Timing is everything. And while Kauto Star should gallop to a record-breaking fifth victory in the King George VI Chase (3.0) at Kempton, the guttural roar from punters will be muted. For the last four years they have redeemed their Christmas expenses with one bold St Stephen's Day punt. Three weeks further down the road and it won't be quite the same.
If anything, the weather-induced delay has made life easier for Kauto Star in the William Hill-sponsored showpiece. Sizing Europe's speed marked him down as a viable threat, but Henry de Bromhead's chaser now misses the gig.
The prevailing easy surface is against another improving type in Riverside Theatre, and while Long Run has plenty of winning form on the soft in France, his stamina is less likely to hold out.
It's not as if Kauto Star needs a helping hand anyway. His rising years cause some concern, yet nothing aligned against him is remotely in his league. Only a significant age-related deterioration can stop him posting the 15th Group One triumph of his exemplary career.
The only way to get involved financially is to find the one for the forecast. Madison Du Berlais claimed that berth 12 months ago, fully 36 lengths behind Kauto Star, with Nacarat further back in fourth and Albertas Run a tailed-off sixth. Of the trio, Nacarat can fare best, although his aggressive style of racing makes him prone to run himself into the ground.
For that reason, the race for second place should concern Forpadydeplasterer and The Nightingale, with the latter preferred. A stablemate of Kauto Star, The Nightingale will almost certainly be ridden conservatively, while Forpadydeplasterer is more likely to get involved in the scrap proper. It has the makings of a merry journey home for Paul Nicholls' horsebox.
LIKE MINDED SET TO
DEFY LONG ABSENCE
Today's card at Kempton delivers an ideal balance between high-class action and handicaps promising the prospect of a decent-priced winner.
The best bet of the day falls in the latter category and concerns the bid of Like Minded to defy a 13-month absence in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (3.35).
This looks a minefield at first glance, with bookies betting 8/1 the field in a 20-runner heat. Look more closely, however, and it bears all the hallmarks of a Nicholls long-term plan coming to fruition. Nicholls saddles the top weight, Organisateur, which bookies price up at 10/1 even though the six-year-old got turned over at his beloved Taunton last time.
Organisateur is up against it from a 7lb higher mark here, yet to withdraw him would have prompted a significant rise in the weights.
As things stand, Like Minded gets in with just 10st 3lbs -- and that's without crack amateur Ryan Mahon's 5lb claim. Given Nicholls' penchant for tilting at valuable handicaps with lightly raced horses, we can rest assured that Like Minded will be well primed.
The seven-year-old showed his potential when running second in a Grade Two hurdle when last sighted and makes excellent each-way appeal at 12/1. Those odds should be secured first thing this morning.
Another worthy of interest at Kempton is Polyfast, which can defy top weight in the Home Of Betting Handicap Chase (1.55). Nicky Henderson's chaser goes well at this venue and this contest, featuring two confirmed front-runners in The Snail and Safari Adventures, should set up perfectly for Polyfast's come-from-behind style. His prospects are enhanced by the fact he is up against opponents which are largely out of sorts.
It's a shame for Warwick that the venue's seasonal highlight now clashes with Kempton's all-star card.
Fortunately, however, the totesport.com Classic Chase (3.20) is live on Channel 4, since it offers Richard's Sundance a sound winning opportunity, with his prospects seriously enhanced by the rude health of Victor Dartnall's string after the Devon trainer made regular trips to the beach during the cold snap.
Away from the television cameras, Frascati Park catches the eye in the Pertemps Hurdle Qualifier (2.10).