King George: O’Neill shout too big to ignore with conditions in

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Silviniaco Conti trainer Paul Nicholls insists that drying ground will be no barrier to his 9/4 King George VI Chase favourite’s chances at Kempton, while 5/1 stablemate Al Ferof would relish quicker conditions, but the mild weather puts a huge-priced horse bang into the picture.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Johns Spirit sidestepped the lucrative Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham ten days ago, having won three times and placed twice around Prestbury Park in six attempts over the past 14 months, for a crack at Kempton’s Boxing Day spectacle.

That’s more than enough of a clue to get behind the seven-year-old each-way at a top-price 25/1 with Ladbrokes.com.

Johns Spirit is as low as 16/1 for the King George with other firms, which is hardly surprising considering the son of Gold Well’s immense form since the start of the 2014/15 campaign.

Richie McLernon’s expertly-timed ride in the Marie Curie Cancer Care Handicap Chase back in October resulted in a tidy one-length victory, and the 28-year-old seemed to have perfectly judged Johns Spirit’s run when defending the Paddy Power Gold Cup off top weight last time out.

Alas, Nicholls’ Caid Du Berlais just about got up the Cheltenham hill to beat O’Neill’s game gelding by a head, but Johns Spirit’s efforts that day suggest he’ll be right in the mix at Kempton.

After taking the Marie Curie with conditions good-to-soft, Johns Spirit’s fine attempt to win successive Paddy Powers was over softer ground, providing a test of stamina intensified by the hill.

The fact that McLernon’s mount came so close to winning at Cheltenham, having triumphed over half a furlong shorter the previous month, bodes well ahead of the King George, which sees him step up in trip from 2m4f to 3m.

It’s fair to assume that, should the ground come up good-to-soft at Kempton’s flatter track, Johns Spirit will have the legs to get the trip, especially after showing plenty of promise in his last run over 3m in April, before smashing into the sixth fence from home and tailing off.

The kicker? That was Aintree, land of notoriously high obstacles. At Kempton, Johns Spirit is too big at 25/1 to win the King George.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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