1:20 Kempton (Boxing Day)
HERMES ALLEN 15/8 generally – 1.25 POINTS WIN
What a great race this is and although we only have 6 runners you could make a case for 3 of these. I will start off with why I am taking on the favourite and supposedly french superstar, IL Est Francais. He could go and win this on the bridle, he could be very special as connections believe he is, but although he has looked good when winning in France, I am not sure what he has beaten in the process. He has also done all his winning on heavy ground and with the ground being good at Kempton, you have to question if it is going to suit him. It is also worth pointing out that IL Est Francais is not actually a full thoroughbred and 7 8ths of a thoroughbred. Not that it matters if truth be told but if I teach members something about the work that goes in, so be it.
With that in mind I am happy to take him on with HERMES ALLEN who I think will love the drying ground. Paul Nicholls made a comment recently that HERMES ALLEN has form on soft ground but is a much better horse on better ground. I have always said since we tipped up HERMES ALLEN at Cheltenham over hurdles in November 2022, this horse is going to be a serious chaser over 3 miles and that is where his future will be.
He made his debut over fences at Newbury at the start of December and won easily enough. He had a few problems going into the race so to win the way he did when only 80% fit, tells me he has so much more to come.
Last year I also wanted to see him run in the Albert Bartlett over 3 miles rather than the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival so to see him running over 3 miles here is music to my ears. He is a horse who stays and has speed, the perfect horse around Kempton and if he progresses as he should, I think he will give the favourite plenty to think about.
Giovinco deserves a mention as he is a very strong traveller but a stablemate of Hermes Allen, Stay Away Fay put him in his place and HERMES ALLEN is just as good if not more classy than Stay Away Fay. WIN.
2:30 Kempton (Boxing Day)
SHISHKIN 9/2 William Hill and Paddy Power – 1 POINT E/W (2 places, 1/4 odds)
The big race of the day, the King George Chase and what a race we have in store. After going over the race in my head, reading years of notes I have stored for each horse and literally taking it all in, I am siding with SHISHKIN. Much of that does come back to the price. A bit gutted I have slightly missed the 5/1 but 4/1 is still too big for SHISHKIN with only 6 runners in the race. Much of that price is down to the fact he refused to race last time out, something he has never done before so I don’t think he will do it again. If he starts, his price immediately goes down to 5/2 just by taking one step forward.
We all know what SHISHKIN has done in his career, a winner of the Supreme, Arkle, Queen Mother Chase, Aintree Bowl Chase. He is a superstar and although he is not getting any younger, we still know he is capable as he stayed on all the way to the line in the Aintree Bowl and the Ryanair Chase. He won the Aintree Bowl and he was 2nd in the Ryanair Chase, despite making mistake after mistake. How he only went down by 2 lengths in that race is unbelievable.
In my notes for many years I have always put SHISHKIN wants 3 miles, SHISHKIN wants 3 miles right handed, SHISHKIN is a stayer and that was all the time he was winning over 2 miles.
I think a lot of people, tipsters, press whoever you name are looking too deeply into what happened last time out and disregarding him because of that. Of course it is a worry, I am not denying that, and also the fact he is coming here without a run this season is not ideal, but when we look deeper into his form it is frightening around Kempton. He has run 4 times around the course and has won 4 times. In total from those 4 wins the combined winning total of lengths is 54 lengths, absolutely sensational stuff. He just loves it around the course and now finally up to 3 miles, he could literally be deadly. I always believe he is a better horse when going right handed and from 8 starts going right handed, he has won 6 races. The races he lost were when he refused last time out and at Sandown over 2 miles last December, when he was done over 2 miles.
The drying ground is also a massive advantage to SHISHKIN and if he gets into a nice rhythm, gets jumping he has all the attributes for a King George, we know he now stays, he has speed, he is a great jumper (going right handed) and we know this has been the plan since he won at Aintree in April. Yes a recent run is not ideal but being the trainer like Nicky Henderson, SHISHKIN would have had days away and an intense training regime. Ultimately he has a better chance than his prices suggest.
Allaho who is the current favourite is all class but I think if he goes from the front he may set it up for SHISHKIN while last year’s winner Bravemansgame has not looked the same this year.
COME ON SHISHKIN.