2019 King George VI Chase tips – Preview of Kempton’s Christmas highlight and the best ante-post bets
Jon Vine takes an extensive look through the betting for the 2019 King George VI Chase and provides readers with his best bets for Kempton on Thursday 26th December.
While most of the British public will spend Boxing Day nursing hangovers, lounging on the sofa and picking at yesterday’s turkey, a capacity crowd will flock to Kempton Park to take in another stunning renewal of the King George VI Chase. 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.
The 2019 edition of the King George promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, with the current top five in the betting boasting almost 20 Grade One victories between them. I’ve taken a long, hard look through the ante-post betting, focussing on the most likely runners and come up with who I feel might just be the best ante-post bet.
2019 King George VI Preview
The Fight For Favouritism
Paul Nicholls lifted the famous trophy for a record tenth time 12 months ago and the betting suggests Cyrname (9/4 Ladbrokes) is in pole position to hand the director of Ditcheat an eleventh King George on Boxing Day. Nicholls’ imposing gelding destroyed his rivals to claim a first Grade One here at Ascot in February, cantering to a 17-length victory in the Ascot Chase and the National Hunt racing world was abuzz with excitement last month, as Cyrname and Altior locked horns for the first time in the Christy 1965 Chase.
Knowing there were stamina questions against his unbeaten foe, Harry Cobden made the wise decision to make the running. Barring one significant mistake at the half-way stage, Cyrname outjumped his rival throughout. Altior couldn’t lay a glove on the leader, as Cyrname crossed the line a comfortable winner, establishing his position at the head of the King George betting.
Sitting closest to Nicholls’ favourite is Lostintranslation (5/2 Ladbrokes), who propelled himself to the head of the ante-post market for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup at Haydock. Colin Tizzards’ Mildmay winner had Haydock specialist and two-time winner, Bristol De Mai to overcome in the Betfair Chase, but Robbie Power didn’t seem to bothered about the strength of his front-running rival, holding Lostintranslation up out the back for much of the race.
Turning for home, Power made his move and, upon jumping the second-last, Lostintranslation had opened up a narrow advantage. Bristol De Mai came away from the last quicker and it seemed a third-straight victory was on the cards, only for Lostintranslation to get back up on the run to the line and secure the first leg of chasing’s Triple Crown.
Tizzard will now target the £1m bonus that comes with the Triple Crown, something he almost pulled off with Cue Card four years ago. There’s currently very little separating Cyrname and Lostintranslation in the current ante-post betting and I’m anticipating the battle for favouritism will go right to the wire.
Next In Line
With all eyes on Might Bite, Waiting Patiently and Native River at the head of the market, there was a sense of surprise last year when Clan Des Obeaux (9/2 Ladbrokes) claimed the King George crown. Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old travelled beautifully throughout the race, powering into contention on the run to the last before holding Thistlecrack at bay to secure a comfortable victory.
Results tailed off a little during the spring, with Clan Des Obeaux finishing fifth in the Gold Cup and a nine-length runner-up behind Kemoby at Aintree. Following a fine runner-up finish at Down Royal on his reappearance, Nicholls was confident his charge would come on leaps and bounds for the run and a second King George triumph is certainly not out of reach.
The racing world rejoiced at the end of last season, when Nicky Henderson announced Altior (13/2 Ladbrokes) would test his metal over trips further than two miles in 2019/20. Such is the strength of the public’s affection for the four-time Cheltenham Festival winner, Altior carried a long odds-on price to post in the Christy Chase, but the favourite looked a little flat throughout that race and succumbed to defeat rather tamely.
I don’t think anyone could say Altior didn’t see out two-miles-five that day. He simply couldn’t produce the turn of foot needed to reel in Cyrname down the home straight. I have no doubts that Altior will come on from that run and stepping up to three miles shouldn’t be a problem. I do, however, question whether he can be as effective over three miles as he is over two, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Altior skipped the King George to return to the minimum distance.
Red Hot Raiders
Footpad (12/1 Ladbrokes) conquered all during his season in novice company, but found life much more difficult last season. A fall on his reappearance was followed by a mugging by Simply Ned at Leopardstown. Willie Mullins then decided to chuck Footpad into the Ryanair at Cheltenham, where the former Arkle winner was beaten out of sight. Mullins’ seven-year-old looked a rejuvenated figure when winning a Listed contest at Thurles on his reappearance, and there’s no doubting Footpad has the talent to challenge in a race of this calibre.
Mullins has also given Douvan (14/1 Ladbrokes) the option of a run in the King George and, based on the way he won the Clonmel Oil Chase on his return after long-term injury, challenging in the King George may not be beyond this nine-year-old. Douvan has long been touted as a three-miler and a potential Gold Cup winner, but even at Clonmel, Mullins’ charge looked full of speed to me and a drop back to two miles seems much more likely than a step up to three.
There’s also a chance Road To Respect (40/1 Paddy Power) could renew rivalries with Clan Des Obeaux and throw down a challenge in the King George. Noel Meade’s charge, who’s jumping capitulated last term, looked back to his very best when beating the reigning King George winner in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal. A return to the Savills Chase – a race he won in 2017 – seems Meade’s most likely plan, but if Road To Respect was to make the trip to Kempton, he would warrant significant respect.
Thistlecrack (16/1 Ladbrokes) may turn 12 in 2020, but proved by pushing Paisley Park all the way to the post at Newbury last week that he still retains plenty of ability. The 2016 King George winner produced another outstanding display to place second behind Clan Des Obeaux 12 months ago and Colin Tizzard’s charge certainly cannot be ruled out.
La Bague Au Roi (16/1 Ladbrokes) registered a career-best display here last Christmas, outstaying Topofthegame and Santini to win the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. Warren Greatrex’s mare put in a lacklustre performance on her reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase, where the ground was clearly too soft for her to cope with. I can’t imagine the going at Kempton will be good on Boxing Day, so it’s likely Greatrex will swerve this red-hot renewal of the King George.
Santini’s (16/1 Ladbrokes) road to the Gold Cup started at Sandown, where the odds-on favourite was expected to wipe the floor with his rivals in an Intermediate Chase. After the RSA runner-up laboured to victory over Now McGinty, Nicky Henderson claimed his charge didn’t enjoy the track – making you question why he was sent there in the first place – and it’s highly unlikely he will be pitched into a race like this around a similar track in Kempton.
Despite a shocking performance in the Betfair Chase, Might Bite (20/1 Ladbrokes) went off as the 3/1 favourite to retain his King George crown 12 months ago. Another poor performance followed, and again at Cheltenham, where Nico De Boinville was forced to pull his mount up. Might Bite will kick off his season at Aintree this weekend and Henderson will be hoping his former stable star can return to top form this term.
Although he was forced to relinquish his Betfair Chase crown, Bristol De Mai (33/1 Ladbrokes) lost nothing in a defeat to Lostintranslation. His record in the King George is very poor, falling in 2017 before staggering home 36-lengths behind Clan Des Obeaux last year. Yet, he’s proven at Haydock and Cheltenham that he’s a Grade One level performer and is more than capable of challenging, despite an obvious dislike for the track.
Kim Bailey has always held Vinndication (50/1 Unibet) in high regard and he announced his intentions for the upcoming campaign with a dazzling display in the Sodexo Gold Cup. This is a huge leap in quality, but three miles around Kempton seems ideal for a horse who loves right-handed tracks and he offers plenty of each-way value.
Black Corton’s (50/1 Ladbrokes) incredible weight-carrying performances in the Galway Plate and the Sodexo Gold Cup prove he’s a horse of real quality and wouldn’t look out of place in a King George, should Paul Nicholls decide to fire a third arrow at the prize.
Of the other Irish-based entries, Bellshill (50/1 Paddy Power) catches the eye. After a hard-fought victory over Road To Respect on fast ground in the Irish Gold Cup, Bellshill looked laboured at Cheltenham and Punchestown. Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old has the Savills Chase option, but some of Bellshill’s best performances have come on right-handed tracks and he would be a big danger should he turn up at Kempton.
Mister Whitaker’s (100/1 Paddy Power) only previous attempt at three miles ended in disappointment in the Ultima, where he was pulled up when struggling two out. Mick Channon’s charge bounced back with victory at Cheltenham April meeting, but is yet to be seen this term. Still, he could be an interesting runner should he take his chance.
The Best Bets
We’ll start off with the horse I feel is the most likely winner, which is LOSTINTRANSLATION. Whereas Haydock is Bristol De Mai’s home track, Kempton is like Wembley Stadium for Cyrname. Colin Tizzards’ Gold Cup favourite was classy enough to not only beat Bristol De Mai, but outstay the Haydock king, and I think he will do the same to Cyrname, who’s unproven over three miles.
Clan Des Obeaux sits on an appealing price and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing the champion to retain his crown. I just feel Lostintranslation is the best staying chaser in the sport at the moment. His jumping is electric, he stays all day, he’s proven on all kinds of track and he’s tactically versatile. At 5/2, he’s my top tip.
I always like an each-way flutter when it comes to ante-post betting though, and there are a few who hold appeal. If ROAD TO RESPECT was confirmed, I would be all over Noel Meade’s charge, as I think Kempton would suit him perfectly. I’ve had a small wager on him at 40/1 already. If he does run, I can’t see him finishing outside the podium spots, so I’ll probably go in again as soon as the final declarations are revealed.
Another worth backing at a lengthy ante-post price is VINNDICATION, who can currently be found at 50/1. Following his excellent Ascot victory, some have mentioned Vinndication in the Gold Cup discussion. He wouldn’t be on my mind for Cheltenham though, considering his clear aversion for going left-handed, but three miles on softish ground at Kempton seems ideal and he has the ability to run well beyond his ante-post price. Kim Bailey has stated Vinndication will only run in the King George if some of the big guns don’t turn up though, so you’re better off waiting until the final decs if you fancy backing him.