King George VI Preview
This year’s King George VI maybe without its true king Kauto Star, but it promises to be a truly epic contest with flair and class splashed all around the field.
Long Run has looked out of sorts ever since the rejuvenated Kauto Star beat him last season but he is still the favourite to regain the crown in which Kauto Star made his own.
Despite Kauto Star’s absence, Long Run has plenty of company including three representatives of last year’s top class novice division.
Cue Card, Grands Crus and Champion Court are all likely to feature and the first two especially are a real threat to Long Run.
Kauto Star’s brother, Kauto Stone, looks set to lead the Paul Nicholls charge and Nicky Henderson has the luxury of two big fancies with Riverside Theatre set to make his season debut.
Henderson did have three hopefuls until pulling out Finian’s Rainbow due to the likely heavy ground.
Philip Hobs also reduced his number of runners to one after Menorah and Wishful Thinking were withdrawn leaving Captain Chris his sole runner.
For Non Stop, Champion Court, Junior and The Giant Bolster are the only other remaining contenders in a super strong field of ten.
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King George Contenders
Best Price: 2/1 Paddy Power
Long Run has not had things all his way in recent times. Things no matter how big or small just don’t seem to be going the way of the 7-year-old but his time will come again and that time could be this Boxing Day.
His 2011-12 season couldn’t have been much worse being comprehensively outclassed by Kauto Star in his first two runs before his sole victory at Newbury in February.
The Gold Cup was to follow and again he failed to prevail this time getting outstayed by the late Synchronised.
This season did not get off to the best of starts when beaten by another Paul Nicholls horse in the form of Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase last month.
However there is most certainly light at the end of the tunnel for Long Run and whatever criticisms he has, he never fails to produce a big run.
Long Run’s record stands at eight wins, four 2nds and three 3rds from his fifteen runs over fences.
Despite obvious jumping issues, not only has Long Run never fallen, but he has never finished outside the top three. A record that is nothing short of phenomenal for a horse whose big weakness is jumping.
I suspect that he may make the running this year and he is most certainly going to make the trip which you can’t say about some of his rivals.
One issue that surrounds and will continue to surround Long Run is jockey Sam Waley-Cohen. Many would prefer to see Henderson’s usual first choice jockey Barry Geraghty take the mount after a number of high profile errors from the amateur jockey.
One thing’s for sure, I personally would feel more comfortable with my money on Long Run if Geraghty was in the saddle and I think he may well have turned over Silviniaco Conti last month had that been the case.
Despite losing to Silviniaco Conti last month, and the jockey, Long Run is a worthy favourite and you would think he will be there or there about come the finish line.
Best Price: 11/2 William Hill
For me Cue Card is the most exciting horse in this race and should he get the trip, will take a lot of beating.
I picked Cue Card at the start of the season as my one to follow due to the fact that had things gone his way last season, we could be talking about a superstar.
His second run as a chaser proved a disaster as he unseated rider Joe Tizzard leaving Grand Crus to bolt up the hill.
His next run also ended in disappointment when getting beat a short head to Bobs Worth at Newbury. However, had jockey Joe Tizzard handled the situation better, he most certainly would have won that race.
He then bounced back to score over For Non Stop before finishing second to the great Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase but finishing 22 lengths ahead of third place Menorah.
His season return could not have got off to a better start pulverising a field of five at Exeter by 26 lengths.
The one question mark next to Cue Card is he is stepping up in trip from 2m to 3m. With the heavy ground, it is not certain a regular three-miler will make the trip never mind a horse that has never ran further than 2m4f.
Trainer Colin Tizzard has claimed he expects Cue Card to get the trip and said if he should, he will be hard to beat and I would have to agree with him.
At 9/2 last week I thought he was too short considering he is not certain to make the trip but now at 11/2, there is some good value for the 6-year-old.
Best Price: 11/2 Betfred
Probably Nicky Henderson’s second string, but by no means should be discounted as he boasts an outstanding record over fences.
The Ryanair champion has scored in three of his four Grade 1 runs since second to Long Run in this race two years ago.
His only defeat came in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree when he was pulled up as the 7/2 favourite. That run probably came too soon after his festival success and should be discounted from what otherwise is a good-looking record.
The withdrawal of Finian’s Rainbow answered a potentially difficult decision for jockey Barry Geraghty as he would have had to choose between the Champion Chaser and the Ryanair conqueror.
It will be interesting to see how Riverside Theatre performs in an all star field. He has a chance if he is as good as we are led to believe but I think there is better in the race.
Best Price: 8/1 Ladbrokes
Brother of the great Kauto Star, Kauto Stone has a real opportunity to continue the legacy that the name “Kauto” has in this race.
Had you asked me this time last year about Kauto Stone, I would have put him nowhere near being a potential King George contender.
He was beaten twice by Finian’s Rainbow last year as well as losing to Sizing Europe and Riverside Theatre but bounced back in sensational style this season with a pulsating win over First Lieutenant.
Despite his return to winning ways this horse is nothing like his famous brother and I don’t believe he will ever be a patch on Kauto Star.
He has the advantage of having, who I believe to be the best jockey, Ruby Walsh on his back and if this horse has any chance of taking this race, it will be up to that man to scrape everything out of him.
That said I really believe there is much better in this field and he is far too short at 8/1. Had Al Ferof been in the race and Ruby Walsh be riding him, Kauto Stone would be more than double his current price.
Best Price: 9/1 William Hill
Along with Cue Card, Grands Crus is a really exciting prospect in this race. A horse oozing in class and style at his best, Grands Crus looks likely to return to the track after a minor breathing op last month.
Grands Crus for me produced the best performance of the season when superbly winning the Feltham Chase over the same route as the King George.
Grands Crus attacked the fences that day with pace and accuracy and was in control of the race from start to finish. Should he reproduce that performance then he will be the one to beat.
He had a disappointing run at the festival which was a shock to most. I think that may have been down to a lack of a run in-between with trainer David Pipe opting not to go for the Argento, a race that would have been ideal for the 7-year-old grey.
His return this season ended again in disappointment when pulled up in a brutally run Paddy Power Gold Cup in torrential conditions.
The grey tracked the leaders all the way before making a move three out. He was pulled up immediately after that fence with reports at the end of the race claiming he lost a shoe but Pipe sent him for a breathing op.
He claimed at the time he would be unlikely to make the King George but his inclusion in the final field must suggest that Pipe is happy with his recovery.
One thing is for sure, Pipe wouldn’t be risking Grands Crus if he was not fully fit and at 9/1, there is some serious each way value, he is certainly when at his best, good enough.
The Giant Bolster
Best Price: 10/1 SkyBet
This progressive seven-year-old has a rollercoaster of form but there seems to be something a little special about The Giant Bolster.
With the champ (AP McCoy) taking the saddle, he will be put, if good enough, into a position to win the race.
After getting up ahead of Long Run in the Gold Cup last year people are expecting big things this season but he failed to make any sort of impression in the Betfair Chase last month and I can’t see anything different in the King George.
He proved at Cheltenham that he has a big run in him but whether he has enough to get his head over that line first I’m not so sure.
He is a grafting horse who stays all day so there could be some each way value but there is plenty more chances in this field better than him.
Best Price: 14/1 William Hill
Energetic and hard working, Captain Chris is everything you want to see for a 3m chaser.
His seasonal return could not have gone better jumping accurately and handling the ground perfectly to score over For Non Stop.
He was ridden along the rail by jockey Richard Johnson and to prevent him jumping right and it was a tactic that seemed to work. Kempton like Ascot is a right handed course so should he wish, he could do the same.
He did have weight on the field in that race at Ascot last month. Weight which he won’t have in hand this race.
He is gutsy and has the capability to win big races so by no means should be discounted.
Junior, For Non Stop, Champion Court
Junior was a surprise late entry from David Pipe and I think they may well be sniffing some place money with the ground being so soft.
I personally think the field is too strong for him likewise with Champion Court.
For Non Stop however is a different case. I can’t believe this horse is the price he is after smashing a good field at Aintree. He was not disgraced at Ascot and had he not had that run I think he would be in single figures in the betting.
Surely some each way value at 33/1 I sense there could be another big run in him.
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