The second most prestigious chase potentially brings together the seven horses at the head of the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Cue Card is the only horse that can win the £1 million bonus for winning three major conditions chases and the King George V1 Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is the second leg. Vautour and Don Cossack are the better horses and one could be taking the prize back to Ireland.
Don Cossack was the highest rated chaser in Britain and Ireland last season. Coneygree won the Gold Cup but misses the King George and may not be fit to defend his crown in the most important chase of the season. Connections are still not sure if their horse will run again this season even if the hock injury is not life threatening. He was the first novice to win the Gold Cup since 1974.
Cue Card has never quite delivered in the King George’s having made the starting line-up three times. He heads to Kempton having won the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the first leg of the bonus series. Cue Card beat his old rival Silviniaco Conti by seven lengths at Haydock and also won impressively at Wetherby earlier in the season. He could win the race at Kempton next Saturday but completing the treble at Cheltenham looks beyond him.
The horse is more suited to a flat track even though he has winning form at the festival. He looks back to his best and is just about the best chaser trained on the mainland. The Irish have a strong hand but Cue Card is proven at the highest level while the visitors still have something to prove. The horse is trained by Colin Tizzard who reports the best he has trained is like a youngster again. Last season is now a distant memory when clearly something was wrong.
Quoted in the Racing Post Tizzard was succinct about Cue Card in saying: “He’s been brilliant at home. Brilliant where he wasn’t brilliant before” The horse has pride of place at the stable and would provide the trainer with a wonderful late Christmas present if he wins another race on Boxing Day. Cue Card has been trained to be at his peak for his target in the first half of the season but Cheltenham in March is still the most important occasion. He will get an entry if the lucrative bonus is still up for grabs.
Vautour is a leading contender for both the major chases this season. The horse was mightily impressive in winning as a novice at the festival last season but has not raced over three miles, the distance of the King George. As a second season novice he has not raced against experienced chasers before and is not as battle hardened as others. Willie Mullins has never won the Gold Cup but in Djakadam he has another hope to go into battle with Vautour. The betting suggests the latter is his best chance but the King George will tell us more.
Don Cossack produced the best ratings last season and has picked up where he left of this time. He was not tested in two prep races in Ireland but now the competition is much stiffer. The horse is trained by Gordon Elliott who is getting closer to Mullins each season but is still second best in terms of both quantity and quality. Don Cossack is the stable star but winning the King George is big ask.
Silviniaco Conti has won the race twice and has his preferred conditions at Kempton. He doesn’t now look like winning the Gold Cup after three attempts. He fell when in contention in 2013, led over the last but faded twelve months later and disappointed behind Coneygree last season. Paul Nicholls may not even enter Silviniaco Conti this time and the Betfair Bowl at Aintree looks like a viable alternative.
Kempton brings out the best in Silviniaco Conti and with doubts about some of his main rivals the horse could win a third King George and the 10/1 with Paddy Power should be taken. That firm are Irish based so paying out on Silviniaco Conti would be doubly disappointing. It would mean the best chases in Ireland failed to deliver but Cheltenham would be the best place to compensate.
Have a Super Sunday and enjoy today’s sport!