The King George VI Chase on Boxing Day is one of the highlights of the National Hunt Season; and for many, it’s the highlight of their Christmas. Nine go to post in this highly competitive renewal and I’m going to try to find you the winner!
The Betfair Chase winner Cue Card (7/2 Coral) heads the betting, and rightly so. He put the doubts about his stamina to bed when almost making all, setting his own fiery pace, and finishing four lengths clear of the rest of the field at Haydock. He put his bad run at Exeter in the Haldon Chase behind him, and Colin Tizzard has since admitted that the horse had a low grade virus. A general virus in the yard is certainly a concern and although preparations for the race have gone to plan, we’ll only know the extent of the virus and its impact after the race.
DYNASTE (7/2 BetVictor) won the Feltham Novices Chase at this meeting last year easily over the same distance, and was the pick of last season’s novice chasers. In his first race of the season, he jumped well, but simply found Cue Card to strong in the closing stages of the Betfair Chase. Cue Card had the benefit an extra run, and I feel that Dynaste will come on a huge amount from Haydock. Despite the fact that he has a bit to find with Cue Card, his performance in the Feltham last season and the fact that he deals with all types of ground are good enough reasons to think he should go very close.
Paul Nicholls has two representative in the race in the form of Silviniaco Conti (5/1 Coral) and Al Ferof (4/1 Stan James). The former finished third in the Betfair, on what was his first race of the season. Noel Fehily has been booked for the ride again, so obviously gets the best tune out of the horse, and the rain that has arrived will be to his liking. His jumping is normally sound, and his second in the Feltham two seasons ago behind Grand Crus confirms he handles the track. Stable jockey Daryl Jacob takes the ride on Al Ferof who has the potential to be far better than he has shown us so far. He attacks his fences well, and even though he is yet to run over three miles, he’s shown that he stays well at the end of his races and could relish the step up in trip.
The horse making his way across the Irish Sea is the Gordon Elliott trained Mount Benbulben (16/1 Coral). His twenty two length victory at Punchestown shows that he has talent, with the likes of Back in Focus and Tofino Bay finishing behind him. My concern with this horse rests with his jumping, which is sometimes error strewn and will cost him valuable lengths over three miles at Kempton.
Last year’s winner Long Run (10/1 Betfred) has a terrific record in the King George, and will be looking to put a disappointing start to the season behind him. In last year’s race he rallied on under pressure in the final stages, putting in a gutsy performance to claim victory. To win this though, one expects that he will have to put in a better show than last year and he may well lack the ability to trouble the top runners here.
Another horse trained by Nicky Henderson is Riverside Theatre (22/1 Ladbrokes), who put last season behind him when winning the Peterborough Chase at Huntington a couple of weeks ago. The initial reaction after the race, was for the horse to miss the King George, but obviously for whatever reason, connections have decided to have a tilt. For a horse that didn’t show his best last season, he had a pretty hard race last time out and I’d be concerned about him putting in another bold show here. He’s set to wear a hood and blinkers in an attempt to keep this horse focused on the task at hand something which could be very beneficial.
CHAMPION COURT (40/1 Stan James) seems a huge price to me at the moment. He ran in last year’s renewal, but just didn’t have the turn of foot to go with the leaders on the day. Despite this I believe that he’s matured a lot since that race and could well be right there at the finish. He always give his all in a race, and at the current prices offers plenty of each-way value.
Menorah (25/1 BetVictor) completes the line-up, and represents Phillip Hobbs. The trainer has stated that the horse is in good form and he’s finished runner up to a few class horses over the years, and may be the forgotten horse. Despite his claims to run well, I think that it would be a monumental effort to challenge for the victory.
With nine of the best chasers in training turning up to contest this year's renewal it promises to be one hell of a race. After watching the Betfair last month, I was confident that DYNASTE would win the King George and nothing has happened since to change my mind. Of the others, CHAMPION COURT offers huge each way value, for a horse who never fails to give his all. What a race we have in prospect!
DYNASTE (WIN) (7/2 BetVictor)
CHAMPION COURT (E/W) (40/1 Stan James)
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