For some, Boxing Day is all about recovering from the previous day’s exerts, champing down on bubble and squeak and frantically searching for a hangover cure, but for others it’s all about Kempton.
The King George VI Chase is the mid-season highlight in the National Hunt campaign, and this year’s renewal looks an extra special one.
To add to the excitement Ladbrokes are throwing an excellent offer into the mix offering money back on all losing bets should the SP favourite take victory, as a free bet.
All there is now is to find the winner of the showpiece Grade 1 in Sunbury-on-Thames.
We’ve picked out the top five in the market to mull over the pros and cons of their chances ahead of the big three mile chase.
Don Cossack – 9/4
Pros – The market leader and currently the highest-rated chaser in training, Gordon Elliott’s charge has continued to impress this term, winning both runs in simple fashion jumping well throughout.
He’s won all but one of his nine chases outside of novice company, that defeat coming when being hampered in the Ryanair Chase at March. He stays, jumps well and is fairly versatile as far as the ground is concerned.
Cons – There’s not an awful lot to dislike about his claims for this race other than if questioning the strength of his victories. Cue Card, who was second at Aintree was largely disappointing last season while his Punchestown victory over Djakadam and Road Riches came after that pair had endured a brutal Gold Cup.
Nevertheless, he has done pretty much all that has been asked of him, and it could be that all that stops him being a bet is the price.
Vautour – 5/2
Pros – The explosive winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Rich Ricci’s gelding put in an impressive round of jumping at Prestbury Park in March.
The fact that he has been singled out by a Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh team that has an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, says an awful lot and his class is ensured.
Cons – While he won first time out at, he wasn’t as impressive as some might have hoped. He probably wasn’t fully fit for that and will surely improve, but he will need to on that run.
What could be a concern is the fact that he continued to jump out to his left that day at Berkshire, something that will lose him valuable ground at Kempton, plus the fact he is yet to prove he stays this far.
Cue Card – 3/1
Pros – Colin Tizzard’s star is two from two this season, having taken the Charlie Hall Chase and the Betfair Chase already this term and comes here in the best form in years.
He’s clearly improved from last year which was basically a washout with a procedure for a trapped epiglottis looking to have halted his decline. Back to his best, he could be a player.
Cons – His Betfair Chase win saw him beat a disappointing Silviniaco Conti, Dynaste and Ballynagour who don’t look top, top class in staying chases, while Holywell is a spring horse, so how strong that form is, is questionable.
What’s more worrying could be the fact that he has run in this race three times and been beaten on each occasion, as well as only winning two of his six right-handed chases.
Silviniaco Conti – 7/1
Pros – Winner of this race for the past two years, Paul Nicholls’ horse has peaked at Kempton on Boxing Day on both occasions and will be expected to improve on his two runs so far this term.
He beat three of this season’s opponents in this race 12 months ago, and clearly goes better here than at places like Cheltenham. There’s juice left in the price if any of those fancy him to bag a treble.
Cons – This is stronger than the last two renewals, so he will need to be better now than he was then, and that looks questionable.
He was seven lengths behind Cue Card at Haydock, and with the likes of Vautour and Don Cossack in the race, horses who are recent winners over shorter, might just be tapped for toe, even over three miles.
Smad Place – 8/1
Pros – Showed a new level of form when winning the Hennessy Gold Cup last month, Alan King’s grey could be one to jump off in front and lead them a merry dance.
He’s got course form to his name, and if getting an easy lead could put a fair few lengths between himself and the chasing pack. A real test will be good for him and place money could well be on the agenda.
Cons – While he looks like this season has seen him at his best, more will probably be needed to land this having been beaten on all seven runs at Grade 1 level.
The Hennessy looked to be the big target this side of the New Year, so whether this is an afterthought remains to be seen, but he needs to step up again.
Cases can be made for all of the top five in the betting, and even for others further down but the favourite Don Cossack looks the most solid of those.
For those not wanting to steam into the jolly value might just lie with the Hennessy winner Smad Place who has clearly come on this season and the dashing almost-white grey could just evoke memories of Desert Orchid blasting away from the front and causing a mini surprise at Kempton.
- All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.