The King George VI chase is racing’s Boxing Day highlight. Second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in steeplechasing’s league table of prestige, this is usually a mid-winter battle between the best chasers of Britain, Ireland and sometimes of France too.
The King George is often won by the same horses in successive years. The last 30 runnings have been won by 17 horses, with the great Desert Orchid winning 4 of them, and Kauto Star winning five. Those 17 King George winners won 11 Cheltenham Gold Cups too – this is a race that attracts the best steeplechasers. However, the 3 miles over the flat, and right-handed (ie clockwise) Kempton course is better suited to speed horses than is the 3.25 miles of the Gold Cup over Cheltenham’s undulating left-handed course.
So the King George particularly suits some speed-horses that find the Cheltenham Gold Cup a bit too far and a bit too tough for them. In this category, we can include Desert Orchid (who won the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but, if it can be said of a horse, loved the Kempton course far more than his visits to the Cotswolds) but also Barton Bank (1993), One Man (1995 and 1996), Florida Pearl (2001) and Edredon Bleu (2003).
But there I go, falling into the error of regarding this fantastic race almost as a warm-up to an even more fantastic race later in the season. The King George can be a stepping stone to Cheltenham but it is a valuable and testing race in its own right.
This race is a mixture of speed and endurance. Because of its flat nature, the course is a fast one, and the distance of 3 miles is long but not so long that it turns into a slog at the end. Many horses finish the race with a burst of speed.
The 2013 repeat looks like a good race with 9 runners. Five of these are former Kempton winners with Long Run as last year’s victor (and 2010’s (and the 2011 Gold Cup)). But this looks more like a race for rising stars with Cue Card (7/2), Dynaste (7/2)and Al Ferof (9/2) leading the betting.
Who wins? My money is already on Dynaste and Al Ferof, so I’ll be cheering them on, but Cue Card is a proper horse too. I’d be surprised (although, of course, it wouldn’t be the first time) if the winner comes from outside these three horses and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see them occupy the first three places in any of the potential six combinations.
The King George is run at 3:10, the preceding race from Kempton, the Christmas Hurdle, is a good race too and should be fought out between The New One and My Tent Or Yours with the former winning it. And the race before that, formerly known as the Feltham Chase but now the Kauto Star Novice’s Chase, will be a chance to check out Just A Par‘s jumping