The King George VI Chase
December 26th, 2018 | Stu Williams
By Stu Williams
Stu is an occasional contributor to our Weekend Card most recently writing in our Festive Bumper Edition. Here he shares his latest blog.
Inaugurated in 1937, the King George VI Steeple Chase undoubtedly holds a special place in the heart of all ardent National Hunt enthusiasts given its star-studded role of honour that includes Arkle, who is widely considered to be the greatest jumps horse of all time, Wayward Lad, who landed the prize three times between 1982 and 1985, Desert Orchid, who triumphed four times between 1986 and 1990 and – of course – the great Kauto Star, who set a new record when securing a roof-raising fifth success that will live long in the memory in December 2011.
Indeed, a glance at the list of illustrious previous winners reads like a ‘who’s who’ of National Hunt royalty, with The Dickler, Pendil, Captain Christy, Silver Buck, The Fellow, One Man, See More Business, Best Mate, Edredon Bleu, Kicking King and Long Run demonstrating the calibre of racehorse required to land this historic Grade 1 prize.
The race was named in honour of the new reigning British monarch King George VI and has been the feature contest on Boxing Day since 1947 following the resumption of racing at Kempton Park after World War II. Since then we have witnessed 45 different winners of the race, including 14 who have landed this prestigious prize on more than one occasion.
Fast forward to the present day and Might Bite will bid to become the 15 multiple winner of this prestigious contest tomorrow. However, he will need to bounce back from a well-below-par effort in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and arguably wasn’t at his brilliant best when landing this race 12 months ago. Therefore – given the more competitive nature of this year’s renewal – he doesn’t make much appeal at a top price of 11/4.
Interestingly, two horses who are yet to race over 3 miles are sitting Might Bite’s hindquarters in the betting – namely Waiting Patiently and Politologue.
The former is unbeaten in six outings over fences but has not been sighted since his Grade 1 Ascot Chase success in February, where he dispatched top-class opposition in the form of Cue Card, Frodon and Top Notch in emphatic fashion. While the latter perhaps hasn’t truly received the credit that he deserves for winning multiple graded races over trips ranging from two to two and a half miles and will represent ten-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who has won this race 9 times in the last 21 years and therefore knows exactly what is required in order to prevail.
They have both attracted plenty of support in recent weeks and undoubtedly possess the talent to go close of staying this longer trip.
Bristol De Mai arguably looked better than ever when landing a second Betfair Chase at Haydock last month and will attempt to banish the memories of his disappointing sixth-placed finish in the corresponding contest 12 months ago.
The imposing grey had a number of these in-behind at Haydock and appears to have benefited from the wind surgery that he underwent after disappointing in the Cotswolds Chase in January. A reproduction of last months effort would put him right in the mix tomorrow.
I can’t help but feel that Native River is the forgotten horse of this race as he has done absolutely nothing wrong yet is freely available to back at 6/1.
The reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup hero ran a perfectly respectable race behind Bristol De Mai last month and lowered the colours of favourite Might Bite in the blue riband contest in March. Yet nobody seems to have Colin Tizzard’s stout-stayer on their radar, which quite frankly is nothing short of scandalous.
While many will site the track and trip as negatives I refuse to subscribe to the notion that Kempton is an easy three miles as they invariably start racing a long way from home, which certainly separates the wheat from the chaff and ensures that stamina is the order of the day.
Write off the gutsy chestnut at your peril.
2016 victor Thistlecrack could be the joker in the pack following a very encouraging return to action behind Bristol De Mai last month. While both Clan Des Obeaux, who finished one place behind Thistlecrack at Haydock, and Coneygree, who won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2014 and returned to action with a fine weight carrying performance at Cheltenham in November, are also potential players.
The former has had more than his fair share of problems since landing this race two years ago but did display some of his old sparkle when placing third last month. While second named is entitled to progress further this winter but does have plenty to find with the principles.
Coneygree surprised many with his impressive return to action in a competitive Prestbury Park handicap last month and could easily outrun his big double-figure price if non the worse for that effort tomorrow.
Last year’s second and third – namely Double Shuffle and Tea For Two – will also face the starter but will in all likelihood require a career best in order to better those placings.
- Native River
- Waiting Patiently