Rewind 12 months to Cue Card approaching the second-last up Kempton’s home straight, and it looked as if Colin Tizzard’s pride and joy would be returning on Boxing Day 2014 to defend his King George crown.
What we weren’t banking on was the combination of the (then) seven-year-old completely emptying approaching the final fence and Silviniaco Conti staying on stoutly up the run-in to take a sixth running of the race for Paul Nicholls in the space of eight years.
Last year’s defending champ is the obvious starting point for finding this year’s victor, and after taking the Betfair Chase, looks a solid enough bet at 5/2.
But we don’t want to be putting up a 5/2 shot for our readers, let’s try and find some big-price value!
One thing that can be said for the current market is that it is likely to cut up.
Road to Riches (16/1), Boston Bob (25/1), Balleycasey (25/1), Eduard (25/1) and Corrin Wood (50/1) all look unlikely to run, the first two with the Lexus Chase the following day likely to be their preferred target.
And while he is still unbeaten over fences, the 8/1 available for Simonsig after 21 months off, pitched back in at the highest level, doesn’t appeal (to say the very least).
Dynaste (10/1) has been put up by Pricewise in the Racing Post, and looks a very reasonable shout, but keen not to shirk a challenge, we are taking him on.
And one that jumps out as a bit of each-way value at this stage is Smad Place (25/1).
Alan King has always thought of his grey as a potential Gold Cup horse, and if he is to challenge the principles at Prestbury Park in March, he would have to run a big race here to look competitive.
His form at Cheltenham has been highlighted as one of his strong points, but his record right-handed is not too shabby either, reading 1U2211, that ‘U’ coming when well out in front on his chase debut at Huntingdon.
More importantly his best form is all at around 3m, finishing runner up in this year’s RSA Chase, as well as finishing third in two World Hurdles.
Last season’s runner up Cue Card (10/1) cannot be discounted at a nice price, but the way he emptied last year on testing ground (the likely conditions here again) and the fact he has been well-below par this season puts me off him.
So at a whopper of a price, Smad Place looks worth siding with.
After being unfortunate to come across a certain Big Buck’s at his prime over hurdles, his start over the bigger obstacles has been more than respectable.
Prior to that Festival second, he had disposed of the likes of Sam Winner (since gaining victory in a Grade 3) and Mendip Express (2nd in the Becher Chase last time out), very solid, if unspectacular form.
His handler lamented the fact he didn’t give him a prep run before his respectable fifth in the Hennessy Gold Cup, but he should be spot on for the big contest after Christmas.
Having to shoulder plenty more weight than his rivals and the extra 2f seemed to find him out that day at Newbury, so a return to a bare 3m off level weights at Kempton should suit.
Throw in that he only has five chase runs to his name, there could well be plenty of improvement to come from the consistent seven-year-old.
He will have to take rapid strides forward if he is to win, but Wayne Hutchinson’s likely mount looks more than capable of troubling the placings.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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