45 minutes of manic racing madness kicks off the Christmas festival fun 5 months ago

45 minutes of manic racing madness kicks off the Christmas festival fun

Just two days of pleasantries to get through.

Just two days of pretending that these are the festivities you've been waiting all year for.

'Happy Christmas, many happy re...la de da de da'

It's not going to be easy and nobody said it would be. Find yourself drifting in and out of conversation after conversation, as your mind trails off to a fantasy world that you suddenly realise is only a day, half a day away.

These are countdown-worthy times.

Christmas eve and Christmas day are great. But you must remember that this is only the pre-amble. The real festivities begin on St Stephen's day and thereafter, when a full round of Premier League fixtures kick-off in conjunction with the return of the darts but most importantly of all, a time when the white flag is raised and 'ttttthey're off.'

Christmas brings with it a feast of horse racing from this side and the other side of the pond and December 26 marks the beginning of it all.

The racing is hot, the competition is heavy. You'd better get yourself ready. Here are the best duels, the mouth-watering showdowns that lie in store on the hallowed grounds of Foxrock, Kempton and further beyond.

St Stephen's day is the day. Three duels in 45 minutes whet the appetite.

Thursday December 26

All of the below takes place in the space 45 enthralling minutes.

Fakir D'oudaries V Laurina (Racing Post Novice Chase, Leopardstown, 2.20)

Strap yourselves in for a proverbial thriller. Fakir and Laurina can barely be separated in the betting for the first Grade One of the festival, and this has all the ingredients for an absolute belter.

Joseph O'Brien's devilish four-year-old jumped like a stag when beating Samcro last time out but Laurina is still a bit of a quantity unknown in these surrounds.

What a way to start it all off.

Fusil Raffles v Epatante (Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle, Kempton, 2.30)

A who's who of Nicky Henderson's talented yard.

Fusil Raffles missed Cheltenham last year, but returned to win impressively on Punchestown soil in early May. Beat the highly rated Fakir D'oudaries that day, and got this season off the mark with a win over Grand Sancy in Wincanton. 15/8 favourite for a reason here, but Epatante and Verdana Blue - the respective second and third string of the Henderson yard - are expected to go well.

Faugheen V Samcro (Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase, Limerick, 2.40)

Two gems of horses, who have had roundabout runs in recent times. Both are showing signs of a return to form now and this showdown is one of the most eagerly anticipated of Christmas week.

Lostintranslation V Cyrname (King George VI Chase, Kempton, 3.05)

Paul Nicholls' sprightly seven-year-old hasn't quite come from nowhere, but Cyrname's defeat of Altior in Ascot last month was fairly breath-taking.

He's one of the big boys in the chasing game now, but he's up against a top table mainstay. Lostintranslation has proved himself time and time again and the three mile trip should be no problem. 7/4 represents decent value.

Footpad however, may be more than a footnote in this race. Whooped Mala Beach by ten lengths in Thurles last time in an impressive showing. Will need to improve, but the increasing trip might just be the tonic for Footpad.

Saturday December 28

And we're back on the 28th.

Presenting Percy v Kemboy v Al Boum Photo v Road to Respect v Delta Work (Savills Chase, Leopardstown, 3.10)

Need we say anymore?

Bring on the magic.