The King George is England’s second most prestigious race for 3-mile chasers, behind only the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and it takes place over 18 fences at Kempton Park, traditionally on Boxing Day.
Amazingly, only 4 horses, 4 jockeys and 3 trainers have hit the target in the last 11 years. Kauto Star won 5, whilst Kicking King, Long Run and Siviniaco Conti have all bagged 2. Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls has amazingly trained 7 of the last 11, whilst Ruby Walsh rode Kauto Star to all 5 of his victories.
The last Irish trained winner was Kicking King back in 2005 but, this year, the Irish have the two horses who are bidding for favouritism in what should be a gripping renewal.
Here are the likely runners for this year’s contest.
Don Cossack 5/2
The top-rated horse improved out of all recognition last season which culminated in his Punchestown Gold Cup win, a victory which suggested that he might well have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup if he’s taken his chance. He’s won his last 6 races going right-handed, and could prove very tough to beat.
Won 9 of his 10 races for trainer Willie Mullins, and his two Cheltenham Festival wins have been breath-taking. Yet to prove he stays 3-miles, but could actually improve for it. Will be ridden by Ruby Walsh, who knows a thing or five about winning King Georges.
Cue Card 4/1
Looked the likely winner in 2013 until something went wrong late on. However, after a poor season last season, he has returned to win the Charlie Hall Chase and Betfair Chase in great style under new jockey Paddy Brennan. His stable have also been hitting the big targets this year.
Siviniaco Conti 8/1
Hard to knock a dual winner, but those renewals probably weren’t as strong as this one. Not performed to that standard since, and serious questions to answer in this tough-looking contest.
Smad Place 8/1
Really impressed in winning a race here before front-running the opposition into the ground in the Hennessey. It will be interesting to see whether he can lead Cue Card, but this might just be a big year for him.
Al Ferof 16/1
Has twice finished 3rd but, as has never truly appeared to stay 3-miles, it surely can’t be third time lucky.
Irish Cavalier 33/1
Still only 6, and has plenty to find on the book. Expected to win a big race this year but doubt it will be this one.
Valseur Lido 33/1
All his best runs have come going right-handed, and could be just the type to sneak into a place at a big price if the race is run at a fast pace. Would probably need all the other to run below par to actually win though.
A win for Cue Card would be well-received, however I expect the race will go to one of the first-timers in Don Cossack, Vautour or Smad Place. Smad Place is overlooked only as the Hennessey was his number one priority and, as Vautour has to prove his stamina, Don Cossack looks to have a brilliant chance. However, it’s likely that you’ll get a bigger price come the day of the race, so it might be worth hanging on until then to place your bets.
Tip: Don Cossack