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King George day at Kempton is always one of the highlights of the season and it’s a shame there won’t be any racegoers there this year, but it’s obviously a very difficult time. I have a couple of rides on Boxing Day and although the declarations won’t be out for the 27th for a couple days, I expect to be riding Gumball against Shishkin in the Wayward Lad.

Kempton, Boxing Day

KALOOKI – 1:50pm Kempton

I was really impressed with him on his chasing debut at Newbury and I don’t think he quite ran up to that form last time behind Next Destination back at Newbury. The ground was a bit lively but it should be on the slower side at Kempton which will help him. There’s not a lot between them on official ratings and I think he’s got a very good chance in what looks an open race.

He should take a step forward from that last run and seemed in very good order when schooling on Monday. He’s still on the upgrade and it would be lovely to win the Kauto Star again after doing so on La Bague Au Roi a couple of years ago. She had a fantastic novice chase season, with the highlight of her career being this race two years ago. She’s recently been retired and she gave us some wonderful memories.

Richard Johnson thinks Kalooki is one of his best chances over the Festive Period

3:00pm Kempton – King George

Paul Nicholls doesn’t have a bad record in this race with just the 11 wins and he looks to hold a very strong hand again. Clan Des Obeaux ran an excellent race at Haydock behind a course specialist who adores heavy ground. We know he loves this track having won the race for the past two years, while the better ground will suit. He’s the one they all have to beat.

But I was impressed with the way Cyrname jumped, travelled and stayed in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby. Most people thought he couldn’t go left-handed before that so coming back to a flat, right-handed track may suit him even more. He surely won’t be far away.

I wouldn’t write off Lostintranslation, though. He hated the ground at Haydock and will be much better suited to conditions on Boxing Day. I rode him in the Scilly Isles back in 2019 and he’s a very good horse. I think you’ll see a big improvement from him on the better surface.

PUSH THE TEMPO – 3:35pm Kempton

I haven’t sat on him before but I’ve ridden against him plenty of times and he’s a nice ride to pick up for Robert Stephens. He was fourth in the Silver Trophy back in October which reads well and if he can reproduce that here he will have a decent each-way chance.

Kempton, Sunday 27th

GUMBALL – 1:20pm Kempton

I really think Kempton will suit him. He was very impressive at Uttoxeter in October and then he was running a massive race at Cheltenham last time when falling at the second last. We need to bounce back from that but he seems in really good form at home. We’re under no illusions, Shishkin will be very hard to beat, although he’ll have to run up to a fair mark to beat my horse.

Gumball asserting dominance at Cheltenham before falling at the penultimate fence

Chepstow, Sunday

2:50pm Chepstow – Welsh Grand National

The conditions are going to be really testing at Chepstow and you’re going to need a horse that stays really well. Secret Reprieve was very good last time and he has the perfect racing weight, but he has to prove he gets the trip. There are plenty in there like Yala Enki and Cloudy Glen who will relish the test.

It was a brilliant day four years ago when I won the Welsh National on Native River and the Tizzards then did it again two years later with Elegant Escape. The race has been named in Colin’s daughter Kim’s memory this year and it would be lovely for everyone if they were to win it again with Christmas In April.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It’s been such a tough year for so many people and hopefully things are going to get a lot better in 2021.


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