Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, but punters are confronted with the much more difficult challenge of making their wallets swell on Saturday. The biggest betting race of the day is a fiercely competitive handicap hurdle at Ascot known simply as “The Ladbroke”. Races don’t end up with a moniker like that by accident. This is a race in which the bookies expect a pay-day.

The last five years have been kind to the enemy, with winners at 33/1, 25/1 and 14/1. No favourite has scored. Perhaps an over indulgence in pre-Christmas merriment has addled the mind, for the advice this morning is to ignore this. The favourite has to be backed.

Jack the Giant comes here off the back of an excellent win at Cheltenham last time out a mere eight days ago. That allows him to race with just a six-pound penalty. This horse is a handicap snip. Even with his penalty, he is 24lbs lower than his chasing rating. Jack the Giant has a 50 percent strike-rate over fences and hurdles on today’s good ground and can claim this decent pot before reverting to the bigger obstacles.

Any ante-post punter with one eye on Cheltenham should set the video for the BGC Long Walk Hurdle earlier on the card. Former two-mile champion timber-topper Hardy Eustace is trying to get three-miles for the first time and is the favourite to win this. However, Black Jack Ketchum has got his ground at last and is fancied to prove his doubters wrong.

The Christmas cracker of the festive season, as ever, is the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. The participation of Gold Cup hero Kauto Star has meant the field has cut up. However, My Way de Solzen is still available at each-way prices. Readers of the pink ’un will be familiar with the “credit crunch” that is going on. This bet may be the closest thing to free money you will find at the moment. If he isn’t at least placed I will eat my paper hat and endeavour to find a more respectable living than tipping horses in the New Year (perhaps flogging CDOs?).


1:40 Ascot (22 Dec): Black Jack Ketchum (win)

2:15 Ascot (22 Dec): Jack the Giant (win)

2:30 Kempton (Boxing Day): My Way de Solzen (each-way)

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