PLUMMETING temperatures, crisp winter air and racing on the tele… it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the King George on Boxing Day!
This Grade 1 thriller is packed full of history and has consistently delivered a spicy festive serving of thrills and spills since its first edition in 1937.
From Kauto Star’s tear-jerking comeback in 2011 to land his fifth King George crown to Desert Orchid and Richard Dunwoody landing a four-timer in 1990, Kempton Park has been graced with some magical moments over the years.
So, without further ado, here is Marathonbet’s rundown on all three King George favourites in this year’s race. Get those Christmas leftovers ready and prepare your wagers. We’re just days away from the next epic chapter.
Might Bite, Bristol De Mai and THISTLECRACK are among 10 horses confirmed for this year’s race, with the latter bidding to regain his crown on just his second racecourse appearance this season.
Colin Tizzard’s brilliant winner from last year has questions to answer after finishing well beaten on his return from injury at Newbury on December 1 – but jockey Tom Scudamore hopes his old pal will bounce back to life on Boxing Day.
The horse’s layoff came after an injury at Cheltenham earlier this year but the nine-year-old has had plenty of recovery. His Newbury reappearance, where he faced off against the likes of Taquin Du Seuil, Unowhatimeanharry and 40/1 winner Beer Goggles, was clear evidence that he needed a blow out before getting back into the nitty gritty of winning serious races. He ran with the pace for most of the contest but emptied of gas about two furlongs out.
With Might Bite so short in the betting, a wager on Thistlecrack to have re-gained some fitness between Newbury and Boxing Day could be a wise shout. Remember, this horse was last year being lauded as potentially better than the great Kauto Star himself so he should not be written off just yet.
Jockey Tom Scudamore told At The Races: “Thistlecrack felt like he had all his old spark at Newbury but just got tired from going to the second to the last. After that the race was over.”
There was astonishment and anger the last time Might Bite ran at Kempton Park. It was Boxing Day 2016 when the smart chaser and jockey Daryl Jacob approached the last fence clear of rivals in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. With just one more obstacle to clear and plenty in hand, Jacob bizarrely asked Nicky Henderson’s charge for a big one and they both ended up faceplanting the Surrey turf. To say there was disappointment is an understatement and it manifested in Jacob being given the boot from riding duties.
Since then Nico de Boinville has taken the saddle and led Might Bite to four consecutive victories at Doncaster, Cheltenham, Aintree and Sandown respectively. Most impressive was his RSCA Novices’ Chase victory at the Festival in March, where he saw off the challenge of Whisper, Bellshill and Alpha Des Obeaux to charge up the Cheltenham hill by a nose.
With pin-point jumping and plenty of stamina to boot, there’s a reason this talented eight-year-old is such a short-priced favourite to take his first King George crown.
The question is whether the aforementioned Thistlecrack is back to his best – and whether our next horse is up for the task.
BRISTOL DE MAI
When one door closes, another one opens.
When Daryl Jacob lost his ride on Might Bite after last year’s Kempton horror show, he was left partnering another smart chaser in Bristol De Mai.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ hot prospect had his rivals crying no more in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock and connections will pocket a tidy £1million if he goes on to win the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A merciless front-runner, De Mai had Blaklion at his mercy at Haydock and arrives at Kempton in no doubt the form of his life. He’ll likely face competition for the lead come Boxing Day and on paper needs to find two pounds on Might Bite on official ratings and 10 on Thistlecrack.
The good news is Nigel Twiston-Davies reckons this horse is the best he’s ever trained, which is some feat considering the quality of superstars that have come from his Grange Hill yard.
Davies said: “In terms of ability he’s now right up there with Imperial Commander and among the best I’ve ever trained. We aren’t doing anything different this season, but he’s going over further now and is showing just how good he is.”
THE OTHER CONTENDERS
Thistlecrack aside, Colin Tizzard sends out Fox Norton who is set to tackle three miles for the first time after narrowly losing the Tingle Creek at Sandown at the start of the month.
Nicky Henderson’s other runners include Whisper, who was just beaten under a big weight in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, while Gordon Elliott’s Outlander was a beaten fancy for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. The horse has continued to find form since then including success in the Grade One Champion Chase at Down Royal in November.
Horsham handler Gary Moore sends out the highly-thought-of Traffic Fluide, who missed last season through injury. The seven-year-old has previously clocked a smart third-place finish in Grade One company at Aintree and ran a blinder in the Clarence House at Ascot – beaten just five lengths by Un De Sceaux – and could attract decent each-way money at larger prices.
KING GEORGE VI TOP TRENDS
14/15 – Had won a Grade One chase before
14/15 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
14/15 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
14/15 – Finished in the top three last time out
13/15 – Placed favourites
13/15 – French (10) or Irish bred (3)
13/15 – Officially rated 169 or higher
13/15 – Had won over 3m or further (fences) before
Colin Tizzard and Nicky Henderson have trained 4 of the last 7 winners (2 each)
The average winning SP in the last 15 years is 7/2
FULL KING GEORGE VI CHASE DECLARATIONS, DECEMBER 26
Bristol De Mai
Tea For Two