Huntingdon's storm-damaged stables, how fittingly festive, have reduced the number of Christmas racing fixtures on December 26th to just ten, still a more-than-adequate feast.
Flagfall at Sedgefield at ten to midday until the five to five at Wolverhampton bookend a day of 69 races at ten venues across Ireland and the UK.
With all due respect to the other 66, three races stand out on the first day of Christmas racing.
There is often an argument about what to title December 26th, depending on whether one is in Ireland or the UK. In this particular church, it is and will always be King George day, or in 2011 Kauto Star day.
Sit back and enjoy Kauto Star’s record breaking fifth King George victory in it’s entirety...😍🎄🐐 pic.twitter.com/dkJMv2o8Uh
— Stuart 'Jimbo' Williams (@Jimbo_JumpsMan) December 22, 2019
The 2019 renewal does not disappoint, apart from a few each-way thieves wishing for an eight runner field. We'll settle for six good ones.
Paul Nicholls shows again why he is such an asset to National Hunt racing by taking the revolutionary step of actually running his horses in big races.
The master of Ditcheat has last year's winner Clan des Obeaux as well as the highest-rated horse in the UK, Cyrname stepping up in trip.
Willie Mullins sends Footpad over to the race he has always looked tailor-made for, or at least the Footpad of two seasons ago did. His win at Thurles in November was his first since the 2018 Punchestown festival.
Lostintranslation is on the million-pound path, having already won the first leg of the "jumps triple crown" the Betfair Chase. Robbie Power will again be on board a horse he thinks is still improving albeit on a track that should not theoretically suit him.
The race is set up to be a fascinating tactical affair with Cyrname likely to be prominent. Harry Cobden chose to ride Altior's conqueror over the horse he won on last year Clan des Obeuax
20-times Champion Jockey AP McCoy has this week urged Cyrname's rider Harry Cobden to be brave, with doubts over the horse's stamina. The Champ was famously beaten on board Best Mate in 2001 by Florida Pearl. Despite 4,358 winners to his name, one gets the sense AP still wants that race back.
Cyrname will be ridden prominently, but how Cobden uses the horse's speed to outmaneuver the stamina in the rest of the field will be the key to unlocking this fascinating puzzle.
Limerick will host the clash of the comeback kings, it's Samcro against Faugheen. The two sons of the late sire Germany meet in a clash few could have predicted two seasons ago.
Faugheen wins on chasing debut for @WillieMullinsNH and @PTownend 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/h69hRR5ZvQ
— Punchestown (@punchestownrace) November 16, 2019
Willie Mullins had been threatening to send his dual Cheltenham Festival winner over fences for a few years. This season he finally did it and Faugheen duly obliged at Punchestown on chasing debut.
Samcro opened his chasing account with a bloodless win in Down Royal, before failing to get his landing gear out at Fairyhouse in the Drinmore when last seen.
For a horse that is only seven, it seems like Samcro is on at least his third retrieval mission having gone all of last season winless, albeit in exclusively top-level hurdling company.
Samcro was found to have had a deep lung infection and has since had a wind operation. Trainer Gordon Elliott also built him a new stable with effectively a garden at the back so he gets as much fresh air as possible.
Elliott also revealed the horse uses a nebuliser on a regular basis. No corners are cut with the superstar inmates at Cullentra House Stables.
The battle in the saddle will be intriguing, Jack Kennedy on Samcro will be hoping to right the wrong of Fairyhouse, while Patrick Mullins takes the ride on Faugheen. It is the first time he partners the horse in public since Faugheen's debut for the yard back in 2013.
There are so many unpredictable to the eventual clash between the original machine and the apparent second coming
Three main courses is normally excessive, but on December 26th it's the perfect amount. Leopardstown has their own Grade One chase for novices at twenty past two and even though it only has five runners, it is packed with quality.
While the clash of Fakir D'Oudairies and Laurina will be the most eyecatching, Notebook and Royal Rendezvous will ensure this is no match race.
Joseph O'Brien's French-bred capitalised on Samcro's error at Fairyhouse when last seen.
Dramatic scenes in the Grade 1 https://t.co/eVC1tWNqzH Drinmore Novice Chase, as Samcro unseats Jack Kennedy to give Fakir D'oudairies a clear run to the finish line, for Mark Walsh and @JosephOBrien2 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/MJsQQmPuRz
— FairyhouseRacecourse (@Fairyhouse) December 1, 2019
It could easily be argued that the quality of Fakir D'Oudairies jumping was the contributing factor to forcing Samcro out of his comfort zone and into errors.
Laurina was imperious on chasing debut and despite her hurdles success, the larger obstacles have always looked her true calling.
The jockey bookings here are fascinating. It is a day to test every racing yard's logistics to maximum, and Willie Mullins is the only trainer to have runners in each of the three major grade one races featured in this article.
Paul Townend, the Mullins number one rider, has chosen to go to Leopardstown to ride Laurina. Possibly a tip in itslef, but Willie has won three of the last four runnings of this race.
The only other man to win it in that time is Joseph O'Brien. The man they nickname Jesus (son of God) would be a fitting festive winner.
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