32Red King George VI Chase (Grade1) 3Miles Boxing Day

Inaugurated in 1937, and named for the new King George V1 following the abdication of his brother Edward, it ranks as the 2nd most prestigious Chase in the calendar after The Cheltenham Gold Cup, and has been won by most of the Greats of the Winter Game. A particularly striking feature of the contest has been the number of winners since 1972 who have repeated their success the following year. Ten is the current count – Pendil Captain Christy, Silver Buck, Wayward Lad (pictured), Desert Orchid, The Fellow,
One Man, Kicking King, Kauto Star and most recently Silviniaco Conti – all of which has to make last year’s hero, Might Bite of particular interest.

The Nicky Henderson trained 9yo is a winner of 7 of his 12 starts over fences, and the relatively lightly raced son of Scorpion, has demonstrated a steadily progressive profile throughout his 17 runs career. Following his victory in last year’s renewal of The King George, he was sent off favourite for The Gold Cup, and ran a marvellous race, pressing the winner, Native River, throughout, and only giving best when outstayed after the last. Following his hard race at Cheltenham, he showed what a tough individual he is 27 days later, winning the Grade1 Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree by 7L from Bristol De Mai. His reappearance in the Betfair Chase 32 days ago was most disappointing. Starting an even money favourite he trailed in last of the 5 runners, 28 3/4L behind the winner, Bristol De Mai, a performance too bad to be true, so expect to see a different animal on Wednesday, and with the Seven Barrows operation continuing in such good form, it won’t come as a great surprise if Might Bite does become the 11th animal to prevail in consecutive years.

Bristol De Mai’s victory by 4L over Native River in The Betfair Chase at Haydock was achieved purely on merit, and a similar effort on Wednesday would probably be sufficient to see him in the winners enclosure. However he could only finish 7th in last year’s renewal following an even more impressive performance at Haydock, and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies reports him a very difficult animal to keep 100% fit. That said the vibes coming from Naunton are very upbeat and they’re more than hopeful that the flying Grey will arrive at the top of his game. If he does his current odds of 7/1 will look generous.

It is 23 years since One Man struck for the North, and Ruth Jefferson will be hoping to restore some pride to the top end of the country with her talented 7yo,
Waiting Patiently. He is unbeaten in his six races over fences and has shown a most progressive profile, culminating in his most recent victory over Cue Card at Ascot last February. Always in command,  he beat the Tizzard horse by 2 3/4L, and perhaps even more significantly, had the recent Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner, Frodon, a further 15L back in 3rd. Top class form indeed which has earned him his current rating of 170. This will be his first attempt at 3 miles, but as a son of Flemensfirth, out of a beneficial mare, he could easily improve for the step up in trip, and as he has won 3 times after a break, including here at Kempton, his lack of match practice since February shouldn’t be a problem. His excellent young trainer reports him fit and well and with the yard in form there is plenty to recommend him.

Paul Nicholls has won the King George an amazing 9 times, and will be hoping that either Politologue or Clan Des Obeaux can round his record up to a nice even ten next Wednesday. The exciting Politologue has been mostly campaigned at distances between 2 and 2 1/2 miles, but his win over 2m5f at Ascot 32days ago offers connections some hope that Saturday’s trip might be within the compass of this top class animal. He beat the upwardly mobile Charbal by 1/2L and as the runner up went on to win a Huntingdon Grade2 by 8L from the useful Gods Owen, (gave 6lbs) the form looks pretty solid. However it has to be said that the Ditcheat runner looked all out when holding on by a rapidly reducing neck, to win the 2 1/2M Melling Chase at Aintree last April, and there has to be a serious doubt about his ability to stay 3 miles, particularly in a heat like The King George, so perhaps Mr Nicholls best chance of landing win number 10 lies with the 6yo Clan Des Obeaux.

The son of Kapgarde has finished 8 3/4L behind Bristol De Mai and 10 1/2L behind Might Bite in his last two races so obviously improvement is required, but memory of an excellent effort over an inadequate 2 1/2m at Kempton 13 months ago lingers. He attempted to make all, and but for a mistake at the last might have beaten the now rated 167, Whisper. One has the feeling that we have yet to see the best of the Dithpcheat 6yo and he might just supply some much needed seasonal cheer to part owner, Sir Alec Ferguson.

On ratings Native River is the best horse in the race and there were excuses at Haydock as he failed to get into any sort of a rhythm, but it was a similar story in his only previous Kempton appearance, The Kauto Star Novices Chase on this card 3 years ago, where after a poor round of jumping, he finished a well beaten 3rd.

Selection  : Waiting Patiently
E.W.           : Clan Des Obeaux
John Gray