The King George (Tuesday 26 December) is the highlight of Kempton’s Winter Festival Meeting. It first took place in 1937, and has been won by some of the greatest horses associated with National Hunt Racing in Britain, including Mandarin, Mill House, Arkle, Pendil, Captain Christy, Silver Buck, Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, The Fellow, One Man, See More Business, Florida Pearl, Best Man, Kicking King, Kauto Star and Long Run.
Trends This Century
Since the turn of the century, the race has been won by six 7-year-old, three 6-year-olds, three 8-year-olds, three 9-year-olds, and two 11-year-olds
Paul Nicholls has trained 7 of the 17 winners
Ruby Walsh has ridden 5 winners (all Kauto Star)
Four horses have won the race twice or more
10 of the 17 favourites have won
The shortest SP was 8/13 which was Kauto Star in 2006 and 2009
The longest SP was 25/1, which was Edredon Bleu in 2003
Nicky Henderson’s 8-year-old proved himself a top-class novice chaser with victories in the RSA Chase and the Mildmay Novice Chase at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals last season, and would have destroyed the opposition over course and distance of the King George but for a last flight blunder in the Kauto Star Novices Chase. Will be taking on better horses this year, but could easily take the step up out of the novice ranks in his stride.
Took an unusual route to the King George last year by winning the World Hurdle in March of the same year but, whilst this is a horse of huge potential, he had little to beat with his stablemate Cue Card underperforming. Needs to return from injury as good as ever if he’s to become the fifth dual King George winner this century.
Last year’s Irish Gold Cup, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup winner would be another winning 7-year-old, and there’s every reason to believe that he could be even better this season than last. Reportedly being aimed at the £1 Million Bonus for any horse that can win the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup, but just a danger that he might be kept in Ireland at Christmas if he doesn’t win the Betfair Chase in November.
Reportedly working like a machine again after flopping at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and the 3-mile chasing division would be set on fire if he steps up in trip. However, that looks unlikely at the moment with a clash between him and Altior in the Champion Chase another exciting prospect to savour.
Went close to winning the Champion Chase last year, and looked more at home over 2½ miles at Aintree. Did win back at 2-miles at Punchestown but, though a further step up in trip could suit him, he’s in the same ownership as Sizing John.
Quotes of 25/1 look very tempting considering he is around 8/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, however connections are convinced he needs to go left-handed – and he’s very unlikely to turn-up.
Two 11-year-olds have been successful this century, but this one looked slight in slight decline last season, and it’s asking a lot of him to beat some good younger horses.
Ran an excellent race to be third behind Sizing John in the Punchestown Gold Cup, and I still haven’t forgot just how good he was in winning the 2014 Kauto Star Novices Chase on his way to winning that season’s Gold Cup. 10-year-old now but, though not many miles on the clock, his injury curtailed career makes him a risky ante-post proposition.
The thought of Might Bite, Coneygree and Thistlecrack taking each other up front is a mouth-watering proposition. However, whoever wins the battle for the lead may still set the race up for Sizing John. He was much the paciest of these over shorter distances, but has already proven his stamina over further.