Who's going to win Boxing Day's King George at Kempton?
This year’s King George looks a classic renewal – a quick look at the betting tells you that – but favourite DON COSSACK is taken to hold off a pack of high-class contenders.
There are no prizes for originality in picking Gordon Elliott’s charge but he looks to have plenty going for him – bar his price – and he should have a few lengths in hand of even this exalted company. The winner of eight of his nine starts over fences, including five Grade 1s, his only defeat came in last season’s Ryanair in which he finished third to Uxizandre. He got outpaced in that 2m5f race run on good ground and then found trouble at the penultimate fence before staying on strongly close home, so it was still a highly creditable effort.
He put that defeat behind him with two mighty performances at Aintree and Punchestown. At the former track, he slammed the reopposing Cue Card by 26 lengths and followed that up with an equally impressive defeat of Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam. Both those horses have come out this season to bag Grade 1 prizes, thus franking the form, and the selection himself has recorded two faultless victories at Punchestown and Down Royal.
This is his first look at Kempton but there’s no reason to think it won’t suit him – he’s looked just as effective going right-handed – and there are no worries over the trip and ground. With Elliott sounding very positive about his wellbeing in recent reports from County Meath, there’s very little not to like about his chances.
The biggest danger according to the betting is Willie Mullins’ Vautour – a best-priced 3/1 with bet365 – and he is greatly respected. However, the six-year-old does have his stamina for three miles to prove having not raced beyond 2m4f and while connections are convinced he’ll stay, they thought the same of Champagne Fever 12 months ago and he patently failed to see out the trip. The other slight concern with him is that he jumped to the left when winning at Ascot on his reappearance and a repeat might prove costly in this company.
The aforementioned Cue Card has it all to do on Aintree form, but it would be foolish to totally right him off as he has come back from a wind operation looking better then ever. He jumped brilliantly when winning at Wetherby and Haydock and couldn’t have beaten Silviniaco Conti any easier in the Betfair Chase last time. The problem with backing him at just 7/2 is that he’s already had three attempts at winning a King George and come up short each time. He may be at the peak of his powers but this is as strong a renewal as he has run in.
It would be no surprise to see Silviniaco Conti finish a lot closer this time as he bids for a hat-trick of King Georges. The nine-year-old clearly relishes the test this Grade 1 provides and you can bank on his trainer having him cherry ripe for this. He would be of even more interest should Nicholls reach for blinkers as he ran lazily in the Betfair, with the headgear likely to waken him up, and he’s the each-way bet of the race at the current 7/1 on offer at Ladbrokes given that firm’s free bet offer (see below).
I can’t believe we’ve got this far without mentioning the brilliant Hennessy winner Smad Place and impressive Peterborough Chase winner Al Ferof – I said it was a classic! Both are respected of course but the selection has a few pounds in hand on the ratings – he’s officially the top-rated chaser in training – with the strong likelihood of more to come.
Don Cossack @ 9/4 bet365*
*there’s a chance we might beat that price on the morning of the race when bookmakers will be competing for your money, but don’t bank on it!