Forecast rain would be welcome for Kempton officials

Racing director and clerk of the course Barney Clifford will appreciate the forecast rain ahead of the two-day Ladbrokes Christmas Festival at Kempton this weekend.

With little rain having fallen in December so far, the forecast of between 10 and 15 millimetres will be welcomed for the Sunbury track’s biggest fixture of the year that features the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

However, with the ground on Monday being described as good, good to soft in places, Clifford expects the going to be no worse than good to soft.

“It’s expected to get a bit cooler over the next couple of days, then getting milder again with rain pushing in on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day so we could get potentially 10 or 15 millimetres of rain in that period, which would be welcome,” said Clifford.

Asterion Forlonge is one of the horses Barney Clifford has his eye on in the King George VI Chase
Asterion Forlonge is one of the horses Barney Clifford has his eye on in the King George VI Chase (Brian Lawless/PA)

“If we were racing today (Monday) you’d call it good, good to soft in places and that little bit of rain timing-wise would ease the ground a little bit. I’d have to say, at worse, it will be good to soft (on Boxing Day). I think it will be a mixture of the two.”

As for the big race itself, Clifford picked out Irish raider Asterion Forlonge and dual winner Clan Des Obeaux as two to watch.

“The one horse for me in the John Durkan, had he not unseated or made a bad mistake, was Asterion Forlonge of Willie’s (Mullins). He was the horse to take out of that race,” he said.

“Paul (Nicholls) says he’s never had Clan Des Obeaux better. It will be awesome. There will be some pace and one thing you’ll have to do is not miss a fence.”

Clan Des Obeaux is seeking a third win in the King George VI Chase
Clan Des Obeaux is seeking a third win in the King George VI Chase (Steven Paston/PA)

The one indeterminable is the size of the crowd due to the possibility of Covid restrictions being reintroduced.

“We don’t know at the minute what will happen. We’re looking at different variables obviously and different scenarios and we’ve looked through all of those because we’ve been here before,” added Clifford.

“We were the second racecourse back on the second of June 2020. Last year was a surreal experience having nobody here and I hope it doesn’t go to that. We’ve got to be pragmatic and look at all the variables.”

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