I myself strike very few ante-post bets throughout the season, and as such it takes a special sort to get me interested. So if we take some clues from the post title, the race I’m going to discuss here is the King George VI Chase at Kempton, which if all goes to plan will be held on Boxing Day, and the horse that takes my fancy is ‘Hunt Ball‘.
This fella was a true ‘rags to riches’ story of the racing world last season after starting his campaign on a mark of ’69’ in a class 5 handicap, and finishing the season off a mark of 154 in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree in April. On his way he managed to capture the hearts of many a racing enthusiast and indeed any punter who managed to pocket a quid or two from his winning performances, including when a runaway winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
So what makes him a live contender for the prestigous King George I hear you say. Well he is only 7yrs of age, and with the amount he progressed last season is it really too much to think that with another Summer on his back his improvement cannot continue?
His run in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree on the whole was a superb piece of form, having been fairly well campaigned throughout the season, that race was his ninth appearance and to be honest, he would have been entitled to have needed a rest. The fact he finished third, just 3 lengths off the winner, was in my eyes quite phenomenal and a clear testament to himself. If we also look at the two horses he was sandwiched between, Burton Port (2nd) and Medermit (4th) then the form opens up further.
Burton Port was rated ‘166’, and Medermit ‘167’, so if they did indeed run to their true mark (nothing really suggested they didn’t) then our fella’s mark of 154 that day was all wrong, and the fact he has only been raised 3lbs for that run would suggest he is still potentially 9 or 10lbs under rated at the present moment.
So if we take the above facts at face value, and take a chance that he could well improve further this term, then he is a massive contender and clearly fits the bill of a King George winner.
We will of course get a clearer picture after his seasonal debut this term in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday, and given his record over this trip (4/4) I would certainly not put you off a bet on him at his current price. Make no mistake though should he turn up on Saturday and trounce the field, or even put in a closely run performance, then his price-tag for the King George will be drastically reduced.
I am happy in the thought that connections will go down the Kempton route, given his owner wants him to and believes he can win the Gold Cup in March, and the past has proven that the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup go like tea and biscuits.
He will be facing some very talented types in the form of Silvinaco Conti, Grand Crus, Sir Des Champs to name a few (if they all turn up). But I think if our runner was in one of those horses yards then the bookies would not be so generous with their offerings, and as previously mentioned a good performance this Saturday would quickly see this price disintegrate, especially if he can get the better of David Pipes Grand Crus.
Hunt Ball – 1pt E/W currently 25-1 with Sporting Bet (King George VI Chase)