Kempton Christmas Festival Meeting Day One & Two

Kempton stages another top-notch card this week. There are two Grade 2s for the two-mile chasers, with the Desert Orchid and Wayward Lad, supported by plenty of competitive handicaps.

Here are tips for all races on both the first and second days of high-quality action at Kempton:

Day One

12.45pm – Ladbrokes Boost Your Odds On Racing Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (2m4½f)

ES PERFECTO has a good jumps pedigree and made a really positive start over fences, finishing second to Ginny's Destiny at Cheltenham. The winner has since gone in again and looks bound for Graded races, while Es Perfecto still sits on a mark of just 123. Gavin Sheehan was booked early for this engagement, which suggests that Alan King may have had it in mind for him for some time. The horse has always kept good company, and this race is unlikely to be any different, but he will rarely have conditions so strongly in his favour.

Selection: Es Perfecto

1.20pm – Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase (Grade 1 - 3m)

This has long been earmarked as the date when French stat Il Est Francais would come across to challenge the best British novice chasers. It is partly for that reason that he is so popular. There is also the visual impression of his wins in France. He could not have been winning any more easily, but there are strong concerns about the worth of those he was beating. Looking at the Racing Post Ratings, HERMES ALLEN already has a big jump on Il Est Francais and is only likely to improve after just one run over fences. This horse won a Grade 1 novice hurdle at this time last year and left a deep impression on his first run over the larger obstacles. He ought to be favourite.

Selection: Hermes Allen

1.55pm – Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1 - 2m)

The temptation to take on CONSTITUTION HILL should be put down to a bit too much Christmas cheer. The reality is that this horse is perhaps the most talented hurdler seen in Britain for 20 years, and that sense is established to the point that most of the good horses that might otherwise have taken him on are actively avoiding him out of fear of a heavy defeat. In this race last year, Constitution Hill won by 12 lengths without coming off the bridle and even if he is a stone off his best he could do the same again.

Selection: Constitution Hill

2.30pm – Ladbrokes King George VI Chase (Grade 1 - 3m)

There is not a solid horse in this year's King George. Allaho has been seen once in the last 18 months, Shishkin has decided to take matters into his own hands when it comes to racing at all, and the rest have a big form deficit to close. When it comes to BRAVEMANSGAME, he has undoubtedly been below his best this season so far. However, we know that the early part of his campaign revolves around this race, so there is good reason to cut him some slack. On his performance in the race last year, he could deservedly be an even-money shot and he might still be the likeliest winner of the Christmas highlight.

Selection: Bravemansgame

3.05pm – To Win Free Music Tickets Maiden Hurdle (2m)

When this race was a novice hurdle, Nicky Henderson used it to launch the careers of Altior, Mister Fisher and many other promising sorts. The race is a mere maiden now, closed to those who have already won over hurdles. So what has Henderson done? Sent one of his most promising bumper horses! GENTLEMAN'S RELISH ran in a £100,000 bumper on his debut and was sent off second-favourite. He did not justify the faith that day, but made up for lost time when winning handsomely at Newbury last month. None of those who have already run over hurdles can boast much in the way of smart form and a promising debutant like Gentleman's Relish need not have much to fear.

Selection: Gentleman's Relish

3.40pm – Ladbrokes Get Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle (2m5f)

You imagine that the Stewart and Brooks families have big plans for EMAILANDY, who is presumably named in honour of Andy Stewart, the man whose colours are honoured by this horse and so many others down the years. Emailandy has made a bright start over hurdles, winning at Plumpton and finishing a close third in a warm novice at Newbury's Coral Gold Cup meeting. The handicapper has given him an initial mark of 127, which could have been a lot worse. Harry Cobden is already booked for the ride and this could be a bit of a Christmas plan from some of Paul Nicholls' most powerful owners.

Selection: Emailandy

Day Two:

12.45pm – Ladbrokes Boost Your Odds On Racing Handicap Hurdle (2m)

Ever since he won a 2m4f point-to-point by a yawning margin in April 2022, ROCK HOUSE has looked destined for better things than a mark of 127. He won a bumper, ran out a wide-margin winner on his hurdling debut and went off 3/1 for the Grade 2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle on his next start. He ran perfectly well in that race, finishing less than ten lengths off the winner in third, but connections gave him a wind op straight away. His opening handicap mark of 127 looks perfectly within reach and it is likely that his stable are eyeing some big handicap hurdles in the spring. To get there he will need to be going close from this opening figure.

Selection: Rock House

1.20pm – To Win Free Music Tickets "Introductory" Juvenile Hurdle (2m)

In Auteuil there are Listed races for hurdling debutants and SIR GINO won one of those in April, before being transferred to Nicky Henderson. Even on that performance, he leads the field for this introductory hurdle, which is restricted to horses on their first or second run. He will have been open to any amount of improvement in the meantime and therefore it is hard to see past him, so long as the market vibes are that he will be fit for this British debut. Given that Henderson has won this race three times in the last decade, it would be a reasonable assumption that he will be ready here.

Selection: Sir Gino

1.55pm – Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices' Chase (Grade 2 - 2m)

It might as easily have been that MASTER CHEWY ran in a Graded novice chase before now. He left a deep impression when winning by 12 lengths on his first run over fences at Aintree in October. He then found only Djelo, who has since won a Grade 2, too good back at the same track. He would have been entitled to have a crack at a race like the Wayward Lad at that point. Instead, he took on seasoned chasers and found only Haldon Gold Cup winner Elixir Du Nutz too strong at Newbury. That was a perfectly good run, for all he was beaten at odds on. It left the impression that Master Chewy will be perfectly at home chasing Nickle Back around Kempton. If he can master that rival, he will almost certainly win.

Selection: Master Chewy

2.30pm – Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Handicap Chase (Grade 2 - 2m)

This time last year, the Desert Orchid was still a conditions race. That was why EDITEUR DU GITE was sent off at such a big price behind recent Tingle Creek winner Edwardstone. But he was electric that day, burning everything off and coming home all alone. This year, the race is a handicap and Editeur Du Gite must give away weight to all of his rivals. On the plus side, there is nothing remotely close to Edwardstone in the line-up and a return to this horse's best would be enough to bring him home in front. There is a little bit of a leap of faith required, but at the prices that can be allowed for.

Selection: Editeur Du Gite

3.09pm – Ladbrokes Get Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase (3m)

There have been a few false starts along the way, but recent evidence would suggest that DALAMOI is still thought capable of living up to three of his half-brothers who have developed into smart staying chasers. He first looked set to join them when winning over 2m4½f here at Kempton last autumn. Now returned to this track, he has few excuses. He was making his seasonal reappearance last time, when he was backed into favouritism for the Welsh National Trial only to stop fairly quickly in the manner of a horse who was not quite fit. He can put that right now, back at a track where he evidently can run well.

Selection: Dalamoi

3.40pm – Ladbrokes Fanzone Mares' Handicap Hurdle (3m½f)

Now that the Skeltons have secured a bit of black type for MARTHA BRAE, they can crack on with resuming her progressive path in handicap hurdles. She took off in the spring, winning at Hereford before finishing second at Warwick. A run for fitness at Newbury was followed by a 40/1 third at this track in a small-field Listed race. That narrow career best has gone unpunished by the handicapper and Martha Brae is expected to make the most of that leniency here.

Selection: Martha Brae

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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