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5 races you really won't want to miss this St Stephen's Day

Racing fans spoiled for choice with the graded action at Leopardstown and Kempton.

Landofhopeandglory wins the first race of the day Joseph O'Brien's Landofhopeandglory. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle

Leopardstown 1.15pm

The country’s best three-year-olds go head-to-head in the first big race of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Apple’s Jade won this race last year to launch her very exciting career – could one of this lot be the next big thing?

The JP McManus-owned, Joseph O’Brien-trained Landofhopeandglory is the one that everyone will be watching and is set to go off a short-priced favourite. As per usual, you can expect plenty of support for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh who team up here with the lively Bapaume.

Barry Geraghty on Anibale Fly wins the Coral Handicap Hurdle from Davy Russell on The Romford Pele Anibale Fly, near side, will have a strong chance in the three-mile chase at Kempton. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Kauto Star Novices’ Chase

Kempton 2.05pm

Across the water, the action really gets going with the three-mile novice chase. The only Irish runner in the field, Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly, looks likely to be a leading contender and already has some good Grade 1 form in the book with his second-place run at Fairyhouse earlier this month.

The baby of the pack, Paul Nicholls’ Frodon, will be fancied by many but this is a race with a number of live chances.

Min ridden by Ruby Walsh on the way to winning Min: one of Mullins' many superstars. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Racing Post Novice Chase

Leopardstown 2.20pm

Easily the pick of the day in Ireland and, while it might not turn out to be a straightforward two-horse race over the course of the 2m1f spin, that’s certainly how it is being billed in advance.

On the basis of his novice hurdles form, Min is a superstar in a Ricci/Mullins team that has no shortage of them, but Henry de Bromhead’s Identity Thief is already being talked up as Ireland’s leading challenger for the Arkle at Cheltenham next March.

Pick your side, sit back, and enjoy.

2016 Cheltenham Festival - Ladies Day - Cheltenham Racecourse Yanworth: only hurdles loss came at Cheltenham last season. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

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Christmas Hurdle

Kempton 2.40pm

Another Christmas cracker in which all of the pre-race talk is bound to focus on the top two in the market.

Yanworth has only been beaten once in his impressive hurdles career and that, cruelly, came in the Neptune last season where he lost to Yorkhill. He looked like a horse that needed the run when pushed by Lil Rockerfeller in the Ascot Hurdle last month.

There are few horses in training who can match The New One for hard-luck stories or thoughts of what might have been but the fact remains that Nigel Twiston Davies’ star has only won two Grade 1s.  Still, he didn’t do much wrong when beating My Tent or Yours (who reopposes) earlier this month at Cheltenham, and will be a contender.

The bet365 Festival - Hennessy Gold Cup Day - Newbury Racecourse Thistlecrack: a genuine Gold Cup contender? Source: Julian Herbert

King George VI Chase

Kempton 3.15pm

The race of the day, and perhaps, the race of the week. Only five go to post for this renewal of the King George and if we’re being honest, three of that small field are likely to fill the role of supporting cast.

All eyes will be on Cue Card, now 10 rising 11, as he prepares for another tilt that at the Betfair-King George-Gold Cup treble that he missed out on last season. The first leg was secured in scintillating fashion at Haydock last month when he beat (an admittedly rusty) Coneygree by 15 lengths.

The general consensus now seems to be that there is only one other English horse likely to live with him over three miles and that is Colin Tizzard’s other superstar Thistlecrack. He was untouchable as a staying hurdler and is now unbeaten in three starts over fences. You won’t want to miss his first step up to Grade 1 company for what promises to be a Christmas cracker.

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