By John Doyle
With December now upon us and the winter really starting to bite, the build-up is very definitely on to the Christmas Racing festivals, and 2019’s offering over the next few weeks promises to be very exciting indeed with the King George and Welsh National shaping up to be extremely competitive events.
First up, the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and there’s every indication that this could be a classic.
The early talk has been about the step up in trip of star Chaser Altior from the Nicky Henderson stable.
Over recent months, Altior has been supported to favourite. However, on his reappearance at Ascot he was well beaten by Cyrname. Cyrname settled well at Ascot, jumped for fun and stayed on nicely to win.
But Cyrname – trained by Paul Nicholls – can be exuberant and will have to prove he can stay the trip of the King George.
Another factor for Altior and the Henderson stable to overcome is that his best form is at Ascot. Altior looked to stay on at Ascot, but doubts still remain about his stamina and whether the horse can repeat that at Kemtpon on Boxing Day.
Lostintranslation is another new kid on the block for the Colin Tizzard team. This horse has improved from run to run and is ridden by probably the most in-form jockey at the moment, Robbie Power.
This horse is a fantastic jumper and showed his class at Haydock when he ran out a good winner of the Betfair Chase. His potential to continue improving makes him a very exciting individual.
Leading Irish trainder Willie Mullins has a strong team and it has been suggested Footpad and Douvan are both being considered for the King George.
Again, these are two very good horses, but the step up in trip is an unknown factor but one can be sure they will be trained to the minute by Mullins.
Over to Chepstow on 27 December, and this year’s Welsh Grand National promise to be an absolute slog.
The rainfall at the Welsh track has been more than usual, so we can expect deep ground for this year’s renewal.
One of the key statistics for this race is that the winner will have previous experience of the course.
Previous winners, Native River and Elegant Escape are being considered, but both will carry much more weight than when they won the race.
They will find it much harder in this mud, but they are the class horses in the race.
Lower down the weights, Truckers Lodge for the Paul Nicholls team and Now McGinty for the Stuart Edmunds stable are likely types to be supported in this race.
Nicholls is a great target trainer and he has talked about Truckers Lodge as being ideal for this race. He will be prepared to the minute.
Now McGinty has good course form too and in a small runner field at Sandown, he made a classy rival pull out all the stops. Again, he was pointed here after that race and will go well.
In summary, Lostintranslation is on an upward curve and could be heading to the top while Truckers Lodge is with the right team to be tuned up for the big day. These progressive young horses and contribute to a merry holiday season.
The steeplechase season is well and truly upon on and the pundits will be pouring over the King George and Welsh Grand National for any indicators for the next year’s Cheltenham Festival.