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

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.