Riverside is the better option in the long run

NICKY Henderson has an enviable recent record at Kempton’s William Hill Winter Festival, despite only winning the highlight, the William Hill King George VI Chase, once two years ago with Long Run.

Robert Waley-Cohen’s seven-year-old is the favourite for this year’s renewal, but to me he seems a horse that is regressing and I don’t think he jumps well enough. At 5/2 with Coral I’m happy to look elsewhere and am far more interested in the 6/1 the sponsors offer about his stablemate RIVERSIDE THEATRE.

My selection finished second to Long Run in this very race two years ago, and he seems to be an improved horse since then. He always goes well fresh and Kempton clearly suits him. The prospect of soft ground also holds no fears for Barry Geraghty’s likely mount and I cannot see him out of the first three.

Henderson could also be celebrating after the William Hill Christmas Hurdle as I strongly fancy DARLAN to beat the likes of Cinders And Ashes and Raya Star. The master of Seven Barrows has won this race for the past two years with Binocular and I expect AP McCoy, in the JP McManus silks again, to be smiling after this race.

Teaforthree is going to be very difficult to beat in the Coral Welsh National, although he is short enough now at 9/2 with the sponsors. Instead I’m going to plump for David Pipe’s SONA SASTA who won well at the course earlier this month.

The weights are likely to go up if Tidal Bay defects as expected and that will leave my fellow with a lovely racing weight. Take the 12/1 with Coral each-way.

■ Pointers…

DARLAN 2.35pm Kempton (Boxing Day)
RIVERSIDE THEATRE e/w 3.10pm Kempton
(Boxing Day)
SONA SASTA e/w 2.10pm Chepstow (Thursday 27th)