This Boxing Day sees a plethora of racing take place of which the showpiece looks set to be the 66th running of The King George VI Chase from Kempton.
Despite there only being nine runners that are set to line up at the start it looks to be one of the most competitive we’ve seen so here at PicksfromthePaddock.co.uk we’ve decided to give you a quick rundown of all nine runners.
Al Ferof (10yo) – Dan Skelton
Jockey: Harry Skelton
The race veteran, at the age of ten, is new trainer Dan Skelton’s first runner in the race. The horse changed over to Skelton’s yard over the summer and won first time out at Huntingdon.
Despite the horses advancing years it’s easy to forget that this horse has won big Grade 1 races at Cheltenham as well as Grade 2’s at Ascot. The horse has mixed it with the best of them and seemingly come up just short against the best opposition but with a new lease of life under a new trainer can this horse fulfil its true potential?
Ballynagour (9yo) – David Pipe
Jockey: Tom Scudamore
Many people consider this to be the seeming no-hoper in the race but don’t let the betting sway you all too much. The David Pipe trained runner has finished close to some of today’s rivals before including the likes of Silviniaco Conti and top two mile chaser Sizing Europe.
The horse has been tried every numerous trips but came up trumps at The Cheltenham Festival in March 2014 so clearly has ability. Wether it can turn its form around with some of the main protagonists is the big question.
Cue Card (9yo) – Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Paddy Brennan
Prior to this season it’s easy to have christened Cue Card the proverbial bridesmaid with second placed finishes behind the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Bobs Worth and two of todays rivals Silviniaco Conti and Don Cossack.
However a recent wind operation seems to have given the horse a rejuvenated lease of life when winning both of its starts this campaign in the form of The Charlie Hall and The Betfair Chase. Those wins came over some of the competition that challenge again here.
This wind operation has seemingly worked wonders but can it continue it’s mission of over turning previous losses to some of its rivals and make it three wins from three this season?
Don Cossack (8yo) – Gordon Elliot
Jockey: Bryan Cooper
Looks set to go off the race favourite and with eight wins in its last nine starts, including four Grade 1 races, its class is there for all to see.
An absolute demolition job over its rivals in The Melling Chase at Aintree in April where it beat its nearest rival Cue Card by a whopping 27 lengths is some serious form.
The horse has never been tested at Kempton and has only been successful over todays trip once before in what was a less competitive four runner affair.
With questions to answer will its class prevail or will it come un-stuck with a different test ahead of it?
Irish Cavalier (6yo) – Rebecca Curtis
Jockey: Barry Geraghty
This top class handicapper takes a big step up in competition and probably shouldn’t be at this level based on its previous efforts however clearly trainer Rebecca Curtis thinks it has a chance.
With fantastic big race runs to its name, including a win at last seasons Cheltenham Festival it has a bit of potential to cause an upset.
At the age of six there is enough room for the horse to progress but wether it has enough in its locker to beat the likes of these seems a very big task to overcome.
Silviniaco Conti (9yo) – Paul Nicholls
Jockey: Noel Fehily
When it comes to Kempton this horse absolutely loves it. Silviniaco Conti has never finished outside of the first two in all of its starts at this venue ad has won this race for the last two seasons. It should improve for it’s two runs this season as it tends to need a race or two to get going. At the age of nine it’s advancing years might be starting to tell and this years renewal looks far more competitive than the previous two it’s won.
With trainer Paul Nicholls saddling the winner of the race seven times out of the last nine runnings can you bet against it at a course he adores?
Smad Place (8yo) – Alan King
Jockey: Wayne Hutchinson
Smad Place is a big, bold jumping, grey who has competed in major chase races but hasn’t often showed a liking for three miles or more. That was until it blitzed the field in this years Hennessy Gold Cup at the end of last month.
That performance was very dominant and looked incredibly impressive.
The King George looks a very different proposition and with the likelihood that it’ll have other horses looking to lead as well it isn’t likely have things its own way.
Could this be a rejuvenated horse or will its exhilarating run last time out have emptied its gas tank and taken too much out of the eight year old to find another win here?
Valseur Lido (6yo) – Willie Mullins
Jockey: Jacques Ricou
French jockey Jacques Ricou won’t be travelling over the Channel just for a pay day and looks to emulate previous French jockey Thierry Doumen who steered his fathers horse First Gold to victory in the race in 2000.
The lesser known of the two Willie Mullins entries but not there to make up the numbers. The horse should improve for its second placed finish behind Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam in its seasonal reappearance and will strip fitter for that effort.
Looking through the horses novice form with victories over the likes of Apache Stronghold and Champagne James it has the ability to do well but is this race too much too soon?
Vautour (6yo) – Willie Mullins
Jockey: Ruby Walsh
One of owner Rich Ricci’s top stable stars last season who has barely put a foot wrong in all ten starts for Ireland’s top trainer.
Big race wins seem to be its forté but it’s worth noting it has been competing in novice company most of its career.
This is by far the biggest test of its career and this level of opposition looks to be its toughest to date.
The horse is very classy and deserves its place as one of the betting principles but can it take the leap to top notch chaser from very classy novice?
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Stay tuned on the day to read our full TV Tips where we’ll be making our eagerly anticipated selection for the big race as well as our full Boxing Day Bonanza where we give a selection in every single race in the UK and Ireland.
No matter what horse your money looks set to be placed on make sure you watch, what looks to be one of the best King George’s in recent years.