Festive Racing Action – Stars On Show Over Christmas
Key Runners And Names To Note
Competitive Grade 1 racing takes place at Kempton and Ireland over the Christmas period but there are plenty of intriguing runners and races to take in between now and the new year across the country. Our expert has delved through the ante-post entries and cards to highlight who you should watch out for.
Boxing Day Runners
Galia Des Liteaux (12:27 Wetherby)
Dan Skelton has enjoyed recent success with new recruits from the point-to-point scene including Sholokjack who was well supported to land a Leicester Maiden Hurdle earlier this month, and the yard will be hopeful for a similar start to life on British soil for GALIA DES LITEAUX who was an impressive winner of a 3mile Loughanmore point-to-point in October.
The five-year-old mare jumped and travelled well before staying on best to win by 6l on that occasion and could be another smart prospect in the making especially contesting mares novice events.
Fantastic Lady (12:53 Wincanton)
Trainer Nicky Henderson had two entries lined up in the preliminary stages including Barbados Blue but has ultimately decided to run only FANTASTIC LADY who will make her chase debut over the festive period.
The six-year-old mare was last seen finishing fifth at Warwick in May this year but on her penultimate start she put in an eye-catching performance when landing a novice hurdle event at Doncaster in May.
Nicky Henderson’s charge quickened well and jumped bold and big over the smaller obstacles on that occasion and certainly gives the impression she will be a smart chaser in time, being closely related to Listed chase winning stablemate Casablanca Mix.
Good Boy Bobby & Windsor Avenue (14:10 Wetherby)
The Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase is the highlight on Wetherby’s Boxing Day card and both Good Boy Bobby and Windsor Avenue are worth supporting in the feature race.
GOOD BOY BOBBY has been ultra-consistent throughout his career under both disciplines and has really taken his form to a new level since returning back over fences. The eight-year-old landed a Listed Handicap on return to Wetherby in October over an extended 2m3f and almost followed up at Newcastle over 3miles before just failing to reel in the dour stayer Aye Right at the end of November.
Nigel Twiston Davies’ charge rarely runs a poor race and he remains in a rich vein of form and will be tough to keep out the frame in search of a fourth-course win.
Brian Ellison has held no secret in the past how highly regarded WINDSOR AVENUE is in his yard and despite not winning over fences since 2019, the nine-year-old has posted some solid performances in defeat, including when going close in last year’s Rowland Meyrick behind Alan King’s Canelo.
Windsor Avenue returned to action at Bangor in November off an eight-month layoff and finished second to subsequent Becher Handicap Chase winner Snow Leopardess. That return to action will have him spot-on for Boxing Day’s contest and he is now on a 2lb lower mark than when finishing third in last years contest.
Flemcara (14:38 Wincanton)
FLEMCARA confirmed he was still well treated when returning in November off a 242-day layoff to finish a neck second behind Dolphin Square at Newbury.
The nine-year-old would have perhaps won if not being bumped by the eventual winner on that occasion but it was still a fantastic effort on seasonal reappearance after previously landing a Stratford handicap hurdle by over 5l back in March this year.
Emma Lavelle’s charge faces some interesting challengers on Boxing Day including the likes of Barbados Buck’s and Dame De Compagnie but the nine-year-old should be spot-on after that comeback effort and will be ideally suited if conditions deteriorate.
Unexpected Party (14:45 Wetherby)
This looks like a particularly good bit of placing from Dan Skelton and it will be a surprise if UNEXPECTED PARTY can’t get back to winning ways on Boxing Day after finishing second in a strong contest at Cheltenham last time out.
The six-year-old was sent off favourite on that latest start but found the highly-rated Gowel Road too good up the Cheltenham hill. Gowel Road has since run creditably against Listed opposition and Dan Skelton’s charge will be a warm order now back in claimer waters and can make it two course and distance wins after his 8l win on his penultimate start.
After Boxing Day
Morning Vicar (Monday 15:10 Kempton)
The eight-year-old MORNING VICAR was a wide-margin winner of a Class 3 chase on the penultimate run at Perth and shaped well for a long way on return in Class 2 company at Newbury behind some smart types including comfortable winner Fanion D’estruval for Venetia Williams.
Nicky Henderson’s charge would have needed that return to action and only weakened out of contention three from the finish. Morning Vicar won on his second start after a layoff in 2020 and despite having several entries over the Christmas period, Kempton’s meeting after Boxing Day looks to be the first preference back to a track where he has previously run well in the past.
Dickie Diver (Wednesday 14:00 Newbury)
It will be fascinating to see where DICKIE DIVER runs over the Christmas period but he certainly will draw the attention wherever he lines up. Dickie Diver was last seen running over hurdles in 2019 when he was a six-year-old and posted a solid fourth in the 2019 Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival behind the likes of Allaho and future Gold Cup hero Minella Indo.
As a seven-year-old Dickie Diver was sent over fences by connections and ran second on chasing debut behind the useful Paint The Dream of Fergal O’Brien’s before having another tilt at Festival success when returning as an eight-year-old but ultimately was a well-beaten fourth in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase behind the top-class Monkfish.
Dickie Diver will return after a nine-month absence and it will be interesting to see if connections keep him over fences or send him back over the smaller obstacles. Either way, he is a smart type on his best day and the team at Seven Barrows will be happy to see him make his long-awaited return.