Tag Archive for: Barney Clifford

Welcome rainfall at Kempton ahead of Christmas Festival

Kempton received the welcome Christmas present of 10 millimetres of rain overnight ahead of the two-day Ladbrokes Christmas Festival, starting tomorrow.

With little rain falling in December, the precipitation during Christmas Eve into Christmas Day has eased ground conditions to good to soft, good in places

Clerk of the course and racing director Barney Clifford said on Christmas Day: “We are now good to soft, good in places. We had 10 millimetres of rain overnight which was delightful. We are forecast possibly another five to 10mm over the course of the next two to three days. The ground has taken it remarkably well. It’s a 50-50 ratio today.”

The proof of the pudding on the state of the going was given by the three Irish contenders for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

“The horses that cantered round this morning just made a nice print. It’s lovely ground,” said Clifford.

“Willie Mullins’ two King George runners Asterion Forlonge and Tornado Flyer and Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo had a good leg stretch and a nice canter round. We’re all ready for the big day tomorrow.”

On his personal opinion on the big race, Clifford said: “Asterion Forlonge can make a few mistakes but you can’t really do that at Kempton. If he gets into a good rhythm and jumps well, and puts it together he could be anything but Paul (Nicholls) is very excited about Clan Des Obeaux. You know when Paul speaks to you his voice says he wants to bag that 13th King George.

Tritonic (left) bids for another course and distance success at Kempton when he lines-up for the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle
Tritonic (left) bids for another course and distance success at Kempton when he lines-up for the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

“It’s going to be fantastic. Numerically select in those other two Grade Ones but it’s top quality.

“It’s going to be a cracking Christmas Hurdle. Tritonic, who has obviously won at Kempton in the Adonis before faltering in the Triumph. He won well at Ascot last week so he’s proven course and distance at Kempton so it will be interesting. Epatante, obviously, is the one to beat.”

A decent crowd is expected over the two days after last year’s meeting was staged behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

“Numbers have been really good all the way through, I believe. Premier badges have been sold out but there will be tickets available on the gate for both days. We’re hoping for a well-attended event,” added Clifford.

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.”

Perfect conditions ahead of King George day

Conditions at Kempton ahead of the two-day Ladbrokes Christmas Festival are set to be “perfect” for Boxing Day.

While the going may ride considerably slower for Sunday’s meeting, which sees Altior return to action in the Desert Orchid Chase, runners in the King George VI Chase on Saturday should have no complaints.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said on Christmas Day: “We had a sharp frost overnight, but because the ground temperatures are so warm at the minute it was only a grass frost.

“It walks as good as I’ve ever had it really. I’ve called it good to soft, but one can find good ground as well.

“Kempton is unique, though, in that it can walk quick but ride a little bit slower, but it’s perfect conditions and I’m looking forward to a fantastic couple of days.

“There is heavy rain forecast on Boxing Day night, which will be a bit of a deterrent for some on the second day, but we’ll see what happens.

“There is the odd risk of a shower overnight tonight. I’ve spoken to my father in Cork and he always says they get the weather before we do and hopefully it won’t be too bad.”

Looking ahead to the actual racing, Clifford said: “There have been plenty of dual winners of the King George, but three-time winners are exclusive company and that is what Clan Des Obeaux is aiming to do.

“It’s a great race, to have four horses rated above 170 is fantastic. Clan Des Obeaux seems really well suited to Kempton, he’s better there than anywhere it seems, but he’s got a serious rival in Cyrname, I think.

“Cyrname has had the perfect preparation, has good course form and compared to last year, when he had a very hard race against Altior, this year Clan had a hard race at Haydock.

Epatante was an impressive winner of last year's Christmas Hurdle
Epatante was an impressive winner of last year’s Christmas Hurdle (Steven Paston/PA)

“Away from the big one we’ve got Epatante again in the Christmas Hurdle. She was awesome last year and is so quick from A to B. But don’t underestimate Silver Streak.

“The Kauto Star (Novices’ Chase) looks to have plenty of depth this year too, it’s a cracking card – it’s just a shame there will be no spectators.”