1.50 Kempton Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase 3m
Shan Blue is favourite for the opening Grade One on the card on the back of two faultless displays over fences.
Dan Skelton's charge was inferior to a number of his rivals over hurdles, but has improved significantly for tackling the larger obstacles, with his latest win over this trip at Wetherby particularly noteworthy.
Shan Blue dismissed Snow Leopardess by 16 lengths despite the concession of 13lbs, with the runner-up scoring on her next start off a mark of 126 in handicap company.
Shan Blue over fences— Racing TV (@RacingTV) October 30, 2020
?? Two races
?? Two wins
Shan Blue loves his fences & absolutely dots up for @DSkeltonRacing & @harryskelton89 at @WetherbyRaces
Results & free replays ? https://t.co/sBcsavpOzF pic.twitter.com/jmwAr5jdqC
Sixth in last season's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival behind Envoi Allen, he reopposes The Big Breakaway, who finished two places and just over 12 lengths ahead of him on that occasion.
The son of Getaway made a winning chasing debut on his seasonal reappearance at Prestbury Park in November, but suffered a shock defeat on his latest start at Exeter.
That outing marked a drop in trip for The Big Breakaway, who looked ill at ease cutting back in distance from just in excess of three miles to 2m3f.
The battle with Bold Plan was lost, but that encounter may ultimately help Colin Tizzard's runner to win future wars. The thinking behind running the half-brother to Kildisart over such a trip was to acclimate him to the early pace he can expect to face in Grade One company. Still only five, and with just five starts under Rules to his name, that experience is likely to aid his long-term development considerably now that he returns to a more suitable trip.
If The Cap Fits was the best of this bunch over hurdles, but the latecomer to chasing may not have the scope to progress over fences that his rivals possess.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has won this race four times in the past and the sharp nature of this track
is likely to play to the strengths of Enrilo, who tends to travel strongly in his races.
One For The Team outran his odds when second at Newbury last time out and may do so again. but he'll likely need a strong pace to be seen at his best.
Kalooki's chance in that contest was compromised by jumping to his left throughout, and that could prove fatal to his chances at right-handed Kempton.
2.25 Kempton Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle 2m
Epatante is undefeated since disappointing in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, one of only two defeats she's suffered in her lifetime.
Last season's three-race campaign culminated in Champion Hurdle glory, but it's speed-favouring Kempton that probably plays to her strengths more than Cheltenham.
The daughter of No Risk At All had her very first start on English soil here after arriving from France, and it was one of the more remarkable hurdling debuts we've seen in recent years.
Horses that race as keenly as Epatante did that day rarely win, and when they do, they tend to be worth following.
What a mare! A superb performance from Epatante, who runs away with the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle, finishing well clear of the galant grey Silver Streak pic.twitter.com/OMKvfCA5q0— Kempton Park Racecourse (@kemptonparkrace) December 26, 2019
Epatante made a winning reappearance this season in the Fighting Fifth when accounting for Sceau Royal, and while Silver Streak's race was over just before it began thanks to the antics of Not So Sleepy, there's nothing to suggest he would have been able to lay a glove on Nicky Henderson's charge.
Stablemate Floressa will likely help set the early pace and Silver Streak is poised to adhere to social distancing guidelines and follow Epatante home a few lengths in her wake, just as he did 12 months ago.
3.00 Kempton Ladbrokes King George VI Chase 3m
Monalee's enforced absence due to the Government's travel ban to Britain has robbed the race of one of the few contenders who promised to be ideally suited by this test.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained inmate was beaten just a length and three quarters in last year's Gold Cup, but that race was steadily run.
Three miles on decent ground at a track that doesn't place an emphasis on stamina would have given Monalee strong claims of becoming the first Irish raider to score in the Kempton feature since Kicking King doubled up in 2005.
Of the nine that go to post, only one runner promises to have his optimum conditions. Dual winner Clan Des Obeaux may not be of the calibre of other past multiple winners, but he has proven himself adept at peaking on St Stephen's Day in Surrey.
Clan Des Obeaux wins the Boxing Day showpiece!— Kempton Park Racecourse (@kemptonparkrace) December 26, 2019
An eleventh King George for Paul Nicholls as Clan Des Obeaux notches up back to back wins in the race. A first King George for Sam Twiston-Davies! pic.twitter.com/CCXolSY0ik
Last year's victory came against rivals who failed to stay the trip, with runner-up Cyrname a yawning 21 lefts adrift, while another reopposing rival – Lostintranslation – was beaten long before stamina became an issue.
Clan Des Obeaux posted one of the best efforts of his career in chasing home Bristol De Mai on his seasonal bow, with the Betfair Chase winner proving almost unbeatable at Haydock over the years, especially when the going is testing.
Cyrname did win a moderate renewal of the Charlie Hall over three miles on his comeback, but that contest didn't feature a brisk pace, and questions remain over his suitability for this trip in Grade One company. Quicker ground than he encountered in last year's renewal will aid his cause.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Santini's copper-bottomed levels of stamina are likely to prove a curse rather than a blessing.
Nicky Henderson's supplemented runner was beaten a neck by Al Boum Photo in last season's Gold Cup, where the lack of early pace proved his undoing.
Soft ground and/or a fast early tempo appear prerequisites for Santini to score on a track that doesn't play to his strengths, and a lack of recent rain doesn't bode well for him, although his place claims remain strong with concerns over so many of his rivals.
Black Op, Frodon and Lostintranslation have to put lifeless recent efforts behind them, while Saint Calvados and Waiting Patiently are returning from lengthy absences and are unlikely to be cherry-ripe for the day, even if their stamina holds out, which is questionable.