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KING GEORGE EXPERT GUIDE

KING GEORGE PRICE BOOSTS



Punters received an early Christmas present with the news that two of Colin Tizzard’s star performers will face off in the latest renewal of the top-class Grade One contest that is the King George VI Chase, which will go to post at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Getting underway at 3.15pm, the three-mile contest boasts a fantastic pedigree and forms the middle leg of the £1million bonus on offer to the winner of the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.


Colin Tizzard saddles both Cue Card and Thistlecrack in the King George VI Chase.

Cue Card (11/10, Bet365) won the first leg at Haydock with a scintillating display, but the ten-year old will face stiff competition from young pretender and stablemate Thistlecrack if he is to land the second leg.

The King’s Theatre gelding has been resurgent since his wind operation, which has seen him largely fulfil his undoubted talent, and he outstayed Vautour in this contest twelve months ago to atone for two earlier defeats in the contest in the preceding seasons where his oft-suspect stamina would be in evidence.

However, it has transpired that his inability to truly stay has been down to issues with his wind, and following an operation to correct his breathing he hasn’t looked back and went into the Cheltenham Gold Cup last term full of confidence on the back of three previous wins earlier in the season.

Still travelling well when falling three fences from home, we’ll never know if he would have beaten Don Cossack to land the Blue Riband; but he bounced back to win next time at Aintree in the Betfred Bowl prior to running a below-par race at Punchestown where his seasonal exertions may have caught up with him.

His defeat behind Irish Cavalier in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby has been attributed to both a lack of a prior run and tactics, and he made no mistake at Haydock when running out a convincing winner over the returning Coneygree who unfortunately misses this race.


Cue Card will bid to defend his King George VI Chase crown and land the second leg of the £1million bonus.

It would take a brave man to bet against Cue Card following up his heroics of twelve months ago, although in his stablemate THISTLECRACK (6/4, Bet365) he faces a potential superstar.

The 2015 World Hurdle winner has been imperious since stepping up to three miles, routing Alpha Des Obeaux and others to score at Cheltenham prior to again routing opposition at Aintree in April.

Sent chasing this term by the Dorset handler, the Kayf Tara gelding has posted bloodless defeats in all three starts to date over the larger obstacles with wins at Chepstow, Cheltenham and Newbury – three of the toughest tracks in the country for novices; while the overall form is debatable despite the latest win coming in the Grade Two Worcester Novices’ Chase, he did have more to fear from the fences than his rivals, and it remains open to some debate what he has beaten thus far.

Nevertheless, he can only beat those who compete against him, and he posted his latest success while firmly still on the bridle; but he steps out of novice company into the very top level, and meeting the likes of stablemate Cue Card from level weights will ensure a true test of his credentials as a Gold Cup candidate.

But he has won with such consummate ease in all three starts that he looks well capable of making the step out of novice company, and aside from a couple of guessy leaps at Cheltenham he has largely been foot-perfect. Although Cue Card is admittedly at the very top of his game judged on his success at Haydock last time, Thistlecrack has age on his side being an eight-year old, and open to considerable progress he gains a narrow vote over his more established stablemate.

The ante-post market suggests that this race is a straight shoot-out between the pair, and indeed the presence of the duo has scared off much of the opposition with the likes of Valseur Lido, Don Poli, Outlander and Blaklion all coming out of the race in the wake of the announcement that Thistlecrack will take his chance.


Thistlecrack is 3-3 over fences, will he make it four at Kempton?

Of the remainder, Josses Hill (10/1, Bet365) and Tea For Two will lock horns once again after the pair finished 1-2 in the recent Peterborough Chase.

Nicky Henderson steps the Winged Love gelding up in trip having shaped as if three miles would suit when beating Nick Williams’ start by six lengths at Huntingdon; and the gelding has really got his act together over the larger obstacles since adopting forcing tactics under which he has won three of his four starts when setting off in front.

His sole defeat since the switch came in the Ryanair Chase behind Vautour, but he has since posted defeats of Camping Ground and Tea For Two in subsequent starts where his jumping has been much more assured.

 A dual-winner over this course over fences, he needs more to trouble the Tizzard pair upped in trip and he’s far from certain to confirm Huntingdon form with Tea For Two (16/1, Bet365) who is 3-3 over this course and who won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on this card twelve months ago to hand jockey Lizzie Kelly a first Grade One winner.

He’s been beaten on all three starts since, but his subsequent run at Sandown in the Scilly Isles was over an inadequate trip, and he made a pleasing return to action behind Antony at Ascot in October where he went well for a long way before lack of fitness told.

An uncharacteristic blunder at Huntingdon aside, he largely ran well behind Jossie’s Hill in the Peterborough Chase, which again came over shorter than ideal; back up in distance, the Kayf Tara gelding may be able to reverse that form with Nicky Henderson’s charge, but both that pair have a lot on their plate to lower the colours of the Tizzard duo if they arrive on top of their game.


Tea For Two will re-oppose with Huntington conquerer Jossie's Hill in the King George VI Chase.

Silviniaco Conti (25/1, Bet365) meanwhile is no stranger to success in this race, having beaten Cue Card to win in 2013 and following up twelve months on with a gutsy success over Dynaste. Cue Card finished fifth in that renewal, and Paul Nicholls’ charge went on to capture the Betfred Bowl at Aintree later in the season on the back of a poor run at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup.

The Dom Alco gelding hasn’t been in the best of form since that last success, however, finishing behind Cue Card in the 2015 Betfair Chase prior to pulling up in this contest twelve months ago. Despite winning at Ascot in the Ascot Chase back in February, he pulled up in the Grand National and turned in a tame effort back at Haydock in November in the latest renewal of the Betfair Chase.

A return to this venue may spark a revival, but on past form he has a lot to do to  land a third win in the race and the feeling is his Grade One days may be behind him now.

VERDICT


To all intents and purposes a match between the established top-class chaser that is Cue Card, and the young pretender and stablemate THISTLECRACK (6/4, Bet365) who has been confirmed for the race on the back of three bloodless victories in novice company which include a Grade Two last time.

That wasn’t a strong race, but Colin Tizzard’s charge never came off the bridle in despatching his rivals, and there is certainly significant improvement still to come from the eight-year old Kayf Tara gelding.

The 2015 World Hurdle winner has jumped for fun around three of the toughest courses in the country for novices, passing every test with flying colours even allowing for a couple of mistakes around Cheltenham that he was fully entitled to make. While he meets his stablemate Cue Card at the top of his game, the raw potential of the John Snook-owned gelding just edges a narrow vote over Tizzard’s other runner.

Assuming both arrive in form and jump round, the pair should prove too good for the remaining runners, from whom Tea For Two back over three miles may represent the best option to pick up any pieces dropped by either of the Tizzard duo in the race; but he’ll surely need one or both to fall or run well below their best if he’s to win.

2016 KING GEORGE VI CHASE SELECTION – THISTLECRACK (6/4, Bet365)

KING GEORGE - EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Boxing Day, or St Stephen’s Day as it is also known, is a day of great racing tradition. Each year Kempton Park racecourse plays host to one of the most anticipated race-days of the National Hunt season, headlined by the Grade One King George VI Chase for horses aged four years and older.

We have free horse racing tips for the Grade One highlight, along with all of the latest news and bookmaker promotions.
Run over three-miles, the King George is renowned for being one of the most prestigious jump racing prizes of the campaign and frequently acts as the leading trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup raced in March. Britain and Ireland’s leading steeplechasers routinely collide for the first time each season in Kempton’s Grade One highlight as the division seeks to position itself ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in the spring. 

King george history

Founded in 1937 in honour of a new British monarch, the King George VI Chase offers a unique test to the National Hunt chaser. A total of eighteen fences on Kempton’s right-handed track ensures it is a real test of stamina, speed and jumping. The flat nature of the course can be deceiving to some connections with many claiming the emphasis of the King George is placed more on pace than the ability to see out the trip.

Previous winners of the great Boxing Day showpiece include Kauto Star, Desert Orchid and Wayward Lad, three of the greatest horses in National Hunt history. The Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star went on to win the King George on five separate occasions in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. It was a feat regarded as amongst the best in the sport’s history and produced scenes of great jubilation at the Middlesex track across a six year spell. 

kauto star - kempton legend

Kauto Star possessed a tremendous attitude for the test that the King George provided. The gelded son of Village Star jumped with real fluency over the 18 obstacles before utilising his superior stamina and speed to see off his rivals on five different occasions. It is Kauto Star’s success that makes the King George such a great viewing spectacle both on and off course. The horse brought the sport into the mainstream during his racing career which ensured a memorable atmosphere for all in attendance. 

Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star.

king george vi chase tips

As showcased by Cue Card in 2013 and Vautour in 2015, the need for stamina in the King George is just as critical as speed. The three-mile Grade One is renowned for being run at a true gallop which magnifies a horse’s ability to stay the full distance. In 2015, it looked certain that the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour would cruise to victory under Ruby Walsh before the horse seemed to tire in the closing stages. It was a fine example of the necessity to balance each race requirement efficiently.

The ever-increasing prize pool of £200,000, ranked only behind Cheltenham’s blue riband event, proves that the King George continues to grow in stature year-on-year. From a handicap in the 1960s, the race is now Grade One status and is also a part of Britain’s new jump racing ‘Triple Crown’; a mixture of three of the best staying races of the season including the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The King George VI Chase features as part of Kempton’s Winter Festival, a two-day showpiece featuring three Grade One contests. The meeting is regarded as one of the most notable jump racing festivals of the winter and stands as the last major opportunity for British horses to showcase their class ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.

Raced on December 26th and 27th, the winter meeting offers a warming family atmosphere and is one in which is centred around the great racing action. The fantastic blend of top-class National Hunt racing coupled with the festive occasion makes for a thrilling experience for any sporting fan. 

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