Focus on Binocular for late Christmas bonus
THOMAS Fuller, a Sussex-born preacher and intellectual, was the first person to record the phrase 'a feast or a famine' in a book he wrote about proverbs way back in 1732. Actually, the phrase at the time was written as 'a feast or a fast,' but the meaning remains the same.
It's been a bit of a famine on the racing front lately with many a good meeting cancelled over the Christmas due to the weather, but with most fixtures now rescheduled, we are in for a feast today with plenty of top action from Kempton, including the King George VI and the Christmas Hurdle.
The latter-named race (2.25) will see the Champion Hurdle winner and runner-up Binocular and Khyber Kim lock horns in what should be a cracking renewal of the race, despite the fact that only six horses go to post.
Binocular was well held in third to Peddlers Cross and Starluck last time in the Fighting Fifth, but he needed the run and will be much improved now that he's shaken off the cobwebs. If reports from Seven Barrows are to be believed, the seven-year-old gelding is in the form of his life.
Following a schooling session on Thursday, in which he flew over the hurdles with great ease, his trainer Nicky Henderson was brimming with both excitement and nervousness when telling the press about his jumping.
"It amuses the horse, it amuses the jockey, but it frightens the living daylights out of the trainer. It tells us he's in good shape and I suppose I enjoy it when it's over," Henderson said.
Early quotes of 2/1 or thereabouts look like cracking value. Khyber Kim is respected, but I can't really see the nine-year-old reversing the Cheltenham form on his first run of the season, so 5/2 is a bit too skinny. Starluck is probably the one that will give the selection the most to worry about.
He was beaten by a short head in this race last year and is a strong-travelling sort with a great record around Kempton. That said, he's got 11lbs to make up on official figures, so I reckon connections will have to be content with some place money instead this afternoon.
In the Novices' Chase at 12.20, Nadiya De La Vega can bag another win after her successful British debut at Warwick in November. She has decent form in some French juvenile hurdles, she jumps well, and she looks open to further improvement.
Early quotes of 6/5 are just about right.
This year's Lanzarote Hurdle (3.35 Kempton) is a very competitive affair and a decent case could be made for at least half a dozen horses.
Barwell Bridge and The Betchworth Kid have very strong claims, but I'm not that happy with the prices on offer so it could be worth taking an each-way chance on the Nicky Henderson-trained First Point, with Barry Geraghty set to hold the reins.
He's a versatile animal which jumps both fences and sticks equally well, and he raced with credit when third in November's sportingbet.com Handicap Chase under top weight following an absence of 233 days.
I had him marked down as a 10/1 shot for this, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him chalked up around 16/1 early doors.
12.20 Kempton: Nadiya De La Vega
2.25 Kempton: Binocular
3.0 Kempton: Kauto Star
3.35 Kempton: First Point (e/w)