The King George Chase, traditionally held at Kempton Park racecourse every Boxing Day, is one of the biggest races in the National Hunt steeplechase season, with past winners being some of the most legendary horses the sport has known, such as Arkle, Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, One Man and of course, more recently, Kauto Star.
The 2017 renewal is almost upon us, so lets take a look at some of the principals in the race and figure out where any pennies spare from Xmas may be best placed :
King George Chase 2016 Winner Thistlecrack, ridden by Tom Scudamore
Last years winner looks to defend his crown, although that was arguably a much weaker renewal than this year, with just 4 opponents to better, which he did with relative ease. However with his season then cut short due to a tendon injury, he has more questions to answer after a very poor showing on his one race to date, where he finished 5th of 6 in Grade 2 company at Newbury, after starting a short priced favourite. He will have no doubt needed the run, but you have to wonder if he has come back the same horse as before his injury.
BRISTOL DE MAI
Winner of his two starts so far this season and without doubt a huge player in this. Slammed Cue Card by a distance on heavy ground last time out and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies reports the horse as being “in the form of his life”. Although such an impressive performance cant be ignored, you have to wonder if the run, of just a month ago, on such lifeless ground took anything out of him – if it hasn’t he may well take some stopping, especially if it runs and the ground is again heavy.
Likely to be a pretty short priced favourite on the back of his amazing win at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree, before a facile winning reappearance this season at Sandown. He can be a bit of a monkey, but with regular pilot Nico De Boinville aboard the Nicky Henderson horse, he is going to take all the beating. However, if pressed and pressured, he could make a mistake or two. But if he dictates the race and is allowed to control things from the front, as is his want, he will likely have too much for these, especially if the ground is decent.
Was the one who chased Might Bite home at Cheltenham and ran a fine race when second by just a neck, conceding a stone, to Total Recall in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Sandown three weeks ago. Stamina isn’t in doubt, but whether he has the class to win this is another question. But deserves his shot and place in this renewal – could well come from behind to make the frame at a decent enough price but we feel will find at least one or two too good for him on the day.
Another normal two miler taking his chance at the King George. After losing out by a head to Special Tiara in the Queen Mother at Cheltenham, Fox Norton claimed the Irish Champion Chase but couldn’t reel in Politologue in the Tingle Creek earlier this month at Sandown. Obviously his claims will be centred around whether he has the stamina for this extended trip, which could be tested further if it rains. It normally takes an exceptional horse to take the step up in trip and win in this type of company….we aren’t sure Fox Norton is of that calibre.
Other runners : Tea for Two, Double Shuffle, Traffic Fluide
We will be looking to the heavens before the race before deciding….not for divine intervention, but to see if its raining and what going there is. If its raining and the course is soft or worse, we have to look at Bristol De Mai – anything better than that though and it is hard to see past Might Bite – assuming he keeps on the straight and narrow! Whisper will give you a run for your money and should make the frame. Overall though, we are going to assume the ground si decent enough and take MIGHT BITE to run his rivals ragged.