Five Things To Take Away From Kempton's Christmas Meetings

NATIVE RIVER STILL THE ONE TO BEAT IN GOLD CUP

The King George VI Chase on Boxing Day threw up one of the spectacles of the week at Kempton and gave us a huge shock when Harry Cobden on board the gallant Clan Des Obeaux got up in the final furlong to land Paul Nicholls his 10th King George.

The winner was superb and definitely now one to note for the big Gold Cup at Cheltenham but there are other horses that also performed well and are ones to keep an eye for the big one at the festival.

The two Tizzard geldings are the main two to take away from this race with the hearty Thistlecrack putting in a superb performance to get back to near his best and lay a clear challenge down heading towards the festival.

But Native River did superbly on ground that does not suit him and a track that has never played to his strengths to get up from seventh to finish on strongly towards the line and grab third. This run showed how gutsy he was when nearly everything possible went against him and for us from the horses that have ran so far this season makes him favourite to retain his title at Prestbury Park.

(Credit ITV Racing)

ALTIOR ONE OF THE GREATS

Altior made it 16 from 16 races over obstacles when taking the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase on Thursday and it was more than just winning the race, that he went on with never coming off the bridle to land the contest by nearly 20 lengths.

The Nicky Henderson trained superstar has been shouted about being put in the category of Sprinter Sacre, Denman, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star but can he really be compared to the likes of these horses.

The answer is yes, Altior in everything that he does is professional and the model race horse to own, with hardly any weakness to the way he races and the way he pings over fences he is just the perfect chaser over two miles.

Altior is set to target retaining his Queen Mother Champion Chase title at the festival in March and you would have to be a brave punter to want to back against him even at the price of 1/2 odds on. He is a great of the sport.

(Credit Racing TV)

BUVEUR D'AIR STILL THE REAL DEAL?

Arguably the biggest shock of the two day meeting was the defeat of Dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air who was pipped on the line by his stablemate Verdana Blue.

At odds of 1/4 on the majority of the racing world did not see this coming but is this something that has been coming for a long time or is it just a blip.

Honestly, to us there is not a lot to read into here, he looked to make a mistake in the middle of the race that may have unsettled him but he was still professional but just didn't have enough in the tank at the end.

Buveur D'Air is still rightfully at the top of the market for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle in which he is looking to retain for the third year in a row. He will need to improve and he will be against better competitors but it will still take a miracle to take his title away from him.

Verdana Blue ran a great race and it had to be another Henderson horse to stop his 12 unbeaten run but as far as Verdana Blue goes she is a classy mare but still not on the same radar as the J P McManus horse.

(Credit Racing TV)

SANTINI STILL FAVOURITE FOR RSA

One of the most fascinating contests of the two days at Kempton Park was the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices Chase where there was three strong horses that laid down the gauntlet for the RSA Chase in March.

The classy mare La Bague Au Roi for Warren Greatrex put in a superb performance to stay unbeaten over fences and take the Grade 1 honours and even though it was a slight shock at 8/1, when looking back it was always a nice each way price regardless.

Topofthegame was a valiant second for Paul Nicholls who looked to be having more in the tank to go and take the race but was just headed late on, nevertheless it was a strong run and does put him strongly in the frame for the RSA.

Santini who still heads the market for the Grade 1 at Cheltenham was our horse to take out of the race, it stayed on like a dream to cut the gap to a narrow margin and finished a good third.

With better conditions to suit at jumps racing HQ He has to be the pick in this race and Henderson really does know what he is doing when it comes the RSA Chase.

(Credit Racing TV)

WHO WINS THE ARKLE NOW?

One of the most bemusing races of the meeting was the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices Chase contest where it saw two of the leading Arkle contenders go up against each other.

Kalashnikov was the 4/6 favourite to take the spoils in what was the Arkle favourites biggest test to date and he ultimately failed letting Dynamite Dollars somewhat dictate the race and land the Grade 2.

Dynamite Dollars for Paul Nicholls from looking in hindsight after the race was the gamble to go for in that race with Kalashnikov looking good but beating no sort of horse and DD landing a Grade 1 against other Arkle competitors the race before.

After this race the bookakers truly don't know who to give favouritism to for the Grade 1 at the festival with Kalshnikov, Dynamite Dollars and now the Kayley Woollacott trained are Lalor all joint favourites in places.

The question we want to know is who wins it? Because at the moment it is one of the most difficult betting races of the festival to choose.

(Credit ITV Racing)

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