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The King is dead. Long live the King. This year saw the sad passing of triple Gold Cup hero Best Mate. But the new champion of staying chases, Kicking King, can prove a worthy successor by claiming the King George VI Chase for the second year running. The 13/8 available in the Boxing Day feature can give punters’ coffers a post-Christmas boost.

Kicking King has started his two races this term at odds-on, but flopped in both. The generous odds today are a reflection of fears that something is amiss with the reigning Gold Cup champ. But Kicking King has plausible excuses for both those reversals. He was not fully fit at Punchestown. At Haydock he twisted a shoe and then ran with a nail lodged in his hoof.

Moreover, trainer Tom Taaffe’s yard is only now hitting form. Those that say Sandown won’t suit him are grasping at straws, especially with the ground riding no worse than good.

The dark horse in the race and the one for each-way punters is L’Ami. He is only six and one of the few entries whose form is on an upward curve. He was second in the Hennessy to Trabolgan, who many regard as potential Gold Cup class. 

Just as they did last year, Irish raiders can rattle up an impressive double by claiming this meeting’s two big races with Feathard Lady a strong fancy in the Christmas Hurdle. This mare is unbeaten over hurdles and gets a handy 7lbs fairer-sex allowance from the field.

In the Feltham Novices’ Chase, Nicky Henderson’s smart French import Crozan, who already heads the market for Cheltenham’s Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Chase, can show he is no hype horse.

Sandown selections:

1:40 – Feathard Lady (win)

2:15 – Kicking King (win); L’Ami (each-way)

2:50 – Crozan (win)

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