The traditional Boxing Day races haven’t escaped unscathed with 2020 having yet another cruel twist as Irish horses and their staff were banned from travelling to Britain recently. That is a blow to the action at both Kempton and Wetherby but we are quite fortunate to have any racing at all to enjoy during the festive period and there is still plenty to excite racing fans.
As ever on a Saturday, the ITV Racing cameras will be broadcasting the best of the action. They’ll be stationed at Kempton for the majority of that card whilst also showing the best race of the day at Wetherby. With some great bets on offer, we have gone through the live ITV races to pick out our best betting tips to help you have a profitable and enjoyable Boxing Day.
1:15 Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m4½f
Each of the 11 horses in the running for this novices’ handicap have had to show some good form already this season to make it into the field. None of them are close to becoming the finished article just yet though. That opens up the possibility that a horse will win this by making a big step forward and Champagne Well could well be that horse.
Fergal O’Brien’s seven-year-old has had some problems in the early stages of his chasing career so far. Initially, those problems were to do with his jumping but last time out it was a weak finish that cost him his chance of winning. With his jumping getting better all the time and a drop down to 2m4½f set to suit, Champagne Well can break his chasing debut at a generous price of 9/1.
1:50 Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase
Grade 1, 3m
The hope every year is that the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase will provide a winner about whom racing fans can get very excited. Few recent winners of this Grade 1 have gone on to be superstar chasers the following year but there is hope that Shan Blue might change all of that.
Dan Skelton’s six-year-old was used to competing against some of the best hurdlers around but the feeling was that he would really be seen to best effect over fences. A taking win over 2m3½f on his chasing debut seemed to confirm that feeling. He then proved that 3m is no problem with an even better jumping performance in the bet365 Novices’ Chase where he strolled home by 14 lengths.
This is clearly Shan Blue’s biggest challenge and The Big Breakaway is understandably getting support at a general price of 11/4. However, to our eyes, the bookies may well have called this one correctly so make sure to take the 2/1 available about Shan Blue’s chances of winning.
2:05 William Hill Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 3m
ITV Racing have chosen the right race from Wetherby for their coverage on Boxing Day. The betting market suggests that this Grade 3 will be an ultra-competitive affair in which each of the nine runners has a realistic chance of winning.
Of all of those in the betting, The Dutchman may be the most appealing at the chunky and tempting price of 10/1. His run at Wetherby in October wasn’t only his first of the season, it was his first since the 2018 Grand National. He was, therefore, entitled to a modest return to action but Tristan Davidson’s 10-year-old was much better at Haydock last time out and if he continues that sort of improvement he should be a serious contender at Wetherby.
2:25 Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m
Is there a horse more likely to win their Boxing Day race than Epatante? It’s hard to find a hotter favourite in any of the day’s racing than last year’s Christmas Hurdle winner. Nicky Henderson sent Epatante to Kempton last year as the final racecourse preparation before the Champion Hurdle and she duly won both races. This time around she is the ante post favourite for the Champion Hurdle and the 2/5 favourite for the Christmas Hurdle and should be able to achieve the first part of that double with little trouble.
This will be Epatante’s second appearance of the season and if it is anything like her first she’ll only become a firmer favourite for the Champion Hurdle. Aidan Coleman was able to sit still on the six-year-old as she coasted through the majority of her run in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle as other horses crashed out. As soon as Coleman asked her for her effort Epatante pulled away from the pack effortlessly to end a stunning performance in style.
If Epatante is anything like as good at Kempton as she was at Newcastle she will win this at a canter. The price is the only drawback but she does look a very good thing for those who fancy a multiple on Boxing Day. If those short odds just aren’t your bag, then those looking for a tasty each way option should consider the battle hardened Ballyandy at a tempting 10/1.
3:00 Ladbrokes King George VI Chase
Grade 1, 3m
Clan Des Obeaux heads into Boxing Day looking to become a three-time winner of the King George. That would place the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old in a group that includes Desert Orchid, Kauto Star and Wayward Lad among others. Clan Des Obeaux may not have the class of those horses but there is no denying his suitability to this race and this track so he does look the right favourite at 7/4.
There are some causes for concern for favourite backers though. It was clear last season that Clan Des Obeaux’s exertions in this race made life much tougher for him over the rest of the campaign. Some are worried that something similar may already have happened given how hard he had to work when going down in defeat to Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase just last month on testing ground.
There is a trio of high class eight-year-olds ready to take advantage should the favourite falter. His stablemate, Cyrname, has a real chance of reversing the form from this race last year and looked as good as ever when making his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby. Then there is Lostintrasnlation and Santini, horses who have been talked up as potential Gold Cup winners yet have not been able to build on their promise so far.
This could be a thrilling renewal of the King George and although there are four main protagonists, it is the favourite that the others all have to beat. Clan Des Obeaux put up a game fight on unsuitable ground to the uber-course specialist Bristol De Mai at Haydock but with course and ground much more to his taste, he is our tip here.
3:35 Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Hurdle
Class 3, 2m5f
ITV Racing’s Boxing Day coverage comes to a conclusion with a competitive looking, 17-runner handicap hurdle. There are potential winners throughout the betting including the horse right at the bottom of the weights, Distingo.
Gary Moore’s seven-year-old produced a very good effort last time out when working his way from the back of the field to land fourth place in a similar race at Kempton. It might be a good idea for Moore and his son and jockey, Joshua Moore, to employ different tactics this time around as it can pay to race prominently at Kempton. If the race pans out well then Distingo has a good chance of at least a place.