The highlight of the Christmas racing programme is the King George V1 Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton. The mid-season championship race looks wide open with Long Run the favourite as the horse strives to win the race for the second time in three years. That animal will not have to beat Kauto Star, the retired horse that has caused a falling out between Paul Nichols and Clive Smith.
The owner has decided to take the horse away from the Nicholls stable and have it trained for dressage. The man who pays the bills has the right to chose how Kauto Star spends his retirement. However, it seems a strange choice in trying to train a thoroughbred that is used to running and jumping to dance around a restricted arena to piped music.
For the first time in seven years there is not a Kauto Star element to the King George. The race usually has a bearing on the Cheltenham Gold Cup market. If Long Run were to win the race again that horse would become the ante post favourite to win at Cheltenham in March.
Long Run is still relatively young for a chaser that has achieved so much. However since winning the Gold Cup in 2011 the horse’s form has dipped and now appears vulnerable to one of the novice chasers from last season. Long Run was beaten by Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
Cue Card was one of the best first season chasers over the winter of last season and has made an impressive start to a career in conditions races for experienced animals. Cue Card is a former winner of the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival and that race often produces future champions of the jumping game.
Florida Pearl won the race in 2000 and was immediately sent chasing without a season jumping hurdles. A year after winning the bumper Florida Pearl returned to Cheltenham to win the championship race for novice chasers. The Irish trained horse also won a King George so there is a precedent for a horse to win the race some years after winning the most prestigious flat race for National Hunt bred animals.
The Giant Bolster has been one of the best backed horses in the week leading up to the King George. In theory this horse is the best chaser in training. It finished second to the sadly lost Synchronised in the Gold Cup of last season, finishing ahead of Long Run in the process.
Grand Crus looks an interesting contender as long as the trainer declares the horse to run. Grand Crus was pulled up in heavy ground in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and connections would not wish to contest another race in demanding ground conditions. On novice form from last season Gran Crus should not be dismissed, especially at odds of more than 10/1.
For Non Stop was still in ante post lists five days before the race. That animal won the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in commanding style and that race often produces highly rated winners such as Monet’s Garden and Kauto Star. For Non Stop looks the pick of the less fancied runners and given a run could make the payout places at decent odds.
Back next Friday.