Horse racing faces an uncertain period, with the sport shutting down this spring, but looking longer term there is hope that the annual calendar of events can resume. The King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day is one of the last major races in any year, in and around the halfway stage of the National Hunt season.
Based on results over jumps, who could be contenders for the 2020 renewal? This is an early look at who could turn up at Kempton during Christmastime and contest the King George.
Nicholls holds strong hand in Clan Des Obeaux and Topofthegame
Ditcheat maestro Paul Nicholls is definitely the trainer to follow in this race. He has sent out four different horses to 11 successes since 1997.
That is a formidable record and dual King George hero , Clan Des Obeaux, will be trained specifically to land his hat-trick. Aged just eight, he still has some way to go the match the exploits of iconic predecessor Kauto Star, who won it five times, including four on the spin between 2006 and 2009.
Clan Des Obeaux heads the betting for the King George, according to MansionBet’s upcoming race odds for UK punters , at 9/2. Stable companion Topofthegame isn’t quoted in the betting yet, after missing this past season with injury, but Nicholls is confident he will have that horse back in training next term.
While he’s been in his stable, Topofthegame has seen the form of his runs in the 2018 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase also at Kempton, and 2019 RSA Chase from the Cheltenham Festival , franked by Santini, who was behind him on both occasions in the Gold Cup. This gives Nicholls a very strong hand in the King George as he bids for a dozen victories.
Team Tizzard also worth keeping an eye on
The likes of Cue Card and Thistlecrack have also won the race for dairy farmer turned racehorse trainer Colin Tizzard. Lostintranslation wasn’t at the races at all when pulled-up in the 2019 King George, but has since bounced back to be third in the Gold Cup behind Al Boum Photo and Santini, and is 9/1 to put the record straight.
Tizzard’s Venn Farm stables in Dorset could also be represented in the King George this coming season by the mercurial 16/1 shot Slate House, who won the Kauto Star this past season, but is a difficult horse to get right. The hot and cold nature of his form is something connections could do with ironing out.
The yard also has Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase scorer Copperhead , who has won each of his last four starts going right-handed, which is the way the track at Kempton is configured. He looks overpriced on that basis at 25/1.
Don’t discount Henderson duo
Seven Barrows handler, Nicky Henderson, has won the King George three times before, twice with Long Run, and again in 2017 with Might Bite. As well as the aforementioned Santini, who is 15/2 second-favourite for this, there was plenty to suggest stable companion Champ could be suited by Kempton.
Henderson has kept both of these horses very lightly-raced over fences with the Cheltenham Gold Cup in mind, but the King George is a valuable prize in its own right. The way in which Champ made up so much ground to get up and win the RSA at the Festival suggests he has a huge engine, and speed is of the essence at Kempton, so odds of 8/1 reflect his chances.
The phenomenal record Nicholls boasts in the King George, and the fact that making it three in a row is already his target, means Clan Des Obeaux is going to take some beating. Topofthegame is respected, if coming back and living up to his novice form alongside Henderson’s duo, who are more consistent than the Tizzard inmates. Copperhead is also one to watch at an interesting price.
Preference is for Clan Des Obeaux, but Copperhead is worth considering as an each-way chance.
Latest odds (sourced from MansionBet):
Clan Des Obeaux – 9/2 (Nap)
Santini – 15/2
Champ – 8/1
Lostintranslation – 9/1
Cyrame – 14/1
Topoftegame – 16/1
Slate House – 20/1
Copperhead – 25/1 (E/W)