ROCK ON, KEMPTON: IT’S A STUNNING KING-GEORGE CARD: The old and the new clash at Kempton: Kauto Star v Long Run, Binocular v Rock On Ruby, and three of the hottest novices in the business raise the level of the Feltham to that of its last winner, Long Run himself.

In the Long Run, the young must beat the old. But we have to trust that his Haydock defeat was through lack of gold-standard fitness, if we are to back him today. In the long run, old king Kauto Star must give way to the pretender.

But was it new tactics – Kauto made all – that outran Run that day and is he now better than ever at 11 years old, going on 12? Only the race will tell.

I said some time ago that both Denman and Kauto Star had done enough; the one has retired; racing was bad for the horse; the other returned in triumph; and that has been good for racing, particularly today’s event. But can he maintain his form at the highest level?

I assessed each horse in my ABC guide (Archives). My verdict is below, as part of my assessment of the best of today’s magnificent Boxing Day programme.

1.25 Kempton Nicky Henderson is three out of four in this race but has his run come to a full stop, or rather a Semi Colon? Only the Pipe team has been able to win with a five-year-old, though that age group dominates this field numerically.

Semi Colon, Listed placed over hurdles, lost his debut-chase chance at Sandown by jumping slowly and finished remote of Trafalgar Road and Loch BA, this pair now handicapped to dead-heat after a pound adjustment for a neck.

I’d prefer Loch BA as a CD winner, with Trafalgar Road pretty much a glass horse who doesn’t take much racing and has yet to put two races together.
Trafalgar Road is giving weight to Our Mick, though that one was rated ahead of him over hurdles and had a confidence booster at Catterick on the way to this when left in the lead, winning eased down.

That’lldoboy let me down when favourite at Cheltenham last time but may do better on this flat track and another five-year-old, the grey Temple Lord, has come back well after a year off.
Bless The Wings (9.4) improved on his hurdles form when sent chasing last time and prefers a right-handed track.

1.45 Wetherby (Rowland Meyrick) Midnight Chase is up against it, giving weight all round; not since Behrajan at the turn of the century has the winner managed to carry more than 11st 2lb. The norm is 10st to 10st 8lb.

Ferdy Murphy has had two of the last five winners but his yard is not at its best, though The Hollinwell has returned to form in his last couple of starts, including a close second in the Rehearsal Chase, albeit in slow time when unfancied at 33-1.

You will just now have seen Deireadh Re take the 1.40 at Wincanton. In his 3m Cheltenham success he had Halley well behind over hurdles on that one’s first run in England for Tom George.

A month earlier, Halley had won the Grade-1 chase at Auteuil which has previously fallen to Long Run and Kauto Stone. Halley has so far been a close traveler and it will be interesting to see if he can lie up and last out against seasoned campaigners like Always Right.

Always Right is the horse you wished you owned, honest as a thief, reliable as a money-raking banker. You know what I mean: he’ll do the same thing they do every time.. try to take the money!

2.00 Kempton (Feltham) This race was the stepping-stone for Long Run last time it was run in 2009, and Nicky Henderson is back with another out of the top bracket in the Albert Bartlett winner, Bobs Worth.

The race becomes a dramatic prequel to the King George, since Bobs Worth has as his formidable opponents, Grands Crus and Silviniaco Conti.

Paul Nicholls had won two of the previous half dozen and is bullish about Silviniaco Conti
after his 25-lengths Wincanton win but he’s an easy-to-back outsider of the three this morning and, as Grands Crus, is currently the nearest best thing you can get to Big Buck’s, he has to go in my multiples.

2.35 Kempton (Christmas Hurdle) Binocular and Overturn were the one-two in this last year but Ruby Walsh is three out of three on Rock On Ruby and we seem set for yet another Kempton Park grandstand finish.

There is 0.74 separating the three on Betdaq this morning (yet the book of offers is 101%), so you takes your choice in a punter-friendly zone. I’ve never been a Binocular fan but he overwhelmed Overturn in the race last year.

However, the story on the grapevine is that Ditcheat has been surprised by the constant improvement in Rock On Ruby, particularly the way he slammed subsequent Ladbroke winner, Raya Star 10 lengths in the Gerry Feilden.

Overturn is due a break after 11 races in 2011, Flat and jumps and, though he beat Binocular at Newcastle a month ago, will meet a different rival here. Binocular came on from the Fighting Fifth to win this last year and must be favourkte again.

But I love a horse that surprises his stable, has few miles on the meter and has nothing to lose. Rock on, Ruby!

3.10 Kempton (King George) Kauto Star turned around official ratings by 20lb at Haydock, suggesting that Long Run was way below par. He defeated Kauto Star (third) and Nacarat (fourth) in today’s race last season and again beat Kauto into third in the Gold Cup.

Prep runs for big chases are not Derby trials. You back recent form only when the horse is a young improver, or when it franks known previous form.

Only if Long Run is not the same horse as last year can Kauto Star hope to score. Kauto is a once-a-year horse now; his last three wins have been separated by 11 months and 12 months and he was ‘got up’ for Haydock.

Because of this, there is a third possibility: Long Run is no longer the same horse, and Kauto doesn’t repeat the Haydock run. That is one reason why his stablemate, Master Minded, is in the race.

Somersby will always be on the big-race scene and will flatter to deceive; he has been four times beaten for speed by Master Minded. Now, like him, he steps up in trip for the first time. His galloping style suggests he needs the extra distance but don’t be surprised if he lacks finish again.

Punters can’t bet on ‘possibility’ – that’s pure and simple gambling – they have to be on probability, which means the most likely outcome and, for that, they must use overall form until it is overtaken by events. Overall form says Long Run.

Granted my reasons for demise of the front two, then the ‘one most likely to’ is Captain Chris (8.2 this morning) whose dam won over today’s trip and who is three times a Kempton winner, and has scored on the championship tracks of Cheltenham (Arkle) and Punchestown.

MARKET RASEN: Take a position on clear-in-the-ratings O Crotaigh (2.45) at 3.7. He is a front-runner whom I expect to close right down in price towards the business end of the race but keep an eye on consistent Kadouchski (6.2).

If he moves into a striking position up the climb in the far corner, you’ll have time in the run to the straight to get a price. Remember it’s a long, long run now to the line and O Crotaigh will be hanging on by the skin of his teeth and the smallest of fractions.

WINCANTON: Play in the 12.30. Anay Turge is a bridesmaid (seven times second) and Murfreesboro is 0-5 going right-handed, so I’m expecting Seigneur De Guerre (6.4 this morning) to run them ragged from some way out.

His trainer, Victor Dartnall, has had a great year and is a dab hand when it comes to first–time blinkers, with a 33% win strike rate.
Play again in the 2.50. Shaking Hands (4.7) is another back-and-lay bet. Will try to make all.

BET 3.7pts win SEIGNEUR DE GUERRE (12.30 Wincanton)
BET 2.3pts win BLESS THE WINGS (1.25 Kempton)
BET 13pts win (nap) DEIREADH RE (1.40 Wincanton)
WIN-30 JACKPOTS: BET 8.3pts win ALWAYS RIGHT, and 2pts win and place HALLEY (1.45 Wetherby)
BET 8.5pts win ROCK ON RUBY (2.35 Kempton)
BET 7.4pts win O CROTAIGH and 3.8pts win KADOUSHKI (2.45 Market Rasen)
BET 5.4pts win SHAKING HANDS (2.50 Wincanton)
BET 2.7pts win and place CAPTAIN CHRIS (3.10 Kempton)
DAQ-MULTIPLES BANK-HOLIDAY YANKEE: Battle Group (12.50 Towcester), Deireadh Re (1.40 Wincanton), Grands Crus (2.00 Kempton) and Long Run (3.10 Kempton Park)

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