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Saturday reaction: 'Epatante has given hope to those thinking of taking her on'

Peter Scargill assesses the key performances in Britain and Ireland

Frodon and Bryony Frost (right) on the way to winning Kempton's King George VI Chase
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An outstanding performance from horse and jockey won the King George VI Chase, providing a brilliant end to the strangest of years in racing.

Frodon has always been at his best when his pinpoint jumping has been accentuated, something made clear by trainer Paul Nicholls when describing his last run as a waste of time due to a number of fences being omitted because of low sun.

Frodon passes the stands in front in the King George

With Bryony Frost controlling the pace and allowing Frodon to jump cleanly and accurately, we were treated to a memorable race – much like when the pair won the 2019 Ryanair Chase.

That would seem the right race to go for again when connections look to the Cheltenham Festival – he is 12-1 for that contest compared to 16-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup – and he will be a contender in any race where his jumping can come to the fore.

'You could not rule him out in the Champion Hurdle'

It paid to race handy at Kempton on Saturday, yet full credit still has to go to the lovable Silver Streak after his defeat of Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle.

The grey was denied a shot at Epatante in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle two starts ago when he was taken out by the wayward Not So Sleepy and has regularly proven himself to be a threat in races such as this.

Indeed, he has appeared to be better than ever this season in recording his two highest Racing Post Ratings, while his third best RPR was in last year’s Christmas Hurdle. You could not rule him out being involved in the finish to the Unibet Champion Hurdle at odds of 12-1.

Epatante lacked her usual dazzle and slickness, with errors all the more problematic for a horse who is so nimble and low at hurdles when on form. She will have to be better at Cheltenham and may have given hope to those thinking of taking her on in March.

'Aintree would be a suitable long-term target'

You wonder if it was a case of damning Shan Blue with faint praise by saying it was his jumping that won him the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, the implication being that The Big Breakaway was the more capable of the duo but for his jumping frailties.

However, much like trainer Dan Skelton’s other Grade 1 novice chase winner this year – Allmankind – Shan Blue put in a strong performance and tested his opponents with his powerful galloping and neat jumping.

Shan Blue leads over the last in the Kauto Star

Cheltenham looks unlikely with connections uncertain he would stay well enough over the trip at that course, but Aintree would appear to be a suitable long-term target.

The Big Breakaway is undoubtedly talented but will need to be better to take victory at the Cheltenham Festival, while If The Cap Fits would be of interest down in grade.

Results, replays and analysis

The Skeltons also had another useful winner at Kempton with Third Time Lucki landing the 2m novice hurdle, again jumping well on his way to victory. That attribute should stand him in good stead wherever he goes next, which could be a handicap based on Dan Skelton’s post-race comments.

Asterion Forlonge 'remains a horse with high potential'

Champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins won both Grade 1 novice chases in Ireland on Saturday, although it was with the lesser-fancied Franco De Port and Colreevy rather than Blackbow and Asterion Forlonge.

Franco De Port’s reputation has outperformed his performances so far, but he swung through to lead at the last and was a worthy winner in what was a peculiar race.

Felix Desjy was erratic, having gone clear before being reeled in and passed before rallying, while Darver Star performed much better this time and perhaps did not have too much left in the end having been more enterprisingly ridden than the winner. Shishkin still looks the one to beat in the Arkle.

Franco De Port and Bryan Cooper after winning the Racing Post Novice Chase

Asterion Forlonge had jumped well before falling at Limerick, which will no doubt frustrate connections. He remains a horse with high potential for the future.

Colreevy was game in recovering from a mistake at the second-last fence and is worthy of her prominent position in the betting for the Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham. 

Ha D'or 'looks to have talent'

Zanahiyr made it three wins from three races over hurdles with a smart performance in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, but it was a slightly unsatisfactory race.

Jack Kennedy was always well positioned in a race where the pace was not the strongest and was able to strike for home at an advantage over his main rivals.

Zanahiyr captures the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle

That said, his jumping was immaculate and Kennedy was glowing in his praise, so he will be a serious threat in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, for which he is the clear 5-2 favourite.

It will be interesting to see what Ha D’or produces on his next start having been unfavoured by the way the race panned out. He was anchored at the back, overraced and made mistakes but showed a good change of speed in the closing stages. He looks to have talent.

How the results affected the markets

Colreevy 6-1 (from 12) for the Mares' Chase with Betfair
Epatante 5-2 favourite (from 6-4 favourite) for the Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power
Franco De Port introduced at 16-1 for the Arkle with Betfair
Franco De Port 33-1 (from 50) for the Marsh Novices' Chase with Betfair
Frodon 12-1 (from 40) for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Paddy Power
Shan Blue 14-1 (from 25) for the three-mile novice chase at Cheltenham with Paddy Power
Silver Streak 12-1 (from 25) for the Champion Hurdle with BoyleSports
Zanahiyr 3-1 (from 4) for the Triumph Hurdle with Paddy Power

Saturday's reports and reaction:

'We've just won the King George!' – Frodon and Bryony Frost light up Kempton

Members' Club: it's Queen Bryony in the King George as Frost ends our horrid year in happiness

Members' Club: 'Bryony Frost's tactics were superb' – how the star jockey won the King George

Silver Streak gains deserved Grade 1 win in Christmas Hurdle as Epatante falters

Jumping wins the day as Shan Blue leaves Skelton brothers purring in Kauto Star

Mick Appleby: 'It's very sad – Big Country was a great servant to the yard'

Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr passes Christmas test with flying colours

Cool Bryan Cooper collects 36th Grade 1 on Franco De Port for surprised Mullins

Stenson makes most of opportunity on Diol Ker to get off the mark for Meade

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His jumping was immaculate and Kennedy was glowing in his praise
E.W. Terms