Boxing Day at Kempton saw some great performances in the three grade 1 races, none more impressive than Dynaste in the Feltham Novices Chase, as surprising as the fantastic turn of foot Darlan found to beat a quality field in the Christmas Hurdle, and none braver than Long Run who was out jumped at the last by Captain Chris, but battled heroically up the run in to grab a victory in the last strides of the King George V I Chase. Dynaste outclassed his six rivals in the Feltham, a disappointing field for such a prestigious race. He was settled at the rear in the early stages of the race, jumping into the lead four out and putting the race to bed in effortless style, winning by a very comfortable 9 lengths from the Nicky Henderson trained Hadrian’s Approach. Dynaste jumped superbly throughout the race and although his Cheltenham plans are not set in stone he is a worthy favourite for the RSA chase, and it will take a very good horse to beat him in his present form.
Darlan had missed his last two intended engagements due to ground conditions but had to take his chance today for a much needed race course outing. Connections had no need to worry as Darlan who hadn’t run since beating stable mate Captain Conan in a grade 2 novice hurdle at the Grand National meeting, won the Christmas Hurdle with the minimum of fuss. The race was run at a slow pace due to the testing conditions, but when Darlan took it up after the second last he settled the race with an impressive turn of foot in a matter of strides. Alan Kings Raya Star out stayed the rest into second place but had no chance with the winner, and the Paul Nicholls 4yo novice Dodging Bullets did well to run on into 3rd in front of the disappointing 6/4 favourite Countrywide Flame. Darlan was promptly installed as the new favourite for the Champion Hurdle, but the race still looks to be wide open and could possibly be the most exciting in recent years.
Long Run regained the King George crown which he lost to the now retired Kuato Star last year, with a gutsy hard fought win from Captain Chris. The ground conditions had all bar the first two in trouble from a long way from home. Long Run was no stranger to this type of going, having won several races in his early career in France on similar ground. He was kept handy throughout the race and looked very comfortable until a bad blunder five out. The mistake stopped his momentum and would have put paid to the chances of a lesser horse. Long Run made a great recovery to see off all bar Captain Chris who had come from a long way back with a fantastic ride from Richard Johnson. Johnson urged the tiring Captain Chris into a great jump at the last to take the lead, yet Sam Waley Cohen rode a great finish to get back in front by a neck on the line.