Champion trainer Nicky Henderson could scarcely have his string in better form leading into Christmas and there might be Grade 1 success either side of the big day for the Seven Barrows handler.
Might Bite will have a favourite’s chance in the King George on Boxing Day but Thomas Campbell is slightly more under the radar going into the JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday afternoon.
The final day of racing before Christmas, punters will be seeking to boost the coffers ahead of Boxing Day, the biggest racing day in the calendar.
The Long Walk is renamed this year in honour of Reve De Sivola, Nick Williams’ mud-loving three-time winner of the race who was renowned in his career for simply refusing to toss in the towel in his races.
Unowhatimeanharry won this contest 12 months ago for trainer Harry Fry amid a sequence of eight successive wins after joining his yard.
The cracks have appeared since and while he’s respected as the 7/4 favourite, his last-time-out defeat by Beer Goggles at Newbury suggests he won’t dominate the staying hurdles division like he did last season.
On that basis, it is worth siding with the improving Thomas Campbell at odds of 11/2 for Henderson and Nico de Boinville. He has won a couple of handicap hurdles already this term at Cheltenham and looked an improved performer in doing so.
The latest of those was at Listed level and it was certainly impressive how he managed to put the race away in a few strides when asked after the final flight.
Stepping into Grade 1 company asks a new question but, with doubts over the favourite, Thomas Campbell merits his chance and another step forward should have him in the firing line for a trainer securing winners at a 36% strike-rate lately.
Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, looks to have a solid contender in the Listed Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot with 12/1 chance Frodon.
Bryony Frost has enjoyed some notable successes already this season and her 5lb claim could be invaluable in this competitive contest. She’s already shown she’s ice-cool in the saddle and Frodon comes here off the back of a really good effort in Grade 2 company at the track last time.
Now eased in class, he shaped as though a return to three miles would be in his favour and has plenty of scope to run well on these terms.
Earlier on the Ascot card, it will be a surprise if Irish raider Coney Island doesn’t justify likely odds of around 8/11 by seeing off two rivals under Barry Geraghty in the Sodexo Graduation Chase.
Eddie Harty’s charge was a Grade 1-winning novice last season and got within a half-length of subsequent Irish National winner Our Duke on his final start. If he’s fit and ready for this return, the race looks his to lose.
Evan Williams’ Clyne is also fancied to make a winning start to his chasing career in the second race on the card at Haydock.
He relishes testing ground and goes well at the Merseyside venue. Like Coney Island, he faces only two rivals and, despite both having won over fences already, Clyne can best them.
He was a better horse than either Born Survivor or Testify jumping hurdles and their exploits mean he’s receiving a handy 6lb from them here to make up for his inexperience.
At 6/4, he should get the job done for punters and could make a nice double with Coney Island.
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