No, not the title of Enid Blyton’s latest book, but the number of runners contesting the 32Red King George VI Chase at the Bunbury course at 3.15pm.
Unless you are a troglodyte, you’ll be aware that this is the eagerly awaited shoot-out between the Tizzard two, with Cue Card and Thistlecrack disputing favouritism at 5-4 and 14-1 bar.
Choosing between them could be a coin toss, notwithstanding an 18lb difference in official ratings in Cue Card’s favour. The reason for the discrepancy stems from the difficulty the assessor has in rating a horse that has won all three chases without ever coming off the bridle and it is prescient to remember that Thistlecrack’s hurdle rating is comparable with Cue Card’s chase rating of 176.
My own feeling is that Thistlecrack’s jumping may well not stand the test at this stage in its career, especially if taken on for the lead by Josses Hill, a mightily improved 2 ½ miler, trained by the master of Kempton, Nicky Henderson. This horse has been supplemented for this race at a cost of £10,000, which is a shrewd piece of business, as it can finished tailed off in fourth and still pick up £11,139!
If it gets the 3 miles, Josses Hill might, just might, get the big two off their bridles, which all adds to the intrigue.
All in all, however, this is a ‘just watch and enjoy’ race.
The 32Red Christmas Hurdle at 2.40 has also attracted just 5 runners and also appears to be a match between the top two in the market. The difference is that here we have a wager, major.
Favourite at 11-8 is the Alan King trained Yanworth, the choice of Barry Geraghty over our old friend My Tent Or Yours. This 6-y-o’s only defeat in its novice season came at the hands of Yorkhill in the Neptune at the Festival, in which it was beaten for pace rather than stamina and there’s the key. Connections opted for the longer of the two Championship novice events and, indeed, were mentioning the World Hurdle as this season’s target. On reappearance, Yanworth made hard work of heading Lil Rockerfeller over 2 1/2miles at Ascot and gave all the appearances of being a ‘grinder’ rather than a ‘quickener’, so 2 miles round Kempton on good to soft surely can’t be ideal.
Step forward, therefore, The New One – your day is to hand. It was expected that this 8-y-o would go chasing this season, having come up agonisingly short in the biggest tests over hurdles, but connections have had a re-think in the enforced absence of the mighty Faugheen and, based on its reappearance win, giving 8lbs to MTOY at Cheltenham, this decision could pay off big time. Officially rated 13lbs superior to Yanworth and meeting it at level weights, the 15-8 on offer with 10BET must be taken.
Now a footnote on Cricket.
Alistair Cook has achieved two landmarks in 2016:
He has led the side to a record number of Test defeats in a single calendar year (8)
In their ‘Team of the Year’ the ICC have chosen him as Captain.
As our French cousins might say:
“Fou comme une boite des grenouilles”