Six races certain to get juices flowing over the holiday period
Kempton, today 2.45
1 CHRISTMAS HURDLE
There appear to be four or five genuine contenders for Hurricane Fly's Champion Hurdling crown and this contest should give us an idea of whether The New One or My Tent Or Yours is the pick of the home team.
High-class novices last season, now is the time for one of them to deliver.
Another intriguing aspect is the jockeys involved; Sam Twiston-Davies, who confessed to his hands shaking before riding The New One last time up against wily AP McCoy in what is sure to be a tactical race.
2 KING GEORGE VI CHASE
Kempton, today 3.10
An open but classy renewal pitches young pretenders Cue Card, Dynaste and Al Ferof against established chasers Long Run, last year's runner-up Captain Chris and, possibly, Silviniaco Conti. Although only eight, the impression is that Long Run has lost a yard of pace and is vulnerable.
3 DESERT ORCHID CHASE
Kempton, tomorrow 2.30
The Hennessy apart, Nicky Henderson's defence of his trainer's title has stuttered along. With Simonsig out for the season, Bobs Worth and Long Run disappointing, much rests on Sprinter Sacre.
The unbeaten two-miler should have 19lbs in hand over Sire Du Grugy, which won the Sandown race. But on testing ground, without a previous outing and the way some of Henderson's stars have run first time out, it may be close.
4 CORAL WELSH NATIONAL
Chepstow, Saturday 3.10
Conditions look like they will be sticky. That will suit Well Refreshed, which was third in a race of similar distance on good ground at Sandown recently but won Haydock's Grand National Trial on heavy.
5 LEXUS CHASE
Leopardstown, Saturday 2.55
Nicky Henderson always wanted to take the Irish-bred Bobs Worth back home this season. The reigning Gold Cup winner will renew rivalry with Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs, but both need to improve a good deal on their first starts and this could be a golden opportunity for First Lieutenant to restate his Gold Cup claims.
6 RYANAIR HURDLE
Leopardstown, Sunday 2.0
Hurricane Fly's 17th Grade One victory last time out was probably the least impressive win of his career.
He will need to be on his game this time up against Our Conor and Jezki. Our Conor looked a potential Champion Hurdler when he turned the Triumph Hurdle into a procession but a run on the Flat in the autumn left him slightly battered, delaying his hurdling reappearance. However, he remains the most exciting pretender. (© Daily Telegraph, London)