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December 2022: A month supreme for jumping enthusiasts

Sandown's triumph of the heavyweight king

Presumably nursing a hangover, for Alan King's stable star, Boxing Day was time better spent tucked up at home. Five in at Kempton, Edwardstone unseated Tom Cannon, heading clear of the Desert Orchid field alone. "No one tell him that doesn't count!" laughed one post, as a riderless Edwardstone jumped ahead of arch rival Funambule Sivola. It didn't. But, for a campaign with faults inbuilt, this was no matter, for the chase of consequence was the one that did.

On 3rd December, pulling clear of Shishkin and Greanteen, Sandown's roaring crowd saw Funambule Sivola stumble to last in the Tingle Creek, Edwardstone leading from two out. In 2021, at the same meeting, it was Edwardstone who'd given Cannon his first Grade 1 success (in the Henry VIII). In 2022, reunited after an all but unbeaten season to April, he saluted a horse whose bond should carry him all the way to Cheltenham, and to much-deserved glory in the Queen Mother.

For Nicholls, it's just another one for the tally

The numbers of jumping's Aidan O'Brien have been arresting for decades. Three thousand winners, three Gold Cup successes, thirteen times champion trainer. Now, too, Paul Nicholls is thirteen-time winning trainer of the King George VI Chase. There were eight British meetings on Boxing Day 2022, though Kempton held onto its unrivalled crown. That said, with a rescheduled Long Walk, the faithful had gathered as much for Constitution Hill's demolition job (in the Christmas Hurdle) as for another Nicholls triumph.

Frodon, the 2020 Ditcheat victor, was here for a third time, Bryony Frost leading the field until about five out, finishing third. Charlie Deutsch, meanwhile, was busy throwing all (including, ultimately, himself) in a desperate finish on L'Homme Presse. But, either way, punters hadn't a hope of catching Bravemansgame, as Harry Cobden effortlessly pulled the Charlie Hall hero fourteen lengths clear of his nearest Venetia Williams challenge.

Meanwhile in the Celtics...

Nicholls' superiority stays undented, but all sports have their rivals. Last year, Ireland went eight clear in Cheltenham's Prestbury Cup, thanks largely to ten Willie Mullins victories, half them on the Festival's final day. This Christmas, Mullins returned with a vengeance, and by end of play on 27th, it seemed he and Frankie Dettori would have a feat in common. As it was, Mullins left Leopardstown with (almost) all seven races on the card, returning on Thursday to watch State Man claim the Matheson.

Elsewhere, Conflated took the Savills Chase for Gordon Elliott, and Home By The Lee the Irish Christmas Hurdle, run in memory of Jack de Bromhead. At Chepstow, meanwhile, a native win was rolling out on 27th for David Prichard in the Welsh Grand National, run in memory of Kim Gingell. His Nicky Martin-trained mount, The Two Amigos, had led from the first, seeing off The Big Dog, who came snapping at his heels in the final furlongs. Speaking victorious, Prichard, whose parents hail from Pontypridd, made no attempt to hide that this was his big day. "I'm a proud Welshman," he told Luke Harvey on ITV, "to win our national is absolutely incredible."


For 2023


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