1. Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (1.55 Kempton, Wednesday)
Long Run and Coneygree both won this Grade 1 on the way to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in the last decade, indeed Coneygree did the double in the same season, and you would not be one bit surprised should a future staying chase superstar emerge from Wednesday’s race. It is the most sumptuous showdown of all this Christmas.
Nicky Henderson seems to think Santini is something special, as does Nico de Boinville, and he didn’t do a lot wrong when making a winning chasing debut at Newbury. That form has since been franked by Rocky’s Treasure.
Topofthegame produced an extraordinary performance at Exeter, where he somehow worked his way back into contention having been left at the start. Paul Nicholls has gone on the record saying that if he does have another Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in his stable at present, it is him.
Topofthegame (Sam-Twiston-Davies) winning a competitive handicap hurdle at Sandown. He could go all the way over fences.
La Bague Au Roi gets 7lb from them both and has been flawless over fences so far, as has Bags Groove on his last three starts. There is the 155-rated The Worlds End to consider too following a 26-length romp at Cheltenham last time.
Five horses, all rated 150 or higher, all potential stars, all with huge reputations. Something has to give.
2. Savills Chase (3.00 Leopardstown, Friday)
Aren’t you just dying to know how good Presenting Percy is? Me too. Seldom do you see such an impressive winner of the RSA and it didn’t look a bad renewal either. Provided sufficient rain arrives, we should get another glimpse of him on Friday. Owner Phillip Reynolds reports him in terrific nick.
Sheer Delight: owner Philip Reynolds punches the air in the winner’s enclosure after Presenting Percy’s RSA Novices’ Chase victory
Edward Whitaker / racingpost.com/photos
But Presenting Percy will need to produce something special to beat last year’s winner Road To Respect, who will adore conditions and has already run away with the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
It is by no means a two-horse race as Willie Mullins plans to throw at least three darts at the board – Al Boum Photo, Bellshill and Kemboy.
Don’t forget the wide-margin JLT winner Shattered Love, and RSA runner-up Monalee. The Ryanair hero Balko Des Flos is an intended runner too. What a staying chase we have in store.
Selection: Road To Respect
3. Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase (1.20 Leopardstown, Friday)
It was won emphatically by Snow Falcon 12 months ago and this year’s race looks even hotter. Next Destination, a multiple Grade 1-winning novice hurdler, is the standout name among the 33 entries and he has scope to develop into a top-notch chaser.
The enigmatic but hugely talented Pallasator is also entered, as is Champagne Classic, who beat Penhill in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Punchestown when last seen in April 2017. Gordon Elliott also has Pertemps Final runner-up Glenloe and Minellafordollars from which to choose.
Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan have never made any secret of their admiration for Minella Fair and the 138-rated hurdler looks the type who could be a stone better over fences. This could be the first step on the ladder to stardom and he should be a juicy each-way price.
The same trainer, owner and jockey won the race last year with Snow Falcon and lighting might strike twice.
Selection: Minella Fair
4. 32Red King George VI Chase (3.05 Kempton, Wednesday)
Some will be surprised to see the Kempton showpiece make only number four in the list. It is a fascinating affair but there are so many question marks hanging over the leading contenders.
Old rivals: Bristol De Mai, Might Bite and Thistlecrack are due to do battle again at Kempton on Boxing Day
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Why was Might Bite so poor at Haydock? Was it simply the stiff fences? Is Bristol De Mai just a Haydock bully? Is Thistlecrack as good as he was? Will the track be too tight for Native River? Could Politologue’s stamina come under the microscope?
So many questions, so few answers.
Selection: Bristol De Mai
5. Paddy’s Rewards Club ‘Sugar Paddy’ Chase (1.15 Leopardstown, Thursday)
We will find out whether Footpad’s lethargic Naas return was simply a blip or something far more serious.
The runaway Racing Post Arkle winner looked special all last season but an over-reach meant he could not live with Saint Calvados at Naas. Willie Mullins is convinced that day is behind him but we will only know for sure at Leopardstown on Thursday when he does battle with Ballyoisin, a fiery front-runner who can be hard to peg back when getting his own way.
Should Great Field show up it will add even more intrigue to an already fascinating affair, and don’t forget Castlegrace Paddy, who looked the part when winning at Cork earlier this month.
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