Kempton Boxing Day Preview: King George VI Chase
The highlight of the Christmas calendar in horse racing is undoubtedly the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on December 26.
Star names like Desert Orchid and Kauto Star have etched themselves into racing folklore with their past exploits in a race which always attracts huge attention in the betting industry.
The King George has been a punters’ paradise in recent times, with 11 of the last 16 favourites winning the race. Read on as we look at some of the main contenders to finish first on Boxing Day.
Henderson’s charge might put the bite on his rivals
Might Bite won the race in 2017 and he is favourite to retain his crown this time around. The Nicky Henderson trained nine-year-old was disappointing on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock, but there are plenty of reasons to ignore that run.
It’s unlikely that Henderson will have had Might Bite fully tuned up for his first run of the season and Haydock is a course that probably doesn’t play to his strengths.
He tired badly in the last quarter-mile of the race, but he is likely to have come on a bundle for the run and at odds of around 4/1 he is a worthy favourite. Henderson has won the race four times since 2010 – it would be foolish to rule out a fifth success on Boxing Day.
Jefferson’s patience could be rewarded
Waiting Patiently is second favourite for the race despite not being seen on the track since last February.
The seven-year-old beat Cue Card in the Ascot Chase, but after bypassing the Cheltenham Festival a setback prevented him from running at Aintree in April. The same injury then delayed his return to training, meaning he will head to Kempton without a run under his belt.
Trainer Ruth Jefferson has reported that the horse is in great shape and her patience could be rewarded, although the lack of a run this season may count against the unbeaten chaser.
Tizzard’s duo may come up short
Native River and Might Bite fought out a thrilling battle in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup, with the former grinding out a four-and-a-half length victory.
However, the flatter track and shorter distance at Kempton won’t favour Colin Tizzard’s horse and it is difficult to imagine that he would have the pace to win a King George.
Tizzard also runs 2016 winner Thistlecrack in the race and although he may find one or two opponents too strong, he could run into a place at a decent price.
Paul Nicholls knows a thing or two about success in the King George, having won the big race on nine previous occasions. The classy grey sprung to prominence at Grade One level last season when landing the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown over two miles. He was outgunned twice by Altior at Newbury and Cheltenham, but bounced back in style to win the Melling Chase at Aintree over two-and-a-half-miles.
The seven-year-old won over a furlong further at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance and he could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Kauto Star, Cue Card and Edredon Bleu in successfully making the transition from two to three miles.
At odds of around 9/1, Politologue looks the best value bet in a race that promises to be a thriller.