King George VI Chase Preview: An A-Z Guide To Boxing Day's Feature At Kempton

Betfred's Matt Hulmes gives us a horse-by-horse preview of Boxing Day's big race at Kempton
17:05, 24 Dec 2021

As the leftovers from the feast of Christmas Day reappear the following afternoon, horse racing fans will be feasting themselves on ELEVEN meetings on Boxing Day.

There is fantastic racing up and down the country and in Ireland, but the King George VI Chase is the jewel in the crown of the festive period and once again Kempton looks to serve up a Christmas cracker.

It also looks like Ireland will have a strong raiding party this year, which hasn’t always been the case. The Savills Chase two days later is their highlight, but such is the depth of staying chasers on the Emerald Isle, trainers are looking to pinch this prize too, headlined by Henry De Bromhead who looks set to saddle the reigning Gold Cup hero Minella Indo here, and keep him apart from the runaway Betfair Chase winner and Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard.

Here is my King George A-Z:

ASTERION FORLONGE – Hugely exciting seven-year-old who has been blighted by jumping blemishes in his chasing career. Ran a fine third in the Marsh Novices Chase at Cheltenham behind Chantry House before below par when filling the same spot at Fairyhouse three weeks later. Gave over a stone and an easy beating to his rivals in a handicap at the Punchestown Festival but those jumping issues resurfaced when travelling best in the John Durkan three weeks ago. That took his tally to three falls/unseats from eight chase efforts and will need to be foot perfect in this cauldron of competition. Willie Mullins bids to win the race for the first time since Florida Pearl twenty years ago.

CHANTRY HOUSE – Star novice last season who has won eight of his ten starts including the ‘Festival double’ at Cheltenham and Aintree last year. Slammed Shan Blue by thirty two lengths at the latter, and he was taking the Charlie Hall field apart last month when departing in the straight. Had a simple pipe opener at Sandown last month and could still be improving on just his eleventh start. Track, trip and ground should suit and looks a major player to give Nicky Henderson a fourth victory in the race.

Chantry House
Chantry House

CLAN DES OBEAUX – Lost his crown in his hat-trick bid last year to stable companion Frodon when not jumping with his usual precision. Was slightly under par there but showed he was as good as ever when getting gone over on the Irish on their own patch when downing Al Boum Photo at Punchestown in April. First time he has come here for seasonal debut and record first time up isn’t the greatest, but reportedly in good shape at home. Rising ten but we know he loves it here as he bids to join Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star as triple winners of this race and give Paul Nicholls a fourth straight win and thirteenth overall in the Christmas highlight.

FRODON – Reigning Champion and words are becoming redundant when trying to convey his achievements. Tough and tenacious with a massive heart, who has struck up an impenetrable relationship with Bryony Frost, who overcame her well-publicised case early this month when winning the Tingle Creek and will be looking to hit the headlines again for the right reasons this Christmas. Made it three wins from three completed starts here twelve months ago and downed Minella Indo at Down Royal. Will be difficult to pass if getting into his usual rhythm and gives Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls a very strong hand although it looks a stronger renewal this time round.

Frodon
Frodon

LOSTINTRANSLATION – Finally came good again at Ascot last month when beating a decent field. This is tougher again but there is no doubting his ability as a Betfair Chase win two years ago testifies. Downturn in form coincided with a dip in stable form and never really turned up last year. Was third in the Gold Cup of 2020 after pulling up here but if he turns up in top form, he has a huge each way chance, at least. Was rated the equal of Clan Des Obeaux going into last season and yet is three times the price here after a confidence boost last time. 

MINELLA INDO – Reigning Gold Cup hero who took his Cheltenham Festival record to 121 with that Blue Riband success over stablemate A Plus Tard in March. I must admit at being slightly surprised that he is chosen from the yard to tackle this contest (thought would suit A Plus Tard much better) as an Albert Bartlett winner and RSA runner-up, his strong suit is stamina as his bets form is all on testing tracks and he may find things happening a bit too quick. Frodon got him out of his comfort zone at Down Royal and while I may look stupid come 3:15 on Boxing Day, I think he is worth taking on. 

Minella Indo
Minella Indo

MISTER FISHER – Last seen in April getting to within a neck of Frodon at Sandown but yet to convince at this trip and has failed to finish in three of his last five races. Also, only completed on four of his seven runs beyond the minimum trip and best form does fall short of the required standard but will appreciate the ground.

SAINT CALVADOS – A fantastic effort to finish fourth in this race last year after finishing a close second to Min in the preceding Ryanair Chase. Has since joined Paul Nicholls. Has also missed a few engagements due to unseasonably good ground and while Paul Nicholls has proven a master of his trade, he has his work cut out to extend the stamina and help him appreciate decent ground conditions and would be doing well to better last year’s effort in a deeper contest.

TORNADO FLYER – Just falls short of top class but a regular in Grade 1 contests in Ireland over two and a half miles. Didn’t see out this trip at Leopardstown last Christmas on his only try but flew home too late three weeks ago in the John Durkan. Talented on his day and may grab a piece of the place pie, but hard to see him winning. 

VERDICT – A renewal that is worthy of the prize with the best of Irish clashing with the top of the tree here. I’m inclined to take Minella Indo on as I just don’t see this test suiting him and I expect the prize to stay at home. Paul Nicholls obviously has a great chance of an incredible thirteenth victory in the race courtesy of Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux, the winners of the last three renewals between them. 

I’m taking them all on with the new kind on the block, CHANTRY HOUSE. A winner of eight of his ten races who developed into a high class novice last season. He had little trouble landing the odds in a match at Sandown and we know he stays the trip well when hammering the opposition at Aintree. He is now in the big boys’ league, but I don’t believe he has anything to fear and although the Gold Cup trip at Cheltenham will ask another question in three months’ time, everything about Kempton looks set to suit him down to the ground. He has a high cruising speed, evident from a third place in a Supreme Novices Hurdle, appreciated decent ground and can track what looks set to be a decent pace with Frodon, Asterion Forlonge and Dashel Drasher all known to be front runners.

I will also be keeping LOSTINTRANSLATION on side. He was the forgotten horse coming into this season but got his career back on track with that Ascot win last month. As a Betfair Chase winner and A Gold Cup third on his CV, he looks the best each way play from those at bigger prices to prove his pair of pulled up efforts for the last two years in this race were all wrong.

CHRISTMAS HURDLE

A small but select field for the feature Hurdle on these shores of the festive period.

It is a rematch of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle between the dead-heating pair of Not So Sleepy and Epatante, with nothing to choose (literally) on that form or on the figures, yet Epatante is odds on and Not So Sleepy around 3/1. Tactics will be interesting as Not So Sleepy did not employ his usual ‘make all’ policy at Newcastle and rallied well in the closing stages.

Epatante and Not So Sleepy
Epatante and Not So Sleepy

Soaring Glory’s chances depend on them going a good gallop as he disappointed off a slow pace at Newbury. It’s a sit and watch race although I may be tempted to have a small play on TRITONIC. His record on right-handed tracks (flat and jumps) reads 2241181 and showed he was in fine form with a stylish win at Ascot on Saturday. He was impressive over track and trip in February, and won’t mind how the race is run.

KAUTO STAR NOVICES CHASE

The rematch is on between Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame as four line-up for this top level prize.

Ahoy Senor came out on top over hurdles and connections are reportedly eyeing a tilt at the Gold Cup come March. He did tip up at Carlisle on seasonal return before routing the opposition at Newbury last month. I just feel the track and the emphasis on slick jumping may suit BRAVEMANSGAME more on this occasion.

BRAVEMANSGAME
BRAVEMANSGAME

He has been electric in his two starts so far, beating subsequent Charlie Hall winner Fusil Raffles hands down at Newton Abbot before giving away experience to the talented Itchy Feet and dismissing him at Haydock. They are two talented runners destined for the top, but I will just side with the Nicholls runner here.

Tea Clipper and Kiltealy Briggs complete the field and despite being good horses in their own right, they are tackling two very exciting opponents.

REST OF KEMPTON

The opening novice hurdle has cut up to a small field. It may be worth siding with ROBELLI who had a subsequent Ascot winning stablemate (handled tenderly) in behind when second at Warwick. The winner was well beaten since, but he gets weight from the top pair and the standard set doesn’t look too exacting.

The novice handicap chase is always a cracking renewal. The horse that I had my eye on won at Ludlow on Wednesday, so it has been revisited. Mister Coffey found very little behind a subsequent winner last time. Although the form has been franked, he doesn’t appear the hardiest in a battle. Sebastopol took a crashing fall at the last here five weeks ago. If he shows no ill effects he must be a player. 

I like the claims of DANNY KIRWAN here though for Paul Nicholls (could be a good day for the Champion trainer). He was weak in the market and jumped right at his fences on debut at Cheltenham, but still travelled like the winner into the straight. The lack of run told on the climb to the line but he looked like ahead of his handicap mark and this giant horse who looks every inch a chaser can get a first win over fences on the board.

The final race is also very competitive, but I will have a small each-way play on COMMANCHE RED. He won the novice handicap chase on this card two years ago but struggled when upped in grade afterwards. He is just 1lb higher than when winning over hurdles in April and showed signs of a revival at Plumpton last month while the trainer has also returned to form after a quiet spell. 

Finally, I would like to wish all the readers a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and wealthy New Year.

Betfred's King George VI Chase Odds*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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