This year’s King George VI Chase is one of the most eagerly-anticipated in recent memory with Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card and Thistlecrack set to serve up a Christmas cracker.
As soon as the Dorset handler confirmed the latter would be lining-up at Kempton, the money poured in.
But will punters’ faith be justified?
We’ve analysed the form and trends to offer up our own conclusion.
Cue Card remains the marginal favourite in a contest that the bookies are considering to be a two-horse race.
Granted, you can see why the trading rooms have come to this conclusion. Last year’s winner was arguably facing a penalty-kick without Thistlecrack or the absent Coneygree in the field.
However, while he’s got a tougher job on his hands, the popular 10-year-old still carries a lot of positives.
Last month’s decisive 15-length win in the Betfair Chase was a powerful statement of intent following his Charlie Hall defeat.
And with each of the previous 10 winners landing a Grade 1 chase, and nine of the last 10 winning two or more, you can see the quality needed to land the Boxing Day highlight.
However, while Thistlecrack can’t boast such numbers, he does still tick a lot of boxes.
We’ll start with an obvious statistic. Each of the last 10 winners had won over 3m or more previously with the unbeaten novice chaser obliging in that department.
Meanwhile, the previous 10 winners have all come from the first three in the betting and gone off at odds of 9/2 or shorter.
Of course, whether the market has got it right on Thistlecrack remains to be seen. It’s his mouth-watering potential, rather than proven experience over fences, that’s got odds-compilers up and down the land running scared.
But that’s enough about the top two. How does the rest of the field stack up?
We’ve already touched upon the proven pedigree needed to land the King George.
Dual-winner Silviniaco Conti certainly has that.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has won seven of the last 10 renewals with Kauto Star and Conti and his returning hero can’t be entirely ruled out.
At least, not if you’re going on trends with nine of the last 10 victors finishing either first or second over Kempton’s course and distance.
However, with some of the seven entrants hardly getting any younger, perhaps we should turn our attention to the subject of age.
Tea For Two stands out in this regard given the fact that five of the last 10 winners were aged between six and seven. The remaining five winners (aged eight-years-old or older) in that sequence were either previous winners or had finished second in the race.
So, last year’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase winner makes a lot of appeal given his age and the fact he’s tamed this track and trip before.
However, defeat to Josses Hill in the Peterborough Chase last time is a slight concern for Nick Williams’ charge while acting as a positive for Nicky Henderson’s entrant.
This is a big step-up for the Seven Barrows runner but connections must fancy his chances having stumped up the cash to supplement the eight-year-old.
And finally, the Gigginstown pair of Road to Riches and Roi Des Francs round-off our preview.
With nine of the last 10 King George winners running in the last 40 days we’re going to rule out the former on what will be his first start since October.
The latter is also rated an outsider for good reason with little on the table to offer up any claims.
In conclusion, the information we’ve laid bare points to only one winner and we fully expect CUE CARD to show his class and put the pretenders in their place.
Famous last words?
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing