There may still be a couple of decent flat-racing meetings to come, but it’s that time of year when I start looking excitedly towards some of National Hunt’s biggest races; and where better to start our ante-post previews than the King George (even if it is 3-months off).
Universally accepted to be Britain’s second most prestigious race after the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the King George has a rich history of horses who’ve won this 3mile Grade-1 Chase more than once. Halloween, Madarin, Pendil, Captain Christy, Silver Buck, The Fellow, One Man, See More Business, Kicking King, Long Run and Siviniaco Conti have all won it twice. And, though people thought no horse could emulate Wayward Lad’s hat-trick, it took Desert Orchid just 5 years to prove them wrong when he won it for the fourth time. However, even that feat was surpassed by the amazing Kauto Star – whose 5-timer surely will never be surpassed.
Thanks to Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti, Paul Nicholls has trained 7 of the last 10 winners, though the Champion Trainer will probably somehow have to rekindle the latter’s enthusiasm if he is to make it another one, though he is largely overlooked in the market at 33/1 after disappointing last season.
However, here are the 10 most likely winners of the 2016 King George Chase.
Cue Card 5/1
Came back from injury better than ever last year, and his wins in the Betfair Chase, King George and Betfred Bowl marked him down as one of the best 3-mile chasers of his generation. We’ll never know if he would have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup if he hadn’t of fallen, but his lacklustre performance in the Punchestown Gold Cup is easily forgiven as he was over the top. No 10-year-old has won since Desert Orchid in 1989, though Kauto Star has won at the age of 11 since.
Looked sure to win last year’s renewal before tying-up in the straight. Still beat all bar Cue Card though, and a big danger to all on good or faster ground, if allowed to take his chance. Stamina still slightly suspect though.
Yet to taste defeat, but may well be campaigned with the Champion Chase in mind after winning last year’s Arkle, especially as connections have Vautour and Djakadam to go to war with in this sphere.
It was brilliant to see small-time trainer Mark Bradstock train this fellow (as a novice) to win the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and I can’t ever remember seeing such an exhilarating front-running performance. Trainer says he’s as good as ever after his return from injury, and he would surely take some catching around here, especially if the ground comes up soft. Also proved he handles the track when a facile winner of the Kauto Star Novices Chase here.
Valseur Lido 12/1
Would have hacked-up in last year’s Irish Hennessey Gold but for a last fence fall, and could still have plenty of improvement to come. Needs to find that improvement though after being placed behind several of the top-class horses, including Vautour.
Last year’s World Hurdle winner could take the chasing world by storm but, as he’s a novice, and he’s trained by the same trainer as Cue Card, connections will surely find easier pickings along the way. Possibly the Kauto Star Novices Chase on the same card.
Impossible to knock a horse who finished placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Betfred Bowl and the Punchestown Gold Cup last season, but those efforts do suggest that there’s a few horses out there who just have the edge on him. Connections may send him if the ground was soft or heavy though, and still only 7.
Killutagh Vic 20/1
This one was the talk of Ireland after Ruby Walsh picked him up off the floor to win a novice chase, however he missed the rest of the season through injury. Likely to pop-up in a big one if fully recovered, but looks the Willie Mullins third string at present.
More Of That 20/1
Didn’t live-up to expectations when sent off favourite for the RSA last year, but this former still has time on his side if he can improve his jumping. Interesting, but this race tests a horse’s jumping skills more than most.
Un Des Sceaux 20/1
Connections don’t seem to know what to do with him after he looked short of pace on good ground in the Champion Chase, and short of stamina when tried over 3-miles. However, he looks sure to have plenty of 2-mile races on soft ground on his agenda, and could yet win a Champion Chase given those conditions at the festival – making him an unlikely runner.
King George Ante-Post Tip
It’s not hard to see Cue Card and Vautour fighting out the finish again but, I’ll be doing a rain dance nearer the time after I’ve taken some of the 10/1 about Coneygree winning, as I think he’d jump them senseless on soft ground.
Coneygree @ 10/1 (William Hill, Coral)
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