Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas for racing fans without Kempton Park on Boxing Day and once again the Festive meeting at the track is shaping up to be a thriller. The two day card kicks off on Boxing Day, as always, and there is a sensational card of action to take in as some of the superstars of the game come out to play.
The Cheltenham Festival remains the highlight of the National Hunt season but Kempton at Christmas comes a close second with thousands of fans sent to descend on the London course. The feature race of the meeting is of course the King George VI Chase over three miles as some of the very best staying chasers in the game clash in the mid-season championship race. Second only to the Gold Cup in terms of prestige, the King George remains one of the key races o f the winter and with that in mind, we once again have a stellar field engaged.
All eyes will fall on the Paul Nicholls trained Silviniaco Conti who is the favourite to win the race for the second year on the spin. The Ditcheat trained in-mate was a brilliant winner 12 months ago and following his success in the Betfair last month, he is rightly the favourite to claim another victory. It wont be easy though with an number of decent horses set to take him on from both sides of the Irish Sea.
The Willie Mullins trained Champagne Fever is perhaps the most interesting runner in the field as he steps up to three miles for the first time. The seven-year-old is dual Festival winner over two miles although connections are convinced that a stamina test will bring out the best in him which has to put him right in the mix on Boxing Day.
Other runners in the King George VI Chase Betting with a chance include Cue Card, who finished second last year and Al Ferof, who was third last year and looked as good as ever last month when hacking up to win the Amlin Chase over 2m3f at Ascot. Menorah is the other horse to consider following his second, behind Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase, with the Philip Hobbs horse in the form of his life this season.
There is plenty of other sport to catch at Kempton outside of the King George including the appearance of the Champion Hurdle favourite on Boxing Day. The Willie Mullins trained Faugheen will take his chance in the Christmas Hurdle against the likes of Irving and Sign Of A Victory in what should be his stiffest test so far this winter. Faugheen will start as hot favourite on Friday and a win for him on a sharp track like Kempton will only enhance his Champion Hurdle claims.
Faugheen was last seen winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot against average opposition and this will be another step up in class for the unbeaten star. Punters who have backed Faugheen to win the Champion Hurdle will be expecting him to win the Christmas Hurdle in style with the Festival now less then three months away.
The RSA Chase division is looking like a wide open one this season but punters could garner one or two more clues at Kempton with the Kauto Star Novices Chase also on the Boxing Day card. Long Run and Dynaste are among recent winners of this one and it will be fascinating to see who follows in their hoof-steps this week. Paul Nicholls saddles both Saphir Du Rheu and Virak who should run well for Ditcheat, while Coneygree is another interesting runner who could still have plenty of improvement to come.
The action will continue on Saturday at Kempton with Wayward Lad Novices Chase and Desert Orchid Chase taking centre stage. These two races always produce a good winner with one or two potential Champion Chase horses set to take their chance in the Desert Orchid in particular. The Wayward Lad can give punters some pointers in the Arkle market with some very promising horses currently engaged in that one to round off what should be a brilliant two days of sport at Kempton.