Based: Barbury Castle Stables, Swindon, Wiltshire.
Stable jockey: Robert Thornton
Best horse ever trained: My Way De Solzen
Number of Cheltenham Festival winners: 13
One word to describe him: Prolific
Since saddling his first Cheltenham Festival winner in 2004, there have been only two years where King hasn’t registered a winner at the home of National Hunt racing’s showpiece event. He’s trained a winner of the Champion Hurdle and World Hurdle, and when he’s given the right horse he can take it all the way to the top.
How did he fare at the 2013 festival?
His consistent winning ability at Prestbury Park was on show in 2013 where Medinas landed arguably the most competitive handicap race of the season, the Coral Cup, for the stable at 33/1.
Having won the Welsh Champion Hurdle on his previous start, it was thought that the little terrier of a horse was carrying too much weight to really figure in such an unpredictable helter skelter handicap hurdle. However, the six-year-old, who looked no bigger than a pony in the paddock, defied the lack of market support to run out a very nice winner to the delight of the stable who hadn’t had the best of festivals by their usual high standards.
He was the longest price of the two King runners but was the first string on jockey bookings with Wayne Hutchinson booked as Thornton was injured at the time.
It was a perfect decision as Hutchinson rode his rivals to sleep to perfectly time his run on the little terrier scored by two lengths in front of his stablemate Meister Eckhart, who completed a very lucrative 1-2 for the King yard.
The runner-up put up a fine effort and did much the best of those that raced up with the pace, he’s set to go over a fence this season and King has been openly very bullish about the possibility of him being top-class over the timber.
Apart from the Coral Cup, King’s string didn’t perform overly well, with three other placed efforts the best the Banbury Castle Stables could muster courtesy of Godsmejudge in the National Hunt Chase, Smad Place in the World Hurdle and Manyriverstocross in the Vincent O’Brien Hurdle.
All three will be undertaking a career over fences this year and could feature prominently at the 2014 if taking to jumping the bigger obstacles.
Memorable Cheltenham Festival winner?
My Way De Solzen – 2007 Arkle
A horse that will always be close to King’s heart. This victory was his second at the Cheltenham Festival following on from his excellent win in the World Hurdle the previous year.
King had always expected a fruitful novice chase career but even a man with the confidence of King couldn’t have hoped to win stroll clear and win the champion two mile chase for novices in the style that his stable star did.
The time he recorded by beating Fair Along by five lengths was quicker than stablemate Voy Por Ustedes, Well Chief and Azertyuiop and only slower than the stand-out time recorded by the great Moscow Flyer.
It proved a real surprise that My Way De Solzen didn’t go onto feature in the three mile division as an older chaser but at his peak over two miles there weren’t many better jumpers or bigger hearted animals that the two-time festival winner.
What races at the festival does he have a fruitful record in?
It’s hard to pinpoint one area of strength. Whether it’s a novice hurdler, chaser or handicap plot, King has the capabilities to work his magic through a variety of channels, although his record in the JCB Triumph Hurdle is always worth noting having won the race twice with very talented young horses.
Best ante-post bet for 2014 festival?
Invictus is a horse that has form-lines from 2012 that make him a very interesting prospect in the staying chase division.
He beat subsequent Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth in the Reynoldstown Chase very convincingly before suffering an injury that ruled him out for 18 months.
King says he’s showing him all the right signs this year and could be an outsider to get on for the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 33/1.
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