DESPITE the fact that racing takes place 362 days a year, punters feel starved at the moment and today’s return to action is welcomed with open arms.
My friends know that the King George at Kempton (3.10) is one of my favourite races of the year, so for this year's Christ Child gift (or Christkindl as it's now known) I got a betting docket with a pony (€25) on Long Run to win the race.
It's nice to know that my mates sometimes listen to my ramblings and I've often mentioned that Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old has become somewhat underrated, having had the misfortune to be around at the same time as some great horses like Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti.
With Finian's Rainbow and Sir Des Champs undeclared, he's now as short as 15/8, but that's still good value with conditions likely to be testing.
I've often noted in this column that his style is becoming closer than a stayer more than anything else and three miles around Kempton on soft to heavy going will play to his strengths.
I do admit that I lost my monkeynuts backing him in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last time out but a fantastic round of jumping from Silviniaco Conti, coupled with an enterprising run from Ruby Walsh, was just too much for Long Run's dour style and he was beaten fair and square on the day.
Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen often gets a bit of stick, but the 30-yearold was right not to turn the Betfair Chase into some sort of sprinting match as it would have taken too much out of the horse and possibly ruined his season.
This time around, though, there's no obvious pacemaker so it will be interesting to see if Waley-Cohen has to take him out early to set the tempo himself, but the horse doesn't mind going out in front doing his own thing and is said to enjoy working on his own at home.
While he's become a little frustrating to follow, it shouldn't be forgotten that Long Run won the 2010 King George (run in January 2011) in fine style at the expense of Riverside Theatre and Kauto Star and if we include his French career, he's now won 13 races from 23, which is a fantastic achievement in any man's language.
True, Kauto Star beat him last year but he lost nothing in defeat and readers will not need reminding that Kauto is widely regarded as one of the greatest chasers of all time.
While Cue Card and stablemate Riverside Theatre won't let him have it all his own way, he can show the racing public what he's made of with a second King George victory.
At Leopardstown, Arvika Ligeonniere looks the banker of the day in the Novice Chase (2.55), albeit at a restrictive price of 10/11. Oscars Well is most likely to follow him home.
THERE are excuses for Flying Trader’s below-par effort at Lingfield last time (7th of 12 runners) as he had just been gelded and wasn't race fit after nine weeks off. He looks well treated in the weights based on his Kempton win in April, and with his jockey Ian Burns claiming a very useful 7lbs, odds of 8/1 are a couple of ticks too high for today's Boxing Day Handicap at Wolverhampton (4.45).
2.0 Kempton: Dynaste
2.35 Kempton: Get Me Out Of Here (e/w) 2.55 Leopardstown: Arvika Ligeonniere 3.10 Kempton: Long Run
4.45 Wolverhampton: Flying Trader (e/w)
Do the Double
THE Fuller’s London Pride Novices’ Chase has been won by some exciting sorts in the past, including Denman and Bobs Worth and this year’s renewal saw Dynaste prove himself to be one of the best novice chasers of the season with a well-rounded victory by four-and-a-half lengths. David Pipe’s six-year-old is back in action in the Kauto Star Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton (2.0) and, with 16lb in hand on official ratings, he looks fairly bombproof, priced around 5/6.
Celtic’s trip to Dens Park to face bottomof-the-table Dundee should be a relatively straightforward assignment. The Hoops have scored 24 of their 37 SPL goals away from home and can be backed with confidence to land the halftime and full-time result at 4/5.