Even though the great Kauto Star will no longer feature in the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, the historic race promises to serve up another treat with some of the very best three-mile chasers in the business set to lock horns in the first championship race of the season.
Long Run, who won the race back in 2011 before having the title taken off him by the veteran Kauto Star in memorable fashion last season, will be back and is expected to be a stronger contender with trainer Nicky Henderson reporting his former Gold Cup winner has done particularly well during the summer and in early-season training. Sam Waley-Cohen’s mount is currently a top-priced 4/1 market leader in the ante-post horse racing bets market for the three-mile Sunbury contest, just ahead of the exciting 5/1 shot, Grand Crus.
Grand Crus did little wrong last season when switching from being a smart staying hurdler to a top novice chaser, winning his first three starts in scintillating fashion before coming up short in the Grade 1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when only fourth behind the equally exciting Bob’s Worth. David Pipe’s grey wasn’t seen again after that defeat but is expected to be in the line-up for the showcase Kempton event over the Christmas period.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Long Run, also has the not inconsiderable talents of Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow and Ryanair Chase hero Riverside Theatre to potentially represent his Seven Barrows yard in the big race. Finian’s Rainbow (8/1 in the King George Chase betting odds) has so far not raced beyond two-and-a-half miles but connections are quietly confident that on the easy Kempton circuit he would have every chance of seeing out the trip.
There are no stamina worries for Riverside Theatre (10/1) who chased home Long Run in the 2011 renewal, although must judges would probably argue that he is at his best at around two-and-a-half-miles, while the up-and-coming Wetherby winner Silviniaco Conti (9/1), and recent Haldon Gold Cup winner Cue Card (10/1), are also likely to make their presence felt if continuing on their respective steep upward curves.
Kauto Stone, like Silviniaco Conti trained by Paul Nicholls, was very impressive when winning in Grade 1 company at Down Royal recently and is expected to go straight to the ‘King George’, a contest for which he is currently offered at a best price of 14/1.Share on Facebook