Kempton Christmas Festival Betting Tips – 26th & 27th December 2019

Christmas and sport go hand in hand. That is most certainly the case with horse racing where the Boxing Day fixtures are amongst the most anticipated and traditional in the entire sport.

Kempton Park is the host of the biggest meeting of all with a host of high class races including the Grade 1 race that everyone wants to win: the King George VI Chase.

Weather

Kempton Christmas Festival 2019 Forecast

Forecast via Met Office

Despite many dreaming of a white Christmas, the festive period has been characterised by another type of weather: rain. Heavy, prolonged downpours had a major effect on the pre-Christmas racing with meetings either called off or large numbers of horses pulled out. The build up to the Christmas Festival should be fairly dry but yet more rain is forecast for Boxing Day which should play into the hands of those horses who like running on soft ground.

King George VI Chase Day: Thursday 26th December 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
12:50 Ladbrokes Novices’ Hurdle 2m Ecco to win
1:20 Ladbrokes Chase 2m4½f Roll Again to win at 4/1
1:55 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase 3m Danny Whizzbang to win at 9/2
2:30 Christmas Hurdle 2m Epatante to win at 6/1
3:05 King George VI Chase 3m Lostintranslation to win at 11/4
3:40 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle 2m5f Theo’s Charm to win

Kempton Park always attracts large crowds to their traditional Boxing Day meeting. The King George is obviously the clear highlight of the day but each of the six races on the card provide great betting opportunities for punters. There is a really exciting mixture of racing to enjoy for those who brave the rain and indeed those watching along at home

Get Your £1 Ladbrokes Free Bet Today Novices’ Hurdle

12:50, Class 2, 2m

The first contest of the day at Kempton is a chance for young, up and coming hurdlers to catch the eye. There is a combination of four and five year olds in the field who could well kick on to become high quality performers like previous winner who include Mister Fisher, Altior and Menorah. Ecco is perhaps the most likely to become something special. Paul Nicholls’ four-year-old has already won a couple of times, defying a penalty last time out. He has another penalty to contend with has the class to do just that in this one.

Ecco to win

Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Chase

1:50, Class 3, 2m4½f

There is a competitive handicap for novice chasers up next in the shape of the Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Chase. Run over a distance of 2m4½f, this contest was oversubscribed before final declarations and the final field will feature horses from some powerful yards. The trends show that previous winning form over fences is far from important but that a strong showing last time out very much is.

The market rarely misses the winner so it makes sense to focus on the top part of the market this time around. That’s where you’ll find Roll Again who is a best priced 4/1 with Betfair. Venetia Williams’ five year old was subject to a big gamble last time out and duly rewarded his backers with a powerful performance. He looks set to be a much better performer over fences than hurdles and is still well treated by the handicapper so another win appears on the cards.

Roll Again to win at 4/1

Kauto Star Novices’ Chase

1:55, Grade 1, 3m

The Kauto Star Novices’ Chase is another race for novice chasers to show what they can do but this is on a completely different level to the race that precedes it. This Grade 1 contest has a vital stepping stone in the career of some of the very best chasers around with Long Run and Coneygree using this as a stepping stone en route to winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The heavy rain in the Kempton area has had an impact on the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase with some big names such as Champ being pulled out from the running. Still, racing fans are excited about a battle between Black Op, Slate House and Danny Whizzbang who have each had a lot of support in the betting. The first two are joint at the head of the market but it’s the younger horse, Danny Whizzbang, who looks the best value at 9/2 with Ladbrokes. Five of the last eight renewals went to six year olds and Paul Nicholls’ charge could extend that trend. His inexperience is a worry but Danny Whizzbang may just be something very special indeed.

Danny Whizzbang to win at 9/2

Christmas Hurdle

2:30, Grade 1, 2m

The prestige of the Christmas Hurdle is perhaps best summed up by the fact that it is the second leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling. As one of the biggest hurdle races of the year, excitement is always huge ahead of the Christmas Hurdle and we look to be in for an especially strong renewal this year.

The Seven Barrows team have the race sewn up going by the bookies’ odds. Nicky Henderson trains the top three in the betting and it would be a surprise if one of Fusil Raffles, Verdana Blue or Epatante did not extend his record as the most successful trainer in Christmas Hurdle history. It is possible to make a case for each of the top three but at the prices the best option may well be Epatante at 6/1 with bet365. Her run at Newbury on her first appearance of the season shows that Henderson has Epatante in fine fettle. Another big run at Kempton would see her reward her backers in the Christmas Hurdle and her price shorten considerably for the Champion Hurdle.

Epatante to win at 6/1

King George VI Chase

3:05, Grade 1, 3m

The King George VI Chase is second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in terms of prestige. This is a real highlight of the entire jumps racing season and we have a particularly big storyline heading into this year’s renewal. Lostintranslation’s win in the Betfair Chase set up a crack at the £1 million bonus available to winners of that race, the King George and the Gold Cup. It also saw him move into favouritism for the big one at Cheltenham although he is vying for top billing on Boxing Day with Cyrname.

Those who are yet to be convinced about Lostintranslation point out that he has only really been tested once in open competition. There is no taking away from the quality of his performances as a novice though and any horse who gets the better of Bristol De Mai at Haydock must be worthy of respect in a big chase and Lostintranslation can grab the chance to prove himself once again at a tempting price of 11/4 with Ladbrokes.

Lostintranslation to win at 11/4

Ladbrokes Football “Acca-Boosty” Handicap Hurdle

3:40, Class 3, 2m5f

We end the first day of the Christmas Meeting with a fairly low key, Class 3 handicap. There is a big field assembled though with 17 horses expected to tackle the 10 hurdles set up during this 2m5f contest. The trends show that this is a race for younger horses, whilst there hasn’t been a winner price at longer than 8/1 since Lake Legend won in 2009. Theo’s Charm is one of those who has been getting support early on for this contest and he does Nick Gifford’s nine year old may well have enough to score on the sort of soft ground that he enjoys.

Theo’s Charm to win

Desert Orchid Chase Day: Friday 27th December 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
12:45 Ladbrokes Introductory Juvenile Hurdle 2m Zoffee to win
1:20 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase 2m Fanion D’Estruval to win at 7/4
1:55 Ladbrokes Mares’ Handicap Hurdle 3m½f Deja Vue to win at 13/2
2:30 Desert Orchid Chase 2m Altior to win at 1/3
3:05 Ladbrokes Handicap Chase 3m Deauville Dancer to win at 12/1
3:35 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle 2m Not So Sleepy to win

The Desert Orchid Chase is the standout race of the second day at the Kempton Christmas Festival. A class field has assembled for this important chase but it is certainly not the only contest worth following from a betting perspective with plenty of chances to win from our horse racing betting tips.

Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Introductory Juvenile Hurdle

12:45, Class 2, 2m

A host of horses who are still very much learning their trade as hurdlers are set to take part in the Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Introductory Juvenile Hurdle. The two mile contest is open only to three year olds so backing any of those in the field comes with a certain amount of risk as they are unpredictable. One contender who has already shown the potential to compete at a much higher level as a hurdler is Zoffee. He won his first appearance over hurdles and is in with a real chance of following up with another win on Friday.

Zoffee to win

Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase

1:20, Grade 3, 2m

The Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase has been used by some very high class chasers to earn experience in the earlier stages of their careers. Altior, Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre have all landed this Grade 2 contest in the last 10 years and connections of all of those in the field for the 2019 renewal are hopeful about what lies ahead.

Clearly, the best is yet to come from this crop but we have already seen a real glimpse of class from the bookies’ favourite, Fanion D’Estruval. He made light work of his first appearance in Britain with a quality win over 2m½f on soft ground at Newbury and punters are expecting more of the same this time around. The competition is sterner but his hurdling ability and power set Fanion D’Estruval as the worthy favourite at 7/4 with bet365.

Fanion D’Estruval to win at 7/4

Ladbrokes Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

1:55, Class 2, 3m½f

Half of the last 10 editions of the Ladbrokes Mares’ Handicap Hurdle have been won by the favourite. That is despite this regularly being one of the most competitive races on the Kempton card the day after Boxing Day. Culture De Sivola was not the favourite when she won 12 months ago but she is this time around as she returns to Kempton to defend her title. Nick Williams’ seven year old must have a very good shot but does she represent the best value at 5/1 with Coral?

Deja Vue could just be the bet of the race at 13/2 with bet365. She heads to Kempton on the back of consecutive wins at Ffos Las. This is a step up in class from those two races but she got the job done on heavy ground in each of those wins and will face tricky conditions at Kempton and can outlast the competition over this punishing trip.

Deja Vue to win at 13/2

Desert Orchid Chase

2:30, Grade 2, 2m

When Altior turned up at Kempton for the 2018 edition of the Desert Orchid Chase he had the world at his feet. Nicky Henderson’s charge was the undisputed king of the minimum distance chasing division and was sent off as the 1/8 favourite for this Grade 2 contest. He had absolutely no problem justifying that favouritism with a 19 length win but, having seen his unbeaten run come to an end as he stepped up in trip last time out, there is a certain amount of doubt around the former king.

Henderson is hopeful that a return to two miles will bring the best out of his nine year old. That best will be too much for the rest of the field but will we see it? The likes of Sceau Royal (7/2 with Coral) and Duc Des Genievres (14/1 with BetVictor) offer appeal in the betting for those looking to take the favourite on but Altior should be able to get back to winning ways at 1/3 with Ladbrokes.

Altior to win at 1/3

Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Handicap Chase

3:05, Class 2, 3m

A full strength field of 20 are set to take part in the Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Handicap Chase. There’s a healthy prize fund of £50,000 up for grabs for this three mile contest which includes 18 fences and is open to horses with a maximum official rating of 145. The head of the market is dominated by horses from powerful yards but it’s the rather less heralded Deauville Dancer, trained by David Dennis who stands out at 12/1 with Betfair. He’s run well lately and can land a nice return for his backers.

Deauville Dancer to win at 12/1

Ladbrokes Football “Acca-Boosty” Handicap Hurdle

3:35, Class 3, 2m

The Christmas Festival comes to a close with another handicap that has attracted a big field. This may not be the highest class race in the world but there is a class option in the betting in the shape of Not So Sleepy. He has beaten some very good horses in back to back hurdle wins since coming over from a season on the flat. The handicapper is starting to catch up but there is still room for Not So Sleepy to win again.

Not So Sleepy to win

About the Meeting

The Christmas period is a real bonanza for sports lovers, and racing fans certainly aren’t left out. The pick of the lot on the equine front over the holiday period is this meeting, as Kempton Park lays on the most festive of festivals. For many the big race of the King George VI Chase is now firmly part of the Boxing Day routine, right up there with the left-over turkey and yet another mince pie.

One of the greatest chase contests of the season is undoubtedly the main course, but there’s a lot more to this meeting besides, including a couple of races named in honour of two of the all-time greats of the game a classy Grade 1 Hurdle and a clutch of handicapping action. Overall this is a real post-Christmas cracker of a meeting.

King George VI Chase

For many this meeting really begins and ends with the headline event. That is perhaps understandable as this three mile Grade 1 contest for four year olds and up is one of the most truly historic races under either code of the entire season. Many a legend of the jumping game has safely negotiated the 18 fences of the course on their way into the history books over the years, including the likes of Mill House, Arkle, Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, One Man and of course five-time hero, Kauto Star.

With excellent prize money on offer – £250,000 in 2018 – this race will continue to attract the very best chasers in the game. Another race to have attracted a number of multiple winners in the past, it is the appeal of seeing those old favourites return for another crack at the prize which plays a large part in the enduring appeal of this fantastic race.

Kauto Star’s sublime performances will live long in the memory as the Paul Nicholls-trained stead won in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Desert Orchid’s four wins from 1986 to 1990 also caught the public’s imagination, while the back-to-back victories for Silviniaco Conti in 2013 and 2014 gave Paul Nicholls yet more success in this race.

While this race is open to runners from the age of four, to date not a single four year old has managed to win. To be fair, it’s extremely rare for a four year old to be entered into the race. There has only ever been one five year old winner, Manicou in 1950. A few pensioners have had success at the other end of the age scale though. Two of the aforementioned superstars, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star, won as 11 year olds, but you have to go back to 1937 to find the oldest winner: Southern Hero who was 12 years old when creaking to victory.

Other Key Races

Kauto Star Novices’ Chase

Having won the King George VI Chase on no fewer than five occasions, if there’s one horse who deserves to have a race at this meeting named in his honour, it is undoubtedly the Paul Nicholls-trained legend, Kauto Star. Formerly known as the Feltham Novices’ Chase, this 3m Grade 1 contest, open to novice chasers aged four and older, was renamed to pay tribute to one of the greatest chasers in a generation in 2012.

Kauto Star was of course famously the first horse to ever regain his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown having lost it. Fittingly this event has proved to be a stepping stone towards future heroics in the Cheltenham showpiece, with both 2009 winner Long Run and 2014 champ Coneygree going on to land the Prestbury Park big one.

Christmas Hurdle

It’s not all about the chasers on Boxing Day though, with the classiest hurdlers in the game also being given their chance to shine in this Grade 1 contest held over two miles. Speed over the obstacles is the name of the game in this event for hurdlers aged four and older, which was first run in its current guise back in 1969.

One feature of this race over the years has been that if a horse has shown they have what it takes to land the prize once, then they may well do so again, with the contest featuring seven dual winners up to and including Faugheen’s second success in 2015. Attracting the real cream of the crop from this division, previous winners, Lanzarote, Dawn Run, Kribenis, Faugheen and Buveur D’air all also won the Champion Hurdle itself over the course of their careers.

Desert Orchid Chase

While Desert Orchid didn’t quite manage to win the King George VI five times, he did rack up four successes between 1986 and 1990, and everyone’s favourite grey also gets a race named in his honour. Acting as the centrepiece on Day 2 of the meeting, this Grade 2 chase open to runners aged four and older was introduced to the card in 2006, shortly after the death of that grand old warrior of a horse.

Champion chasers, Special Tiara, Sire de Grugy, and of course the incomparable Sprinter Sacre have all taken this since its inauguration, giving some idea as to the class of horse it often takes to prevail.

History

Introduced in 1937 and named after the monarch at the time, the King George VI Chase, around which this whole meeting is built, took a break during the war years but returned in 1947. It was in this year that the race was first run on Boxing Day, and it has remained in situ ever since rapidly becoming an integral part of the horse racing fabric. The quality of the meeting has only increased over the years with the Boxing Day Card – featuring three Grade 1’s – in particular being one of the most anticipated single days of racing of the season.

That inaugural running of the King George VI Chase remains in the record books – as of 2018 – with the 12 year old, Southern Hero, still the oldest ever winner in the history of the race. That’s a benchmark which will be pretty tough to break in the modern, increasingly competitive racing world, but there is one record which will never be taken away from this meeting. That came in 2015 when Tea For Two came home in front in the Kauto Star Novices Chase, making jockey Lizzie Kelly the first female rider ever to win a Grade One contest in Britain. Just one of many unforgettable moments to take place here over the years, and there will no doubt be plenty more to come.

A Complete History of the Kempton Winter Festival

Christmas Day is the traditional time for opening presents but every year Kempton Park hands us a belated gift of their own in the form of the Winter Festival. Run on the 26th & 27th of December, this festive meeting is one of the most important on the National Hunt calendar, with Boxing Day’s King George VI one of the most illustrious chases around.

Kempton has held two days of racing at this time of year for decades but the idea of the ‘Winter Festival’ is more of a recent concept. Although hard to pinpoint its first appearance, what we do know more about is the history of the races that form this much loved National Hunt meeting and how the festival slowly developed over the years.

1937 – King George VI Chase founded

Just two months after King George VI began his reign, Kempton Park paid tribute to the monarch in the form of a new race. Winner of the inaugural renewal, 12-year-old Southern Hero, remains the oldest champion the event has seen. It wasn’t much of a fitting royal tribute to begin with though as only four horses contested the opening two renewals before the race was put on hold due to World War II.

As British forces used Kempton racecourse as a prisoner-of-war camp, there was no running of the chase between 1939 and 1946. After making its return in 1947, the King George VI Chase moved from its previous slot in February to Boxing Day, where it has largely remained ever since.

1969 – Christmas arrives

A two mile hurdle had taken place at Kempton on Boxing Day earlier in the 1960s but only during the final year of the decade was the Christmas Hurdle born. Originally the Kempton Park Handicap Hurdle, the new race emerged following two successive cancellations in 1967 and 68.

1970 – King George cancelled again

The 1960s had been a turbulent time in the history of the King George VI Chase with four cancellations during the decade. In 1961, 1962 and 1968, frost led to the abandonment of the race while in 1967 foot-and-mouth restrictions led to the same outcome. A new decade failed to bring in a positive change as in 1970 snow forced officials to cancel the showpiece event for the fifth time in just a 10 year period.

1979 – Birds Nest handed the win

Although Birds Nest was a temperamental horse with a tendency to veer left under pressure, it was not him who was penalised in this year’s running of the Christmas Hurdle. The stewards instead punished Celtic Ryde following an enquiry, demoting him from first to second with Birds Nest subsequently declared the winner. While a big blow to take for connections of Celtic Ryde, the four-year-old was able to win the race the following year.

1981 – Frost returns

Having enjoyed 10 frost-free December meetings, the ice cold grip soon returned, forcing the cancellation of the 1981 festival. All races ended up being cancelled with none of them rearranged to a different date or location. This stands as the last year in which we failed to see the running of the King George.

1990 – Orchid makes it four

Wayward Lad’s record as the most successful horse in the King George didn’t last long as Desert Orchid went one better just five years after the former’s triple triumph. The fourth and final win for the David Elsworth-trained horse came in 1990 and how he made light work of it. The 9/4 favourite strolled to a 12 length win during what proved to be his final Grade 1 success. He did attempt to make it five on his final career appearance 12 months later but fell three from the line.

1995 – King George spared

Snow and frost led to the cancellation of the Winter Festival but organisers were able to find a new host for the King George. The race was added to Sandown’s card on 6th January and One Man, trained by Gordon Richards, produced the goods at the contingency venue. By also winning the following renewal at Kempton, he became the first horse to win the King George at two separate courses. He also stands as the only horse to win the race in the same calendar year.

1999 – Wayward Lad absent

Having been part of the Kempton schedule during he 1980s and 90s, the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase finds itself suddenly dropped. The minimum distance race, named after three-time King George hero Wayward Lad, didn’t feature at all on the National Hunt calendar but its period in the dark didn’t last long. In 2000 it returned with aplomb and five years later it moved up from a Class B contest to Grade 2.

2001 – Christmas Hurdle moved

As part of a festival reshuffle, organisers brought the Christmas Hurdle forward a day so that it joined the King George as part of Boxing Day racing.

2005 – Sandown steps in

Due to development work taking place at Kempton, mainly the installation of an all-weather floodlit course, the Winter Festival moved to Sandown situated just a few miles away. Only once did the two-day meet need to find a temporary home though as the construction work took just 11 months to complete.

2006 – Desert Orchid Chase introduced

In order to honour the death of everyone’s favourite grey, Desert Orchid, who had passed away just a few weeks earlier, organisers at Kempton Park introduced this chase on 27th December. They also had the ashes of the four time King George champion scattered on the racecourse before the event’s inaugural running. Making way for the new event on the National Hunt calendar was the Castleford Chase, formerly a Grade 2 chase but now a handicap affair at Wetherby.

2010 – Winter weather strikes again

Frost far more severe than expected led to the opening day of the Winter Festival being postponed. Temperatures in the early hours of Boxing Day reached -7C and things were little warmer when the sun rose. Initially Clerk of the Course Barney Clifford had hoped the King George could take place the following day but he later admitted defeat stating that there was no chance of the ground thawing in time.

Most scheduled races failed to feature as a result but new dates were found for the King George V and the Christmas Hurdle. The pair took place on 15th January 2011, handing Kauto Star the chance to win his fifth King George title. The postponement perhaps ended up working against the 4-7 favourite though as he only managed to finish third on the rearranged date.

2011 – Kauto stars in the record books

After the previous year’s disappointment, Kauto Star bounced back to secure an unprecedented fifth King George win, making him the outright most successful horse in the race. Nicky Henderson’s Long Run set off as the evens favourite but he left himself with too much work to do during the run-in.

Ruby Walsh, who had ridden Kauto Star to glory on the previous four occasions, was again on the mount and put in a truly faultless display. He too entered the record books as the leading King George jockey, beating the record previously set by Richard Dunwoody.

2013 – BHA confirms name change

A year after Kauto Star had made it a stunning five wins in the King George VI Chase, officials at Kempton added the horse’s name to the beginning of the Feltham Novices’ Chase. The change hadn’t received permanent approval but this followed in July 2013 with the race officially change to the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

2015 – Kelly scores Grade One win

Lizzie Kelly makes history as she became the first female jockey to win a Group One race. The then 22-year-old did so on the back of regular acquaintance Tea For Two in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. Previously the pair had enjoyed a good amount of success together but the Boxing Day win topped anything either had accomplished before.

2017 – Kempton under threat

In January 2017 it was announced that the Jockey Club was investigating selling Kempton Park. Under proposed plans the valuable land, just 15 miles from the centre of London, would be redeveloped as housing. The Jockey Club claimed they would be able to invest £500m into British racing but fans of the Winter Festival and in particular the King George, were aghast.

The fixture’s most famous race would probably relocate to Sandown but for many Boxing Day, Kempton and the King George VI Chase are as linked as Christmas and turkey. Thankfully, for now at least, it seems such plans have been shelved but it would be amazing were this issue not to come up again in the future.

2017 – Buveur d’Air secures second jewel in crown

The Triple Crown of Hurdling, which between 2006 and 2010 carried a £1,000,000 bonus, includes the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the Christmas Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle. In 2017 Buveur d’Air became the sixth horse of the century to win the first two courtesy of his Boxing Day win but unlike the rest he later produced the goods at Cheltenham too. In doing so he became our first Triple Crown (of hurdling) champion since Kribensis who managed the feat in the 1989-90 season.

2018 – Altior shows more love for Kempton

Regular attendee of the Winter Festival, Altior, scored his most emphatic triumph yet during the festive meeting. Winning by 13 lengths on his Kempton debut on Boxing Day 2015, he won by an even more emphatic 18 lengths in the Wayward Lad Stakes the following year. Not done there however, the truly outstanding gelding finished 19 lengths clear of the field in the 2018 running of the Desert Orchid Chase. For years to come, the Nicky Henderson-trained horse will be remembered as one of the legends of the Winter Festival.