West Wizard was called plenty of names last season and was turned over a few times at prohibitive odds, he has since changed yards and he has to be of interest on his chase debut. Another chasing debutant who makes appeal is Unique De Cotte, he finished 2nd in last seasons pertemps and has any amount of potential over a fence. The common link between both aforementioned debutants is that both could have been found much easier tasks than this and as much as both deserve respect, this is probably asking a little too much. Full Shift was so disappointing the last day that it is impossible to advise parting money with him today. Nicky Henderson will likely find the key to him in the long run but he simply cannot be trusted despite showing himself to be very decent as a hurdler last season. Antony had started to get the look of an exposed type before running out a most decisive winner at Sandown three weeks ago. A repeat effort today really should see him finish in the money and though is saddled with a penalty today, he looks the value call of the race and is handed the vote to place at least. Germany Calling probably wants better ground than this and though Sirabad has won over further, that was in France and his stamina looked to give way the last day over half a mile less.
Holywell was given some very stern tasks last season and is probably best forgiven for failing to overly impress in them races. He started last season off with a victory in a G3 Handicap though and this represents a big drop in class, a big question mark for him in this would be the ground but he is easily the best of these and if he did go on the ground he would be entitled to bolt up. What A Good Night is improving rapidly and has won around here before, he really could be anything this term but this will take some winning and his sometime frail jumping has to be a worry against these experienced chasers. No Planning unseated in the Becher but finds himself on a good mark and had hinted that a big pot was waiting just around the corner when a fair 3rd at Haydock the time before. Back on a conventional track, a track that has also yielded him 4 victories from seven attempts, he is taken handed the vote. Dolatulo ran a fine race when 3rd in the Becher and won list last season on softish ground, he is a major player again today but his 7lbs higher mark today leaves little room for fault and he is plenty short enough. Splash Of Ginge always warrants respect as he is tough and game, this longer trip could prove a good move by connections and he is seen as the biggest danger. Top Gamble is another who wants respecting, he is also another who needs to prove himself at the trip though and there will be easier races for him than this.
No Planning (WIN)
Tea For Two was most impressive when laughing at a decent field on his chase debut last month and will take some stopping here where he was 2-2 over hurdles. Trained by Nick Williams he had always looked a type who would do better over a fence and this trip should be right up his street. Native River readily brushed aside Un Temps Pour Tous in a Grade 2 at Newbury last time and is by far the biggest danger to the selection, he looks a worthy favourite and couldn’t be respected any higher. Southfield Royale essentially looks a bit of a boat and will need these to go off at a good clip if he is to win, he is the only realistic looking danger to the top two as the rest look out of their depth.
Tea For Two (WIN)
Faugheen ”The Machine” rather misfired when beaten by stablemate Nichols Canyon on his return at Punchestown last month, the defending Champion Hurdle hero is by far the best of these though and the only danger here is himself and the hurdles. If one were to nitpick at potential flaws of the long odds-on favourite then it could be that he seems much better when allowed to bully his opposition from the front and he did look a little unwilling when getting upsides the last day. Todays opponents have such a mountain to climb to challenge him that it is almost silly to recommend any of them to do it, he is also entitled to come on for that run and if any of these get within 10 Lengths of him it would be mildly surprising. Old Guard is improving and has landed three big hurdles races this term, two of which were at Cheltenham. He requires a massive step forward to get Faugheen off the bridle here though and there has to be a concern as to how good he is here, compared to Cheltenham. The New One is very good on his day and has won around here before, Sam Twiston Davies decision to switch to Old Guard has to be considered a major negative but he is still clearly the 2nd best horse in the race and he ought to chase home Faugheen.
This renewal of the King George looks as good as any of the last dozen and despite there only being nine declared runners, hot is exactly the right phrase for this great race. Don Cossack would be a fitting winner as the highest rated in trainer has looked at times awesome in his victories. A devastating winner at Aintree last season saw him blow away Cue Card, he has since beaten Djakadam in similar fashion and is the clear form choice on that basis. The decision to bypass the Lexus chase is another positive as surely Elliott wouldn’t bring him over if he wasn’t 100%. The only downside to my mind with him is his jumping, in between hammering Cue Card and Djakadam he made 2 major mistakes at Cheltenham and was beaten almost 9 lengths that day. Brian Cooper will also have to make sure he doesn’t allow the front runners too much rope as this is very much a rhythm track, the concerns aside however he deserves to be favourite and is the one to beat. Silviniaco Conti bids to make it a hat-trick of victories in this race and would take some beating if repeating his brilliant performance of last season. Paul Nicholls charge has been put in his place by Cue Card already this term but Kempton is his track and his jumping is a sight to be seen around here, it almost feels like its asking too much of him to gain a 3rd victory but he is such an animal around here that is has to be high on anyones list and is take to at least place. Vautour was a brilliant hurdler and has proven to brilliant so far over his fences, he is the potential fly in the ointment but the vibes from across the Irish sea are that he is better going the other way and that his stamina maybe suspect. It would be no major shock if he proved the doubters wrong but this is a very big ask for one with such little experience and he can only be respected as such. Cue Card has been impressive this season having had another wind operation, his poor record here and the fact he emptied very quickly here when outstayed by Silviniaco Conti is off putting though and he looks the one to be laying. Smad Place put in a stunning round of jumping when hacking up in the Hennessy and is worthy of a mention here, this test is totally different though and if you can remember the last Hennessy winner to double up in the King George then your a better man than me. The rest are no hopers in terms of winning, simply put they need the fancied horses to take each other on to the point of being legless in the straight.
Silviniaco Conti (E/W)
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