King George VI Chase Grade1 3m Kempton Saturday

I hope you backed last weeks selection, Jolly’s Cracked It, and put yourself in funds to help defray some of the upcoming festival expenses. Despite a mistake at the third flight, he travelled extremely well throughout and looked primed to collect the pot outright when flying the last and powering up the run in. He went at least 1/2L up on the free going Sternrubin and seemed to have the race in the bag, only to falter near the line, allowing the Hobbs horse to grab a share of the spoils. However as the old saying goes “half a loaf is better than no bread” and the starting price of 7/1 wasn’t the worst. With the first four in Saturday’s showpiece trading at prices between 9/4 and 7/1 it is unlikely that last weeks SP will be bettered, particularly in view of the fact that the 9/2 recorded about long Run when winning The King George in 2011 is the longest SP of the past decade.

First run in 1937 in honour of the newly crowned monarch, the race has become the second most prestigious chase in the calendar after the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, and has been won by some of Steeplechasings greats, including Cottage Rake, Mandarin, Arkle, Desert Orchid, who won it an amazing four times, and Kauto Star who hit the back of the net on an even more amazing five occasions. Nothing in Saturday’s renewal can improve on either of those two outstanding records, but the Paul Nicholls trained Silviniaco Conti is going for his hat trick and it would be foolish to ignore this Kempton specialist’s chance. A winner of over ¬£1,000,000. in prize money, and ten of his twenty chases, he has won two and been placed twice from his four course appearances. He looked as good as ever at Aintree last April when beating Ballynagour, Holywell, and Smad Place, but did disappoint in the Betfair Chase at Haydock eight weeks ago. Having had the benefit of a pipe opener over hurdles, he was sent off the 5/4 favourite, but had no answer to Cue Card, who won easily. On that running his prospects of getting the better of the Tizzard horse at the weekend look remote, but back at his favourite track, and in a truer run race, I’m not so sure.

Cue Card certainly looks a rejuvenated animal this year, and the Haydock win followed an equally impressive performance on his reappearance at Wetherby in October, where racing keenly, he won easily from the stable companions, Dynaste and Ballynagour. It seems hard to credit that rising ten on January 1st, he is improving, but perhaps it’s a case of his excellent trainer having sorted out the multitude of niggling problems that have beset this super animal over the years, and that we are now seeing the full promise of that young horse who flew up the Cheltenham hill to take the Champion Bumper five years ago, being realised.

The Willie Mullins trained Vautour looked a horse in a million when cruising up in the 20f novices chase at the Cheltenham festival.He made all, jumped like an old hand and won by 15L in a time nearly five seconds faster than standard, from Apache Stronghold, and stable companion Valseur Lido. Retired for the season, he reappeared at Ascot five weeks ago and wasn’t the most convincing when beating Ptit Zig from whom he was receiving 5lbs, by what looked a hard fought 1 3/4L. A tendency to jump left which he had shown previously at right handed Punchestown reemerged, and obviously raises concerns about how he will cope travelling in the same direction at the weekend. However that wonderful performance at Cheltenham will live long in the memory, and I doubt if master trainer Mullins would run this super young horse right handed in such a competitive race if serious doubts were entertained. It was his first run for nine months, so the race was probably badly needed and considerable improvement can be expected.

No concerns about the direction of travel will be keeping the connections of the 8yo Don Cossack awake,as he has won ten of the fourteen races he has contested going right handed.. His score of five from six chase wins in 2015 is mighty impressive, particularly as three of them were at Grade1 level.The only slight blot on his copybook came at the festival when finishing third to Uxizandre over an inadequate 21f. Following three subsequent victories he is considered by the assessor to have improved 9lbs from Cheltenham, making him the highest rated animal in Saturday’s contest. He was very impressive when taking a Grade1 chase at Down Royal at the end of October easily from Rocky Creek and Roi Du Mee and looks to have plenty going for him on Saturday. A worthy favourite to give his superb trainer his first “King George” win!

Selection: Don Cossack

E.W: Silviniaco Conti.

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