Paul Nicholls may have won 10 Ladbrokes King George VI Chases in the past 22 years but fellow trainer Colin Tizzard’s record is not too shabby either. Tizzard has won two of the past four editions of Kempton’s Boxing Day feature and Lostintranslation can give him a third.
It is one of the peculiar ways in which racing works that, after he proved his stamina in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park last time, some are now asking whether three miles around Kempton will be stiff enough for him.
Until Haydock – where Robbie Power likened beating Bristol de Mai to beating Liverpool at Anfield – his speed was assured and it was his stamina which, if not in doubt, was not totally proven, with his only other victory over the distance coming around Aintree’s easy track.
However, last season he was very closely matched over 2½ miles with Defi du Seuil, one of the favourites for the Champion Chase, who so clearly possesses plenty of speed. It is also interesting that the first time Power really thought he was something special was when Lostintranslation cruised into contention coming down the hill in the 2018 Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham only to jump into the back of another horse, which cost him any chance of being placed.
With Cyrname, the highest-rated chaser in the country and the only horse to have beaten Altior, expected to make the running at a high tempo on soft ground, his speed will keep him in the contest but his stamina, ultimately, can win it.
Although Kempton is meant to be an easy three miles, they generally go so fast it is hard to get a breather into a horse, but provided Tizzard’s improving seven-year-old finds a nice rhythm with his jumping, that should enable Power to keep filling him up. Of the Nicholls pair, Cyrname is clearly favoured not only by rider Harry Cobden, who has deserted defending champion Clan Des Obeaux, but also by the trainer, who waxes lyrical about the one and not the other. All this despite the race being one in which repeat winners are common.
Despite the small field, this looks a better race than last year and were Clan Des Obeaux, who comes to Kempton under the radar yet again, to win he would have to post a career-best performance.
If the winner is to come from outside the first three in the betting, the Irish challenger Footpad could be the one to provide the upset. He was unbeaten over two miles as a novice chaser the season before last, when he wound up with wins in the Arkle and at Punchestown. He was missing in action last season after a setback early this year.
However, he certainly looked to have his mojo back on his first start this season, beating Mala Beach by an untroubled 10 lengths at Thurles over 2¾ miles. At an inviting 10-1, he is definitely worth a second look.
Thistlecrack is probably a bit long in the tooth to win it a second time, three years after his first win, while Venetia Williams wanted it to rain up until the race for Aso, but her wish has not come true.
Fusil Raffles can come out of the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle as Nicky Henderson’s No 1 Champion Hurdle hope. He looked like he would improve significantly for his hard-fought win in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and the proof of that should be here.
Adding significant interest is the Australian challenger Big Blue, trained by former jump jockey Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. He is a decent Flat horse in Australia and top of the hurdle tree there.
Kempton’s flat course should suit Black Op and a repeat of his narrow second to Champ at Newbury could see him home in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novice Chase.