Good evening and welcome the the Racing Post Christmas Q&A. Let's hope we can find a few winners for you.
From what I can see it's rarely won by something at the top of the weights, so I'll be looking down the lists a bit. Dromnea, who was seventh last year, goes into the race off two career bests according to Racing Post Ratings and looks interesting at around 25-1. Another one of interest if he runs (and I certainly don't suggest backing him now as he's in over 2m1f and 2m3f over Christmas) is Peoples Park. He looks really progressive and bolted up over 2m1f at Fairyhouse at the start of the month. I've no idea whether he will get 3m as he has never tried more than 2m4f, but he is a Presenting half-brother to Ballyoptic, so when he does try he might prove really well suited to it.
I've long been a believer that Killer Miller was JP's number one for the Paddy Power and I thought the Troytown was the perfect pipe-opener to his season. He has been dropped 1lb to 136, meaning he just has to carry 10-10 and, on a line through his beginners chase victory over Bonny Kate, he could have plenty up his sleeve off that mark. I'd be amazed if he goes off 16-1 on the day. Three miles in the mud are exactly what he wants and what he will get.
Bit boring, but I'll have to say Altior for the Supreme, who I put up in January last year. I told anyone who cared to listen I thought he was a certainty and he didn't let me down. I'm still searching for this season's Cheltenham banker.
Without doubt Un Tempts Pour Tout winning the Ultima Handicap Chase on day one of the Cheltenham festival. I'd been rabbiting on about how well handicapped he was off 148 at various preview nights and getting ridiculed for it. So it was sweet to see him do what he did. He was a lovely price too.
If there's going to be a blowout it will surely be Thistlecrack, who is going in at the deep end, but otherwise I really can't see Cue Card being beaten. He's different class to these at his best and with only seven runners (perhaps less on the day) it's not easy to be tempted by an each-way bet.
I would absolutely love to see him win as he's owned by a friend of mine in Paul Byrne along with Ian Madigan and Dominic Ryan, both rugby stars (one a slightly bigger star than the other might I add!). He looks very well handicapped but I am worried about him getting in. If he does sneak in at the bottom of the weights, he would be a massive danger to my fancy Killer Miller.
If Baron Alco runs in the novice handicap chase at Kempton I'd say him. He could have been quite lucky to get into this off top weight on 140 after running second giving weight to Whisper at Cheltenham. He won at the meeting last year and looks certain to go well.
If he travels, Anibale Fly would be the only genuine Grade 1 horse in the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton. He's freely available at 7-1 now but if Tony Martin decides to declare him, he will go off favourite. I have no doubt about that. I like Baron Alco in the novice handicap, while at Leopardstown I'd be willing to give Mega Fortune another chance against Landofhopeandglory in the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle. He's better than he showed at Fairyhouse.
I think Killer Miller is certainly one at 16s for the Paddy Power. Mega Fortune could be a price on St Stephen's Day too and, if Nichols Canyon goes for the Ryanir Hurdle over 2m, I will be backing Shaneshill for the Christmas Hurdle over 3m.
Warrantor is the one for me and I think he has something to offer off a mark of 1376. He adores the mud, has been laid out for the race and I loved his run at Cheltenham.
The two at the top of my long shortlist were Unioniste and Onenightinvienna. Things aren't helped by weather forecasts suggesting anything from 2.3mm to 23mm of rain on Friday, so we will have to wait and see but Unioniste is normally at his best after a couple of runs and is nearly a stone below last season's opening mark now. There's no better trainer than Paul Nicholls when it comes to keeping these French-breds on the go and I think he'll run well. Onenightinvienna looks a certainty to improve for a marathon test.
Personally I don't see anything beating Altior and if I could bet on Yorkhill's eventual target it would be the JLT all day long.
I'm not so sure. To these eyes, Altior wins the Arkle no matter if Min or Yorkhill shows up. I was very impressed with Buveur D'Air at Haydock and he is my idea of the JLT winner too.
I'm tossing up between a lump on Cue Card or just sitting back and watching it. Thistlecrack has yet to run against anything anywhere near as good as CC
Have you no eyes, Paul???
I'm short on those. Guess it's not normally my time of year, which would be why this month has been so bad this year! I do remember having a good bet on Kauto Star for his final King George.
Mine would have to be Penzance winning the Triumph Hurdle in 2005. It would a beautiful sight to see Faasel, who was as quirky as my missus, chasing him up the hill. He held on bravely. I was on at 16s ante-post. Beautiful.
Run the Triumph at Christmas did they DJ?
Sh**! I thought that said Cheltenham!
My Christmas one would be Barton Bank winning the King George. What an adorable horse he was!
And you asked if I had eyes!?!
Hmmmm....I wouldn't be so sure! Does Vroum have natural two-mile pace for a track like Kempton. I'd slightly favour Yanworth myself. Cannot have The New One. I don't think Kempton plays to his strengths at all. And, as for My Tent Or Yours, he can be your tent now, I have got rid of him.
What is this fascination with Vroum Vroum Mag? I've long thought she is the most overrated horse in training. She has an official rating of 154 and has never run to a Racing Post Rating in excess of 157 - take her 7lb sex allowance away and that is the form of a fair Grade 2 performer, no more. She got found out against Apple's Jade and she'll get found out again.
Leave that one to DJ, but it would be nice if these racehorses would actually race now and again.
That's a hospital pass you have given me, Paul. Look, we all know that Willie keeps his cards so close to his chest that not even his chest hairs get at them. I really hope we do see Faugheen but I doubt it and we might not see Annie Power until Cheltenham. My guess would be Vroum for Kempton, Nichols for Ryanair Hurdle and Shaneshill for Christmas Hurdle.
I don't have any hard and fast rules, but ground would arguably be most important for me. I value the input of people who provide speed figures, but have to admit to being a little too lazy to do much with them myself.
Form, first of all. I would look back on races over and over again. I have my own ways of valuing horses performances. Obviously ground, trainer form, jockey and whether a course will suit come into play as well. I would not be a speed ratings man myself.