Kauto Star leads parade of riches

One horse may stand out but there are other races to whet the festive appetite
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The Independent Online

Kauto Star bestrides the holiday programme, and rightly so in his historic quest for a fourth King George VI Chase, but he should not wholly overshadow it. There are several other big races at Kempton and Leopardstown, for the aficionados, while for many others Boxing Day means a rare day at the races among a convivial, local crowd.

While inspections are scheduled tomorrow at Huntingdon, Wetherby, Sedgefield and Market Rasen, a timely thaw is promised in many parts and it should prove worthwhile to use the extra study time to plot a staking strategy over Christmas.

Thankfully, no problems are envisaged at Kempton. In making his British debut in the William Hill Feltham Novices' Chase, Long Run (1.55) could yet prove himself on reconnaissance for the 2010 King George itself. Probably the best hurdler of his generation in France, he has made an assured start over fences and has been exported from Guillaume Macaire with a Grade One steeplechase already under his belt. As a four-year-old, he gets a generous allowance and will contribute to a sleepless Christmas for his new trainer, Nicky Henderson, a notorious worrier.

Likewise Binocular, who made such a tame reappearance at Newcastle and bids to restore his reputation in the big hurdle race on the card. In principle he should have been suited by the sprint finish that day, but he was easily outpaced by Go Native, who follows him here. With the jury out on that form, the value at 7-1 could be Starluck (2.30) who impressed round here at last year's meeting and again showed loads of pace before being outstayed in heavy ground at Haydock last time.

Bellvano (12.45) should at least steady Henderson's nerves in the opener, but it could prove worth waiting for more rewarding odds against Sheriff Hutton (nap, 3.40). Unexposed over fences, he shaped nicely on his return from a lay-off last month and should be suited by this sharper test. Attractive bets elsewhere include Aconitum (2.40 Market Rasen), who improved significantly when switched to handicaps at Fontwell last month and presumably found the race coming too soon when turned out again just five days later.

Rebecca's Choice (12.30 Wetherby) also bumped into a flourishing rival at Sedgefield last month, having caught the eye through the race. Glimpses of ability shown by Wandering Minstrel (1.55 Sedgefield) in bumpers suggest that he could become yet another improver for his new stable, while Lord Of The Road (next best, 2.55 Wincanton) has the potential look of a Christmas bonus for followers of the champion trainer at his local track.