated its rider and the horse fell back behind the others by around eight lengths. Mountainous with a nose to the ground came close to falling at the next fence but recovered. The field was bunched tightly with the exception of Shotgun Paddy lagging behind and Emperors Choice, Benvolio, Victors Serenade and BenBens occupied the front four positions. With an insurmountable fifteen length deficit to make up Shotgun Paddy pulled up with sixteen fences remaining. One In A Milan was a faller before a full circuit was completed. Monbeg Dude began making up ground at this point and Handy Andy travelled well to be in the front five with eleven jumps to go. With eight hurdles left Victors Serenade pulled up, Mountainous was struggling, Gas Line Boy was in retreat, Edmund Kean was going well and the front three were Emperors Choice, BenBens and Benvolio. A few jumps later BenBens began losing ground and Glenquest started coming on strongly, taking the lead with two to go as Benvolio ( it have been Emperors Choice) made a mess of the jump. Monbeg Dude still looked strong here with the potential to be in contention with one hurdle remaining. Glenquest met the last obstacle first with a huge leap, followed quickly by Benvolio with Emperors Choice about four lengths off the pace. The race was on down the home straight and Benvolio surged past a tiring Glenquest, only for Emperors Choice to gun him down at the line. A pulsating finish ensued as Emperors Choice at 9/1 odds beat 11/1 Benvolio by a short head. Two and a half lengths behind in third place came Glenquest at 33/1 and six lengths further back 8/1JF Monbeg Dude came in fourth.

Emperors Choice (left) battles with Benvolio at the line. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Emperors Choice (left) battles with Benvolio at the line. Image credit @Channel4Racing

December 28th: 2.55 Leopardstown: Lexus Chase: Going Soft: 9R NR Texas Jack

Winner: Road to Riches 4/1 by 1 ½ lengths over Second: On His Own 14/1, Third: Sam Winner 7/1

Road to Riches with this win earned the right to be considered for  the Cheltenham Gold Cup race held at Cheltenham in March 2015.

December 29th: 1.25 Leopardstown: Ryanair Hurdle: Going Soft :7R

Winner: Hurricane Fly 5/6f by half a length over Second: Jezki at 11/8 , Third: Arctic Fire 25/1

Hurricane Fly secured a 21st G1 win in this race thus extending his world record.

 Other News

Eight year old Sprinter Sacre came through a five jump test at Newbury on Monday 29th and looks set to make a return to racing at Ascot in the next month. The horse has had an extended lay off from competitive action since pulling up at Kempton in December 2013 and having a heart complaint diagnosed.

Sprinter Sacre in rude health once more. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Sprinter Sacre in rude health once more. Image credit @Channel4Racing

In the New Year’s Honours List the former Cheltenham Racecourse director Edward Gillespie received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to the sport. He spent 32 years guiding the development of Cheltenham which hosts the prestige festival of British jump racing.




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