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King George VI Chase guide

A look ahead to the King George VI Chase 

The King George VI Chase is the highlight of a bumper day of racing on Boxing Day and is one of the most prestigious contests on the calendar.  

ITV is the place to sit back and catch all of this year’s action with the tapes set to go up for the big race at 3.05pm.  

What is the King George VI Chase? 

Following the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National, the King George VI Chase is the National Hunt race all trainers, jockeys and owners want to win.  

The centrepiece of Kempton’s Christmas Festival, the race has lured the very best horses in history to take part in what is usually a helter-skelter contest run at a break-neck pace.  

A maximum of 20 will take to the track for the three-mile contest, with 18 obstacles to be navigated successfully for the winner.  

Who has won the King George VI Chase in the past? 

Desert Orchid was the king of Kempton in the 1980s, winning this contest a then-record four times.  

Between 1986 and 1990 the popular front-running grey was virtually untouchable at the London track and having narrowly failed to defend his crown in 1987, recorded three straight victories between 1988-90.  

Also a Gold Cup winner, ‘Dessie’s’ career came to an end following a fall in the 1991 King George VI Chase and he remains one of the most well-known horses in racing history.  

However, eclipsing Desert Orchid’s achievements was the great Kauto Star, who recorded five victories in the race and Kempton at Christmas was his ultimate playground.  

Regarded by many as the best since Arkle, the Clive Smith-owned gelding first won the race in 2006 and then went on to win four in a row, winning by an average of just under 16 lengths across that time period.  

His most impressive victory came when matching Desert Orchid’s four King George VI Chase victories in 2009. He never saw a rival and was a whopping 36 lengths clear of the second, Madison Du Berlais.  

Having struggled to lay a glove on the young pretender Long Run in the delayed running of the 2010 King George VI Chase, Kauto Star wrote his name in the history books on Boxing Day 2011 as at 11 years old he made every yard of the running to turn the tables of his conqueror.  

That was Kauto Star’s last victory and he was retired later that season following an under-par performance in the Gold Cup.  

Which trainers do well in the King George VI Chase? 

The master of the King George VI Chase is undoubtedly Paul Nicholls, who is out on his own with 12 winners of the Kempton Grade One.  

The Ditcheat handler, who first won the race with See More Business in 1997, has Kauto Star to thank for five of his dozen but he has dominated the race in recent years, winning in five of the last eight seasons. 

What a story!

Frodon wins the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at @kemptonparkrace #ITVRacing pic.twitter.com/h6pKJz8Iwr

— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 26, 2020

Nicholls made it three in a row when Frodon followed up Clan Des Obeaux’s double in 2018 and 2019 last year and those two horses are expected to be involved at the finish once again this term.  

Nicky Henderson has won the race three times since 2010 thanks to Long Run (twice) and Might Bite landing the spoils while Colin Tizzard won back-to-back King George VI Chase’s with Cue Card and Thistlecrack in 2015 and 2016. 

What type of horse wins the King George VI Chase? 

As one of the biggest Group One prizes of the season, only the very best line up for the King George VI chase.  

The winner mainly comes from the leading protagonists in the staying division and it is no surprise to see Gold Cup winners also triumph in this race.  

Kauto Star won the King George and Gold Cup in both the 2006/07 and 2008/09 seasons and in the same calendar year in 2017 and 2019. Long Run also won both prizes in the same season in 2010/11. 

Kauto Star & the King George pic.twitter.com/b8Uig7qRjc

— ODDSbible Racing (@ODDSbibleRacing) December 22, 2019

Kempton is a flat track and there isn’t as much emphasis on stamina as there is in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As such, horses that aren’t the most resolute of stayers but still possess a touch of class can do well in the race.  

Dual-winner Silviniaco Conti would be a prime example of this while Edredon Bleu was a Champion Chase winner whose optimum was over much shorter than three miles but managed to see out the three-mile trip to win the 2003 King George VI Chase.    

Last year’s 1-2-4 of Frodon, Waiting Patiently and Saint Calvados have all never threatened in a Gold Cup, with Frodon the only one to have won previously over three miles.  

Who could win this year’s King George VI Chase? 

Dual winner Clan Des Obeaux (3/1) currently heads the market and was last seen getting the better of two-time Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo (25/1) in the Punchestown Gold Cup in the spring.  

Although a disappointing third when looking for the hat-trick 12 months ago, Nicholls has kept the nine-year-old fresh for this race with Kempton set to be his first outing of the season.  

Gold Cup hero Minella Indo (10/3) attempts to become the first Irish winner of the King George since Kicking King in 2005.  

Rachael Blackmore is set to come over to ride the eight-year-old as she looks to cap an historic year by becoming the first jockey since Arthur Freeman in 1958 to win the Grand National and King George in the same year.

MINELLA INDO is set for his seasonal reappearance this weekend.

Any excuse to rewatch his sensational Gold Cup win… pic.twitter.com/ZQ92wJAeol

— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) October 28, 2021

Minella Indo was below par when only third at Down Royal on his reappearance but Henry de Bromhead is sure to have the Cheltenham champion firing on all cylinders as the handler looks to extend his dominance in the staying division.  

Frodon (5/1) was ahead of Minella Indo at Down Royal and the defending champion is foolish to rule out.  

Always the underdog, the gutsy nine-year-old refuses to lie down and could provide one of the sporting stories of the festive period if he is to land back-to-back King George VI Chase victories in the hands of his big-race pilot Bryony Frost, who has been at the centre of a weighing room bullying hearing of late.   

Chantry House (11/2) looks to add to Henderson’s tally in this race, but this is the gelding’s first real test at this trip, while there were encouraging signs from Lostintranslation (10/1) when making a winning return at Ascot but he has failed to sparkle at the Sunbury track in the past.  

Asterion Forlonge (6/1) could make the journey across the Irish Sea for Willie Mullins and he looked set to land the John Durkan at Punchestown recently before crashing out at the third last.  

Mullins won the race with Florida Pearl in 2001 and was touched off with Vautour in 2015.  

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