Punter's Diary
Sunday 1st December 2013
 
Racing UK
December Gems

December's terrific jumps action has much to commend it and as long as the winter weather stays in its box and leaves the jumping alone, the month's tasty fare is book-ended by two championship races that seem sure to bring out the very best in National Hunt racing.

Global Power
© Racehorse Photos

Global Power
On December 7, Sandown hosts the Tingle Creek Chase as speed takes centre stage on the Esher slopes. A ridiculously easy winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, Sprinter Sacre has the two-mile chasing scene at his mercy and it will be fascinating to see if he can improve upon last season's chasing heroics. Sire De Grugy is likely to be his biggest rival, but he needs to put a disappointing run at Cheltenham behind him, and Sprinter Sacre is all class and should know too much for his main opponent.

It is to be hoped that Nicky Henderson, Sprinter Sacre's trainer, has got his horses sorted out by then because some of the yard's high-flyers have run dreadful races on their seasonal debuts. Bob's Worth and Long Run are the two obvious examples, and their poor runs were not made easier by some puzzling explanations by their trainer for their respective defeats. Apparently 'photograph evidence' excused Long Run's awful effort at Wetherby while Bob's Worth's 40 length defeat at Haydock was blamed on the flat track which seems to make no sense at all when a horse has been beaten so comprehensively.

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Sir Des Champs
© Racehorse Photos

Sir Des Champs
The suggestion too that Bob's Worth was undone having endured a hard race in winning the Gold Cup seems a suspect notion given that Bob's Worth had only run once before the Gold Cup and had hardly experienced a busy season, while Sir Des Champs' brilliant win at Punchestown in April showed that a gruelling run in the Gold Cup had left no lingering after-effects on the Willie Mullins-trained star.

The best of the jumps action moves to Cheltenham on December 14 for the International Hurdle and this year's renewal should be a shoo-in for The New One despite the fact that his stable has not been among the winners of late. The New One should be ready to slug it out for top hurdling onours up the famous Cheltenham hill.

Johns Spirit
© Racehorse Photos
Johns Spirit

On the same day Johns Spirit can go close in the December Gold Cup and perhaps give trainer Jonjo O'Neill a second consecutive success at a high-profile Saturday meeting at Prestbury Park. Johns Spirit was a game winner of last month's BetVictor Gold Cup, and looked to score that day with a little bit in hand after idling close home. Both Captain Conan and Rolling Aces represent powerful stables, and that progressive pair could well take a hand in the finish. Watch out too for French hurdling star Gemix, who is likely to cross the channel and prove hard to beat in the Relkeel Hurdle on the same day.

At Fishers Cross
© Racehorse Photos

At Fishers Cross
The countdown to the Christmas racing feast truly begins with Ascot's prestigious fixture on December 21. The Long Walk Hurdle could be at the mercy once again of an unbeatable At Fishers Cross while in the Ladbroke Hurdle, Nicky Henderson may well be the trainer to side with after readying Chatterbox and River Maigue to collect this pre-Christmas booty for Seven Barrows. Henderson landed a tidy gamble a few seasons back with Jack The Giant and can go close again to collecting this valuable race.

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On December 26, Kempton Park stages an open-looking King George VI Chase where it is no surprise to see Cue Card heading the ante-post market. The seven-year-old was a joy to watch when getting the from-the- front tactics right to beat Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti with ease at Haydock last time. It was clearly the shorter distance and not a lack of fitness that beat him at Exeter on his previous start.

Cue Card
© Racehorse Photos

Cue Card
This year's King George gives Cue Card a wonderful opportunity to atone for his wretched run in last year's race, a defeat that is still painful to recall for those of us who stepped in and took the 10's about the Tizzard's stable star. If Cue Card is going to win a Gold Cup in March, then he should be able to land a King George on the way after showing that he stays 3m 1f at Haydock last time.

Finally, December rounds off its action with the Welsh National on December 28 with recent convincing Haydock scorers, Nuts N Bolts and Sydney Paget, holding sound prospects in an open-looking race and Garde La Victoire can send punters home happy by landing Newbury's Challow Hurdle on the same day.

Follow Malcolm Heyhoe's December selections with GG Alert.

[Archive November 2013]