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2018 King George VI Chase tips - Star rating guide to Kempton’s Boxing Day bonanza

Politologue earns a five-star rating in this King George guide.

Our expert has put together this star rating guide to the King George VI Chase, Kempton’s feature race on Boxing Day on Wednesday 26th December.

While the rest of the country spends Boxing Day nursing their hangovers and soothing their swollen stomachs, a capacity crowd of racing enthusiasts will pack into Kempton Park to take in the 2018 renewal of the King George. This historic three-mile steeplechase has been won by many of National Hunt racing’s greatest names, with the likes of Arkle, Desert Orchid, One Man and Kauto Star shining brightly on the famous trophy.

A strong field has been entered to take part in this year’s edition of the King George and our expert has put together this star rating guide – looking at each of the runners individually and rating their chances of winning out of five stars.

2018 King George VI Chase Star Rating Guide

With faithful sidekick, Bryony Frost in the saddle, Black Corton gathered a legion of followers last season, thanks to a number of fantastic performances. The highlight of his campaign was certainly that superb triumph in the Kauto Star here at Kempton, where Black Corton outclassed Elegant Escape to claim a maiden Grade One.

Results slipped in the spring, as Black Corton struggled to hold his own at the highest level. A narrow defeat to Definitly Red on his reappearance was followed by a run in the Ladbrokes Trophy, where Frost pulled her mount up after labouring under top-weight. Black Corton remains a likeable horse capable of winning race, but I doubt whether he truly has the class to contend in a King George.

Black Corton Star Rating ⭐ 3 ⭐

Following that 57-length victory in the 2017 Betfair Chase, many were expecting Bristol De Mai to mount a challenge in the King George. Sadly, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge fell away tamely after trying to stay with Might Bite at the front and he ended the campaign with further defeats in the Cotswold Chase and the Bowl at Aintree.

All eyes were on Might Bite and Native River ahead of this year’s Betfair Chase, but it was Bristol De Mai who prevailed again, jumping beautifully around his favourite track before comfortably holding Native River at bay. While there’s no doubting Bristol De Mai’s class - being a two-time Grade One winner - it’s hard to get last year’s King George run out of your head. I feel the track could be a little sharp for a horse who looks a dour, staying type and there are who will be suited better.

Bristol De Mai Star Rating ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

Bristol De Mai and Daryl Jacob leap a fence at Haydock.

Paul Nicholls was disappointed when injury ruled Clan Des Obeaux out of a tilt at the Gold Cup last season, as his charge had progressed nicely during the course of the winter. The six-year-old never really threatened to trouble Might Bite on his first start at Grade One level, but Nicholls will have been pleased to see his charge jump nicely and finish third in the Aintree Bowl.

He, too, entered the Betfair Chase at the beginning of this season and, again, didn’t run badly in defeat. I still have full confidence that Clan Des Obeaux will develop into a Grade One-winning staying chaser, but he still seems a little wet behind the ears and travels to Kempton with each-way claims, at best.

Clan Des Obeaux Star Rating ⭐ 3 ⭐

The most emotional moment of the season, so far, came on BetVictor Gold Cup day at Cheltenham. Yet, it wasn’t a winner who the crowd saluted. Coneygree – who’s career has been ravaged by injury – ran a fantastic race on the BetVictor Handicap Chase, carrying top-weight to third, and the Prestbury Park faithful were keen to show their appreciation of the former Gold Cup winners’ effort.

While that may have been a fantastic moment to behold and it showed the ten-year-old still holds some ability, Coneygree’s not one I’d back in the King George. Mark Bradstock has done a fantastic job in getting his stable-star back to full strength and it will be wonderful just to see Coneygree complete the course unscathed.

Coneygree Star Rating ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

With Road To Respect looking likely to lead Noel Meade’s challenge in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown – the race he won last season before moving onto the Gold Cup – Disko could make his return from injury in the King George. And, if he does make an appearance, he’s not to be underestimated.

On his final start as a novice, Disko dismantled a field containing Anibale Fly and Alpha Des Obeaux in the Champion Novices Chase at Punchestown. After beginning last season with a fine victory over Ballyoisin, Disko suffered an injury setback and he’s yet to run since. If he has retained his ability and is back to full fitness, then Meade’s dazzling grey could mount a challenge - but that’s a huge if considering the time he’s spent off the track.

Disko Star Rating ⭐ 3.5 

Might Bite (second left) fends off Double Shuffle (second right) to win the King George 12 months ago.

Might Bite’s victory in the King George last year was somewhat expected, but few could have foreseen that it would be Double Shuffle who served up the stiffest challenge, crossing the line a one-length runner up. Results since, however, seem to suggest that performance was a one-off and I doubt whether Tom George’s chaser will be able to repeat that feat in 2018.

Double Shuffle Star Rating ⭐ 2.5 ⭐

I haven’t trawled through the form, but I highly doubt whether any King George winner has won on the back of a 30-length defeat and it would be a huge ask for last year’s Kempton king to retain his crown. This is, however, Might Bite we’re talking about – a horse who has proven himself at the very highest level.

Henderson’s top stayer was nowhere near his boisterous best when winning this race last year and I’m convinced he would have won the Gold Cup had the ground been a tad firmer. The track at Kempton clearly suits Might Bite and Nicky will have been working tireless to correct that Haydock hiccup. I expect he will be there or thereabouts come the final knockings in the King George.

Might Bite Star Rating ⭐ 4.5 ⭐

Native River ran the sort of race you’d expect from him in the Betfair Chase. Richard Johnson was quick to get to work on the reigning Gold Cup king and Native River responded, but couldn’t quite muster the finishing pace to deny Bristol De Mai in the closing stages.

There’s no doubting Native River’s credentials and he would be a worthy King George, on paper. However, I’m not convinced Kempton is the sort track Native River will relish. Colin Tizzard has been reluctant to send his charge out on fast, flat, right-handed tracks like Kempton, Ascot and Sandown. Native River’s only outing at Kempton came in the 2015 Kauto Star, where he finished third behind Tea For Two and Southfield Royal.

I’m a huge fan of this horse and he’s a force to be reckoned with around any challenging track like Cheltenham, Aintree and Chepstow. In the King George at Kempton, however, he doesn’t make get my heart racing.

Native River Star Rating ⭐ 4 ⭐

Richard Johnson celebrates after guiding Native River to Gold Cup glory.

Pat Kelly threw a curveball into the King George ballpark last week, when he announced Presenting Percy could be supplemented into the mix at Kempton. Last year’s runaway RSA winner was supposed to make his reappearance in the John Durkan, but after skipping an outing at Punchestown, it’ll either be Kempton or the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown.

Unlike Native River, I feel Presenting Percy would be perfectly suited by the challenge posed by Kempton. The two-time Cheltenham Festival winner has plenty of winning form around right-handed tracks and proved he had plenty of speed when winning the Galmoy Hurdle earlier this season. Until he’s declared, I can’t give Presenting Percy more than a four – but, if he is indeed supplemented for the King George, he could be the one to beat.

Presenting Percy Star Rating ⭐ 4 ⭐

With question marks against many of the established three miles, backing an up-and-coming stayer could be the way to go. Waiting Patiently is one of the two leading candidates stepping up and has been well supported in recent weeks. I, however, prefer the chances of Politologue and he’s going to be my five-star selection in the 2018 King George.

Paul Nicholls’ stunning grey has always been a classy operator, I just feared he didn’t have the battling qualities towards the end of a race you need to be a true champion. Those notions, however, dissipated at Aintree in the Melling Chase, where Politologue battled back valiantly after being headed by Min at the last to claim his second Grade One win of the campaign.

That triumph meant Politologue had to shoulder a penalty in the 1965 Christy Chase, but that didn’t stop Sam Twiston-Davies mount from outjumping his rivals and staying strong as Charbel – who boosted the form in the Peterborough Chase last weekend – to score at Ascot. While he may not produce that much off the bridle, Politologue tanks through his races and – if he has the leaders within his sights jumping the last – he could be this year’s king of Kempton.

Politologue Star Rating ⭐ 5 ⭐

Since winning the King George in 2016, Thistlecrack has suffered setback after setback. Injury problems have restricted Colin Tizzard’s charge to just three appearances in the past two seasons and third is the best the ten-year-old has been able to muster. There were signs, however, during the Betfair Chase that the real Thistlecrack was nearing his return. 

Tom Scudamore’s mount jumped poorly, but travelled like his old, swashbuckling self between the obstacles and stayed on gamely to finish third. Despite being well under-par, Thistlecrack was still able to place fourth in this race last year. Given a more assured round of jumping, he could be a serious challenger in the King George once again, but odds of 7/1 don't offer much value for an each-way punt.

Thistlecrack Star Rating ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

Brian Hughes pishes Waiting Patiently (right) clear of Cue Card when winning the Ascot Hurdle in February.

Ruth Jefferson’s stable star has been the best-backed runner in this year’s King George since the Betfair Chase and it’s easy to see why. This classy operator goes well fresh, is unbeaten over fences and ran an imperious race in winning a Listed prize over two-and-a-half-miles here at Kempton last season.

Stepping up in trip shouldn’t be an issue for a horse who travels as well as he does and Waiting Patiently certainly looks to be a Grade One-winning in the making. I do, however, have a couple of worries. 

If going conditions don’t soften up soon, I doubt we’ll see this soft-ground lover make an appearance. Secondly, we’ve never seen how Waiting Patiently would respond when the chips are down. He’s never really had to grind out a victory. He is, undoubtedly, a very classy horse, but I’d rather place my faith in someone who has proven, in the heat of battle, he has the heart to pick up a huge win.

Waiting Patiently Star Rating ⭐ 4 ⭐

Full King George Star Rating Guide

👑 Politologue - 5 👑
Might Bite – 4.5
Native River - 4
Presenting Percy - 4
Waiting Patiently - 4
Bristol De Mai – 3.5
Clan Des Obeaux – 3.5
Disko – 3.5
Thistlecrack – 3.5
Black Corton - 3
Coneygree – 2.5
Double Shuffle – 2.5

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2018 King George VI Chase tips - Star rating guide to Kempton’s Boxing Day bonanza

Our expert has put together this star rating guide to Kempton’s feature race on Boxing Day on Wednesday 26th December.

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