The biggest race of the festive period, the King George VI Chase, takes place on Boxing Day at Kempton Park and the field for this year’s renewal looks to be a fascinating one. We have a clash between horses that are seen as genuine stayers and who will be targeting the slightly further in trip Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, going up against horses who are either trying three miles for the first time, or who usually run over shorter distances.
This is going to give us a fascinating race, and it will be very interesting to see which type of horse comes out on top. With rain expected before Christmas, that could turn the ground and make it soft, or potentially heavy, which would certainly suit those with more stamina in the tank.
Lostintranslation leads the stamina horses, and he is the current favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. He has already won the Betfair Chase over three miles this season and a win here would set him up to land a £1 million bonus if he goes on to win the Gold Cup. His strength is his stamina, which he needs to bring into play, if this turns into a bit of a sprint then it won’t suit him.
One horse that will suit the King George is Cyrname, a horse at the opposite end of the spectrum. He isn’t really a three-miler, but this sharp, flat track will give him every chance of getting the trip. His main target is likely to be away from Cheltenham this season unless Paul Nicholls is prepared to give him another try left-handed, but the way he runs is really suited to a right-handed track which Kempton is. This is the quickest horse in the race, if this is a race of speed then he will take some beating.
Right in the middle of these two horses we have the winner from last year, another horse trained by Paul Nicholls, Clan Des Obeaux. He is a three-miler, but no further, as we saw him failing to see the Gold Cup distance of 3m2f out in March. He was very impressive when taking this last season and with a high cruising speed, he is really suited to the tightness of this track. His comeback run in Ireland was very good considering he needed it, and should come here in peak fitness, this is classed as his main target for the season.
Others set to run in the race include Thistlecrack, a horse that finished second in this race last year and won it back in 2016. He isn’t getting any younger but ran with credit over hurdles on his seasonal reappearance. We look like having just one Irish challenger in the race, with the Willie Mullins trained Footpad still in the race, while La Bague Au Roi and Aso round off those entered at this stage.
Boxing Day is always an exciting day of racing, and this year the King George VI Chase looks set to be another cracker.