Inevitably, when you look forward to a day's racing the results invariably go the wrong way. I don't think I could have envisaged a worse set of results - all six runners in the Top 40 got turned over with Topofthegame's performance in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novice Chase summing up the whole day. Paul Nicholls' giant chaser should have won comfortably but unfortunately hit the front too soon and was run out of it after the last fence.
La Bague Au Roi won the prize for Warren Greatrex with a tremendous round of jumping and an admirable attitude as she responded to Richard Johnson's urgings. Twice a winner at Newbury over shorter trips this season, she stays well too and got a fine leap at the last to win by a length and a half. She is a terrific mare but I would still be keener on the runner-up and third Santini for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March. Topofthegame is proven at Cheltenham having nearly won the Coral Cup last season, while Santini looked flat today. Nico De Boinville didn't look happy from an early stage. It is possible he wasn't suited by racing right handed for the first time but I suspect the race came too soon after his win at Newbury. I certainly wouldn't be a rush to write him off.
Verdana Blue upset the apple cart in the Christmas Hurdle by collaring stablemate and dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air on the line. Nicky Henderson's mare relishes a flat right handed track and appreciates decent ground and, given such conditions, she is a very smart mare. However, it will be a surprise if she confirms the form at Cheltenham in March.
Paul Nicholls won the King George for a tenth time as Clan Des Obeaux produced a career best effort by some margin. Harry Cobden learned his lesson from Topofthegame as he held on to his mount for longer before pulling away from Thistlecrack. Only six, the ex-French gelding had struggled in four previous runs at Grade 1 level and had been beaten nearly nine lengths at Haydock last time. However, the son of Kapgarde was a different proposition here and was always travelling strongly. Bristol Du Mai made a mistake early on before falling with a circuit to run, Waiting Patiently was unfortunately brought down in the same incident, Native River never looked happy on the track, I am not convinced Politologue stayed the trip, while Might Bite doesn't look the same horse as last season and one wonders whether he has never recovered from his run in the Gold Cup in March.
I thought one of the best performances of the day came from Lake View Lad (5/1) in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby. Bought by Trevor Hemmings during the summer and featured in Bromley's Best Buys in OJA, Nick Alexander's grey gelding was racing off an eight pounds higher mark than when winning the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. He produced a fine rounding of jumping before confirming the form with his old rival Captain Chaos by four lengths. Races such as the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February and the Grand National itself are likely to be on his agenda in the New Year.
Fingers crossed for a better day on Thursday - at least it can't be any worse. Gordon Elliott captured the Grade 1 novice chase at Limerick but it wasn't the best of afternoons for the dual Grand National winning trainer overall. He sent out one winner from 31 runners.
At least the football results weren't too bad.....................
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