Boxing Day is a traditional favourite for race-goers and punters (weather permitting), and the jewel in the crown this year looks set to be the William Hill King George VI Chase from Kempton Park, where a stacked field of prolific winners will battle it out for big honours and bragging rights.
The field has been weakened marginally by the absence of the formidable Coneygree; the Gold Cup winner has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a hock injury. Nevertheless, the show must go on and there is still plenty of value to be enjoyed in what is one of the toughest renewals to predict on the National Hunt circuit.
Leading Trio Set to Do Battle
The betting is headed by a triple-threat of proven winners who love the Kempton surface. Leading the way is Don Cossack (9/4 Fav), who has perhaps been the standout horse over fences so far this term. That pair of faultless wins at Punchestown and Down Royal confirmed what many pundits predicted: this is a powerful racer that looks set to live up to his early potential.
As of Tuesday morning it was Vautour (3/1) who was taking most of the money through Oddschecker however. Trained by the irrepressible Willie Mullins, he was triumphant in his return to fences at Ascot last month, and his victory in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham earlier this year highlighted why he is one of the most talked-about horses amongst those in the know.
And yet there’s a lot of evidence to promote the chances of Cue Card (7/2) too. He has been hugely impressive so far this term, with wins in the Charlie Hall Chase and the Betfair Chase at Wetherby and Haydock respectively – the latter of which was by a huge seven lengths from the ever-popular reigning champion in this renewal Silviniaco Conti. Colin Tizzard is in no doubt that his charge is ready for the big occasion. “He looked awesome at Haydock as very few horses have won that race in the style of which he did,” he told the Racing Post.
“The fact of the matter is we have got Cue Card where we want him ahead of the Kempton and, although he is nine going on ten, he seems as good as he was when winning the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham almost two years ago.”
Despite winning the last two renewals of this race, the air of invincibility around Silviniaco Conti has evaporated after a number of turgid showings so far this season, and at 8/1 we’ll have to look elsewhere for value.
At 10/1 Smad Place looks a good price, particularly after that demolishing of the field in the recent Hennessy Gold Cup. This grey has the look of another former winner of this race, Desert Orchid, and there is a feeling on the betting floor that this price is likely to fall in the run up to Saturday’s meeting.
And a strong case can be made for Al Ferof (16/1) in an each way fashion too. This stunning looking horse has finished third here in the last two renewals, which would have been a money-maker in the each way stakes, although he will have to improve to make the podium this time out due to the stacked field. But a handy victory in the Peterborough Chase a few weeks ago by a whopping 40 lengths has set up this striking horse well.