Merry Christmas and Good Evening from the Major who writes to you from the table of my parents home in Sutton Coldfield.
The weather is cold and blustery, walking the dogs earlier in Sutton Park I had to turn my collar to the wind and bear the brunt of the cold damp on my hat-less head. The sun was setting and the dogs were rooting through the undergrowth, bounding and sliding through the mud. As the dank gloom descended, a certain sanguine sense settled on me. Sometimes, when cold, out, watching dogs becoming filthy, considering the weakness of your attire, on the brink of night, with a warm home waiting…. you are so close to life, it feels good.
The walk after Christmas lunch was in order, my good mother had prepared four meats, Turkey, Pork, Gammon and Beef. Where was the lamb I cried, surely two cuts of pig was too many….. Apparently it is not the Christmas spirit and I was chastised.
My sister was meant to host Christmas but a new cooker was not arriving in time and with a fortnight to go, the switch was made. That pretty much made my mothers Christmas, the combination of playing reluctant host coupled with the smell of a crisis.
I trust your Christmas has been fine and in perspective. I wish all of you merry band the happiest of times, the best of health and gods own luck. I know my followers are the decent sort, I try and root out the cads, they tend not to return. As such, I shall not remind you to think of others less fortunate, you will be doing that already.
There is so much racing tomorrow and so much I want to do that I wanted to provide two blog posts. The first would be an in-depth analysis of the King George – I plan on giving you Christmas cheer with the winner. I want to share the thought process that leads to the decision too, allowing you to part company with me at any given point.
I will then provide a less detailed summary of some of the other Kempton racing.
In a separate post, I planned on a whirlwind tipping ceremony of every race run tomorrow (that is a lot). The analysis would have been surface level only but it feels like a fun thing to do. Sadly, it is Christmas and I am snow blind by racing with no fewer than a million races tomorrow.
Before the tips though, racing royalty and a Sam Waley Cohen rant (not against him per se).
Recent History of Kempton’s King George and Long Run’s Jockey
Kauto Star will be in attendance at Kempton tomorrow and the sight of the five time race winner will warm the festive air with fans clamouring to be in the presence of greatness.
Winner of the race in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, defeated by Long Run in 2010 and regaining his title in 2011 – Is there a more impressive recent national hunt race record. Add 4 Betfair Chase titles, 2 JN Wine Champion Chase runs and the first horse to regain a Gold Cup and you have a bone fide legend.
Spare a thought for Nacarat though. Watching many of those Kauto wins, the horse that sets such a nice tempo and travels oh so well until the last half mile deserved more credit than history will give him. I shall afford him what I can, my thanks for his brave efforts against superior flesh.
Without doubt, my favourite King George would be 2009. Barbers Shop toiled on, Nacarat the same but Ruby and Kauto that day looked like perfection personified. Some of the fences he cleared were majestic. He looked a horse born knowing he was the greatest.
Should Long Run have beaten him in last years renewal? Probably. I know it is a well worn subject but the Major would add his two penneth worth to the views of the jockeyship of Long Run which in my view cost too much momentum in last years King George and in the Gold Cup.
Sam Waley-Cohen of the fabulously wealthy clan is a full-time dentist and for six months of the year, pretty much a full-time national hunt jockey too. He works incredibly hard to do what he does.
The case for the defence is that…. 1) Sam has already won a King George and a Gold Cup aboard Long Run, thus it is a proven partnership worth protecting 2) Is it not the Corinthian spirit that the Major knocks…. ah the plucky amateur, playing with such straight a bat and steeled spirit as the best of them…. There is that too, granted. 3) Let us not forget too that Mr Robert Waley-Cohen has paid his money, it is his toy set and he can do what he wants, he who pays the piper….?
None of these assuage my frustration at the present situation. My arguments are simple. True champions in our sport are there to behold. Kauto, Frankel, Denman, Arkle, Red Rum, Sea Bird…. take your pick, what they achieve is more than the purse for their owner, far more.
Horses like these achieve things that transcend the individual. It is no longer one element of the race, it is the whole, it is the story. The spontaneous round of applause as Kauto pulled up in the Gold Cup in March was beautiful, a crowd acknowledged a champion. Ruby asked the first question but did not belittle the horse by asking again, Kauto said no once, it was enough and everyone appreciated the graceful departure.
In the case of Sam Waley-Cohen, he accepts that he is not the best jockey and this creates pressure, he clearly thrives on it too. Sam might get 30-40 winners in a year but that compares poorly to the best jockeys riding hundreds of winners, you would expect it too as well, it is the benefit of being professional.
The skill of jockeyship in these races for me is in presenting the horse well at fences. Geraghty, Walsh, McCoy, Fehily, O’Brien, Madden and Russell, among many of the top pro’s, do this exceptionally well.
If Long Run were aided by such a jockey, I am absolutely convinced that the horse would already hold two King George titles and two Gold Cups. Both of the defeats came from scruffy jumping and the jockey looks awkward to me.
I accept I have never ridden a horse but while I will gladly bear the brunt of those that know far more than I from the saddle, I know what my eyes and what my sense tells me.
Long Run would be better served with a fully professional top class jockey, he would jump better and thus run to a better mark. I not only feel a frustration born from a desire to see the best jockeys on the best horses, I also feel the greater sport is suffering as a result. This is no ordinary chaser, trying to win a half valuable handicap. This is potentially one of the best chasers we have seen, history beckons. I wish we did not handicap him with an amateur in the saddle.
The owners pay the bills, they can do as they please, I just wish for the sake of racing that Geraghty would get the leg up tomorrow.
None of this is a slight on Sam Waley-Cohen either. He accepts the basis of my argument, that he is not as good as the top professional riders. I genuinely admire the work he must put in to ride at the standard he does. He also seems like a top guy. None of this is personally directed, he is doing his best, I just wish he would keep it to the likes of Radjhani Express.
The King George Winner
I said I would provide the name of the winner of the King George. Here we go….
I analyse races to differing criteria and I want to share the process for selecting the winner of the King George with you.
I have used my judgement and some statistical base to analyse the horses chances on going, trainer form,horse age, jockeyship, best horse form, recent horse form and likelihood of enjoying the track.
Yet, analysis like this is only useful in ensuring you do not miss elements of fact in the story you create. Live your life by a model and the bumblebee cannot fly. So, once I have made this assessment, I shall make my case.
My scores came out, incredibly flat, suggesting this is a wide open King George.
|For Non Stop
|The Giant Bolster
In each the percentage is chance of winning on the scores allotted with my usual adjustments made.
In this case, I am going to throw them away. It suggests a range of prices akin to a handicap from 6/1 Long Run to 16/1 For Non Stop.
My market, massively rates the chances of the outsiders. How does that fit with my feel for the race….. hmmmm, not very well. This will be a case of drawing on some of the analysis but feeling my way through the back stories of each.
The most massive factor for me is class, it strikes me that our best chasers win the King George. They are normally aged from 7-9, that is, in their peak racing years. Look at the names… Kauto, Kicking King, See More Business – The multiple winners are class horses.
It is easy to get distracted by analysis, what we have to ascertain are two things – Are there serious impediments to you running your best? Are you good enough?
In this race, I believe only the following have no serious impediment. Long Run, Kauto Stone, Cue Card, Captain Chris and Riverside Theatre.
Grand Crus is perhaps my highest profile offcut, I feel will struggle on the ground. He has much poorer form on soft and has never raced on worse. A wind op may be crucial in proving me wrong but I am willing to bet that the spring will see him run his best races and maybe failing here might put the RSA on the cards.
I am not with the Giant Bolster who has shown one piece of top form in placing in a poor Gold Cup on summer ground. Not for me.
Champion Court is good but looks thoroughly average in this company.
Likewise, For Non Stop, who has the added impediment of being unlikely to enjoy Kempton, in fact this horse has a surprisingly bad record going right handed.
Junior looks like a horse supplemented to try and win some place money, I don’t think it will pay off – Handicapper out of his depth is my reading.
So, to the protaganists and let us assess the chances and review the merits.
I want to start with two you might be surprised to find me rule out. Kauto Stone and Cue Card. Both have different profiles.
Kauto Stone is proven over trip and ground, his three mile win in Ireland on heavy represents his best form and Kauto’s half brother (what a story that would be!) should enjoy conditions.
Cue Card has to prove he will get the trip – Connections think it is no problem on on Kempton’s flat track and I might agree if it were not for the heavy conditions. This will make it a truly testing three miles and turning for home going well may mean nothing after the last fence.
The truth is that six year olds have won the race but they have to be top draw. Kauto won aged six, winning a Tingle Creek in the same year (unbelievable really!) – So that is the standard to judge the chances of these two by.
Kauto Stone, definitely not in my view… Cue Card, maybe, just maybe.
Then there were three and as Holmes said, rule out the impossible and whatever remains, no matter how far fetched is the truth.
Riverside Theatre, Captain Chris and Long Run. We have two horses that have placed in a King George and on that has won it and placed in it.
Captain Chris showed arguably his best form last time out encountering heavy for the first time. If that form sticks then I think he is booked for a place as a minimum and represents a terrific 16/1 price. He loves conditions and he loves Kempton (three from five).
Riverside Theatre has not had a run this year but that is not a concern. His record fresh is immaculate and he will be wound up for this. He also loves Kempton and gets Geraghty aboard.
This is why Long Run has to be the tip for the King George. When it comes down to it, class is the compelling argument. Riverside rates one of the two horses I rate in the contest and Long Run gave him a twelve length beating when only a novice. Anything like that form and my selection should wipe the floor with this lot. The jockey is the only impediment I can think of and I think he will win despite that.
People forget that this horse set the track record when winning the Gold Cup. That is some achievement and I think it is the class act in the field.
Cue Card rates a danger, there are lots of if’s – Of the two 6 year olds, the former Champion Bumper horse rates the one that could be of the quality to progress and win again. Those if’s add up though, will he get heavy? Will he be good enough? Will he stay the trip? A risky dodge, but a dodge.
My best each way alternative would be Captain Chris who only has to overcome his inconsistency to rate a very good place chance at 16/1.
Long Run will win the King George, class will tell.
The Christmas Hurdle
The talk is that Cinders and Ashes will be better for the last run and may reverse with Countrywide Flame who looked an easy winner on soft.
Darlan arrives as one of the best of last years novices but really this one needs better ground, surely.
For the Major, the art is to keep it simple, Countrywide Flame is the Christmas Hurdle tip and with good reason. He loves the mud, he has just shown terrific form and the triumph is not looking bad as a form race. 15/8, keep it simple.
The Major will however have a slice of former Champion Hurdler, Punjabi. This horse is the apple of my eye, I still see his white face on that little body as he held off Binocular and Celestial Halo to win me my biggest pile of notes ever. That will be one for the heart and I would love to see him run a place.
Although I am going to win no friends with the value punting set, Dynaste looks as good as a bolt on bet as I know. His facile chase victories mean that the 5/1 ante post for the RSA is my current favourite Cheltenham bet.
There is nothing in this field that scares me at all. His jumping is immaculate, what is not to like.
The 3.45 Handicap Hurdle – Kempton
Four favourites on one card is probably not what you want from your tipping man but Katkeau is all the rage in the last. The Pipe inmate looks a handicap good thing sort and one poor UK run is nowhere near enough to ignore this promising French sort….
Racing Post Novice Chase – Leopardstown
Avrika Ligeonniere is an evens favourite and it is understandable as to why. When you are as blessed as Mullins is with Novice Chasers and you have a handful in at the five day stage, which you take out to rely on one brute shot, punters have to take notice.
Oscars Well though is the one for me. This horse fell on the penultimate start but apart from that not a lot has gone wrong. This is a classic case of my horse having more in the bank but reputation catapulting the other to the head of affairs. Take the 7/4 on the second favourite… its a bet.
To the football…
Tottenham odds against at Villa look a bet. Surely Villa will be fighting to restore some pride but it is a young team and they may struggle, particularly if they concede early.
Watford are my money train at the moment, hence 5/4 at Bristol City is Merry Christmas!
May your Boxing Day be better than mine. I am booked for lunch at 2pm… what sort of sick person does that to me? A wife of ten years is the answer… She claims innocence but really… She will pay.
Courage, roll the dice.