Five festive pointers
Ian Ogg picks out five things to look out for on the Boxing Day cards from Kempton Park and Leopardstown.
Can Jenkins (right) follow in the steps of Altior?
Supreme dream or supreme flop
Twelve months ago Altior boosted his Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle claims with victory in the opening novices' hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He was quoted at no bigger than 10/1 for the Cheltenham Festival curtain raiser in the immediate aftermath and stablemate Jenkins is already half that price in places and a top price of 7s.
Their trainer Nicky Henderson has also won the race with River Maigue (2012) and Tetlami (2011) but they could only go on to finish eighth and ninth at Prestbury Park.
Prior to that Menorah won this race and the Supreme for Philip Hobbs in the 2009/10 season.
Champion at Christmas
In last season's Champion Hurdle, Willie Mullins had to shuffle his pack as injury denied Faugheen the chance to complete the double-double having won both this race and the Cheltenham contest in 2014/15.
Annie Power played the role of supersub at Cheltenham for the Christmas Hurdle winner to a tee and now it's the turn of Vroum Vroum Mag.
Expected to come on in leaps and bounds for her reappearance second in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, that short-head defeat was the first the seven-year-old had suffered in 11 starts for Willie Mullins.
My Tent Or Yours came within a whisker of adding the Champion Hurdle to his Christmas Hurdle victory when denied by Jezki in the 2010-11 season with The New One one place behind him on both occasions.
Another Henderson inmate Binocular won two renewals of this race but he could only finish third in the season that he claimed the two mile Blue Riband event.
Don't forget the also-rans
Did you know that eight of the last nine winners of the Ryanair Chase had run in the King George VI Chase?
Seven of the eight contested the races in the same season with the sadly missed Vautour the latest to successfully drop back in distance after his compelling battle with Cue Card last year.
Cue Card could well have added the Cheltenham Gold Cup had his partnership with Paddy Brennan remained intact and followed in the steps of Long Run (2010/11 season) and Kauto Star (2008/09 and 2006/07).
Cue Card and Thistlecrack are both in line for the Gold Cup but could Road To Riches – third last March – or Josses Hill become the latest Kempton runner to lift the Ryanair Chase crown?
Cue Card himself successfully dropped back in trip for the Ryanair in 2013 joining Imperial Commander, Riverside Theatre, Albertas Run, Our Vic and Dynaste.
Will hope deliver glory?
Landohopeandglory is vying for favouritism in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and will be a leading fancy if taking his chance in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Grade Two has not been a good race for favourite backers with only two of the last 10 obliging.
The form, however, has proved to be a good guide to the spring festival with last year's heroine Apple's Jade winning a Grade One at Aintree having finished second at Cheltenham and it's been a similar story for some of her predecessors.
Guitar Pete also won the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle on Merseyside having hit the frame (third) at Cheltenham and Won In The Dark filled the same position in Gloucestershire before going on to take Grade One honours at the Punchestown Festival.
Lurking among Landofhopeandglory's possible opponents is Triumph Hurdle third favourite Bapaume for Willie Mullins who has saddled two of the last four winners and, in the same period, beaten favourites at 3/10, 4/7 and 5/2.
Lose the battle but win the war
You'll have noticed by now that two of those horses went on to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy in March and the other was beaten (and no, I still don't know how) by only a head.
Throw in Sizing Europe's Leopardstown / Cheltenham double in the 2009/10 season and that's not a bad return for the two-mile contest which also produced the Jewson Novices' Chase winner in 2012/13 (Benefficient) and 2010/11 (Noble Prince) as well as the RSA Chase winner in 2008/09 (Cooldine).
Leading lights in this season's entry include Min and Identity Thief but with American Tom, Bellshill, Ordinary World, Martello Tower and Tully East also among the possibles then this promises to be another top-class renewal.
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