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Festive Horse Racing review: Hewick and Galopin Des Champs star

Hewick spoiled the party for an unlikely King George victory on Boxing Day, while Galopin Des Champs was another of the festive racing stars this Christmas.

As we look back on the busy festive racing action, there was also stand-out successes for State Man and Nassalam. 

Heroic Hewick earns unlikely King George glory

The King George was billed as a three-way tussle between Allaho, Bravemansgame and Shishkin but Hewick spoiled the party for an unlikely victory at odds of 12/1.

The classy staying chaser, who was flat out for most of the way during Kempton’s Boxing Day highlight, stayed on best of all to get up under Gavin Sheehan when the big names floundered in the final furlong.

He was only bought for £850 and the remarkable story continues with trainer Shark Hanlon bagging another major prize with his stable star.

So where can we next see Hewick? Hanlon reported that the Gold Cup will be his next assignment, although he is still as big as 14/1 for the Cheltenham showpiece.

Nicky Henderson's stable stalwart Shishkin, a faller two out when seemingly in with a big shout, is considered to have a better chance in the Gold Cup as he can be backed at 8/1.

Galopin destroys them in Savills

Perhaps one reason for Hewick being available at such a big price for the Gold Cup was the performance of Galopin Des Champs in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on 28th December.

While his chance was aided by the late withdrawal of his recent double Punchestown conqueror, Fastorslow, there was plenty to like as he roared back to form with a 23-length success from new kid on the block Gerri Colombe.

Gerri Colombe was considered many people’s Gold Cup fancy after a game Grade 1 success on his first start in open company at Down Royal last time, but he simply had no answer to a back-to-form Galopin Des Champs on the soft ground he would have relished.

As a result, Gerri Colombe is out to 9/1 for the Gold Cup and Galopin Des Champs has shortened to 11/10 for his repeat bid. 

He will be the idea of a Festival banker for many punters.

Had he not fallen at the last with the 2022 Turners Novices’ Chase at his mercy, Galopin Des Champs would be arriving for the Gold Cup seeking a fourth successive victory at jump racing’s flagship event.

State Man forces change of plan for Impaire

Leopardstown’s Matheson Hurdle on 29th December only attracted four runners but still represented an intriguing clash between the Willie Mullins'-trained stablemates, State Man and Impaire Et Passe.

Paul Townend had a tricky choice to make but got the decision spot on as State Man found another gear to notch an impressive seventh Grade 1 strike, with Impaire Et Passe having no answer back in second.

The often-underestimated State Man is now 4/1 for the Champion Hurdle, as he likely bids for yet another top-level triumph in the Cheltenham Festival’s day-two feature.

The Irish Champion Hurdle looks his for the taking at the Dublin Racing Festival in February, although Constitution Hill looks nigh-on impossible to knock off his perch at Cheltenham after a breath-taking Christmas Hurdle success at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He is 1/3 for the Champion Hurdle, while Impaire Et Passe drifted out to 10/1 in light of his Leopardstown runner-up finish. 

Connections mentioned the idea of the Stayers’ Hurdle with last season’s stylish Ballymore winner to avoid a dust up with Constitution Hill at Cheltenham and he is a 10/1 shot for that potential target, which is scheduled for the Thursday at Cheltenham in March.

Impaire Et Passe would have his stamina to prove at three miles but that division lacks a superstar and he still retains real star quality from his novice campaign.

Nassalam looks special at Chepstow

It is impossible to remember a more impressive Welsh National winner than Nassalam was in Chepstow’s flagship contest on 27th December.

The Gary Moore-trained seven-year-old landed the Trial in good style a few weeks earlier and built on that by running away with this prestigious event by a whopping 34 lengths, relishing the heavy going.

Handicaps might be a thing of the past for Nassalam now as he has risen 16lb to a mark of 161, and he will be a danger to all in any staying chase when conditions are testing.

The Welsh National has been landed by plenty of classy types in the past and Native River managed to finish third in the Gold Cup just two starts and three months after capturing the 2016 running at Chepstow.

Could Nassalam achieve something similar? He but could be an interesting dark horse if his team decide to go for Gold and, on recent form, nobody could blame them.

And, after his Chepstow victory, Nassalam has been priced up at 40/1 to win the Gold Cup. 

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