No Faugheen but Vroum Vroum Mag in Kempton mix
Ruby Walsh celebrates winning the mares hurdle on Vroum Vroum Mag
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Vroum Vroum Mag adds spice to Kempton mix By Stuart Riley 12:05pM 21 DEC 2016
THERE is no Faugheen, winner of the 32Red.com Christmas Hurdle for each of the last two years, but Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci could still win the Boxing Day Grade 1 for the third straight season with Vroum Vroum Mag.
She could clash with the likes of Yanworth, The New One and 2013 winner My Tent Or Yours as just six were entered on Wednesday for a race that was re-opened for 24 hours having initially attracted just five entries.
Faugheen has still not been seen on a racecourse since running away with the Irish Champion Hurdle last January. A damaged suspensory ligament ruled him out of the spring festivals, while a reported bruised foot ruled him out of his supposed comeback in last month's Morgiana Hurdle.
After spring victories at Cheltenham and Punchestown, Vroum Vroum Mag made her seasonal reappearance earlier this month at Fairyhouse where she was beaten a short-head in the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle by Apple's Jade and she could face another second-season hurdler of note if lining up at Kempton on Monday in the shape of Yanworth.
The six-year-old will have his first start at 2m since he won the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Ascot a year ago, as he puts his Champion Hurdle credentials to the test and the sponsors make him 15-8 favourite, with Vroum Vroum Mag at 5-2.
One of last season's top novice hurdlers, Yanworth won the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle on his reappearance at Ascot over 2m3½f and was set to move up in distance this season, but the emergence of Unowhatimeanharry, like Yanworth owned by JP McManus, in the stayers' division has led to a rethink.
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Unbeaten at the trip
Trainer Alan King, writing in his Racing Post Weekender column, said: "Obviously it's going to be a big test for him, but we need to find out if he's a Champion Hurdle contender and I think this will give us some idea.
"There will probably be a few big guns in opposition, but Yanworth is well. We've not really trained him any differently since switching targets from the World Hurdle and he breezed on Saturday, which we were very happy with.
"The big question is whether he'll be effective over two miles at Kempton, but the one thing I can say is he's never been beaten over that trip over hurdles. I genuinely don't know how he'll fare, but we've got nothing to lose by trying so let's see what happens."
Yanworth, a best-priced 10-1 for the Champion Hurdle, will meet two Christmas Hurdle regulars in My Tent Or Yours and The New One, who were separated by half a length in the race in 2013.
The New One, a 7-2 shot, has won three times at Kempton, finished second to Faugheen in last year's Christmas Hurdle and beat My Tent Or Yours, who is a best-priced 10-1, in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "He was only beaten a whisker by My Tent Or Yours three years ago. He made a mistake at the last otherwise he probably would have won.
"He's in very good form as you've seen. We want to apply the same tactics as at Cheltenham, more forcing tactics."
The field is completed by Dan Skelton's recent Haydock winner Ch'Tibello, who is a best-priced 8-1, and the 63-rated Gray Wolf River, a 5,000-1 shot with the sponsors.
Good to soft ground forecast
The majority of the ground at Kempton was good on Tuesday but rain is expected over Christmas.
Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: "It's currently good, good to soft in places. It's probably 60 per cent good, 40 per cent good to soft and we've got sporadic rain to come.
"There are two or three bands of rain between now and Christmas day with 5-6mm in each band, and Boxing day looks breezy, but a nice day. I expect we will be good to soft by Boxing day, which should suit everybody."
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