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King George VI Chase: Guide to the Boxing Day showpiece

| 16.12.2022

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 2.30pm.  

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.  

Kauto Star, King George VI Chase

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 nine seasons. 

Nicholls made it three in a row when Frodon followed up Clan Des Obeaux’s double in 2018 and 2019 in 2020 and he is set to have a strong hand once again in 2022. 

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 Grade 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. 

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 winner Tornado Flyer was scoring over three miles for the first time when triumphing for Willie Mullins.

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

Bravemansgame (6/4) heads the market on the back of his fine reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and he looks to have a fine chance of giving Nicholls a 13th win in the race.

A five-time winner over the larger obstacles, his only defeat came at Aintree in the spring when he was later found to be suffering with ulcers, and he looks a top-class chaser waiting for his crowning moment.

The Ditcheat hand is strengthened by Hitman (3/1), who has been nursed into a position to bid for Grade One glory by Nicholls and has plenty of talent, if not the results to back it up. An impressive winner at Haydock last time, he could well make his presence felt for a team who revel in getting horses to peak at this point of the season.  

Nicholls can also count on the services of 2020 winner Frodon (16/1), although regular pilot Bryony Frost faces a race against time to be fit to ride the ever-popular 1o-year-old, who was on the scoresheet at Wincanton on his reappearance.

Venetia Williams won the race with Teeton Mill in 1998 and could saddle arguably her best horse since if L’Homme Presse (10/3) heads to post.

A winner at the Cheltenham Festival last season, he has all the attributes to thrive round Kempton and showed his class with a fine weight-carrying performance at Newcastle on his seasonal bow.

Williams could also be represented by Royale Pagaille (25/1).

Ireland took home the prize for the first time in 20 years 12 months ago and this time could rely on Henry de Bromhead’s Envoi Allen (6/1). Once regarded as racing’s next big superstar, he served a reminder of his ability at Down Royal last month and could be the mount of Rachael Blackmore.

Eldorado Allen (20/1) is still unexposed at the distance and may prove a lively outsider for Coral ambassador Joe Tizzard in a race the handler’s family has a fine record in.

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Adam Morgan