The King George – not just a warm-up for Cheltenham

Photo: Brian Henman
Photo: Brian Henman

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


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7 Replies to “The King George – not just a warm-up for Cheltenham”

  1. Sorry Mark - no time to read about horse racing....I've lots of other things to do today - and all include a visit to a National Nature Reserve (NNR) - what better way to spend Boxing Day!
    Having just read Peter Marren's piece in the current British Wildlife magazine about Open Access to all NNRs (something that Natural England sneakily established earlier in the year without telling anyone it seems), I'm off to a local NNR which is holding a National Boxing Day Trotting event and then to another NNR where the first ever Microlite Festival takes place this afternoon. Actually I'm spoiled for choice today as it happens. I hear there's a Gun Dog Trialling event at an NNR only 30 miles away and the first Kayaking Fest at a wetland NNR some 50 miles away. So much fun on our wonderful NNRs, I just can't wait!
    Good old NE for opening up these otherwise totally underused NNRs for recreation and sport....they deserve a medal!

    1. "totally underused NNRs"? The NNRs are used by Wildlife as a matter of their survival. NNRs are not created as a playground for people, we are merely the lucky observers of the inhabitants and we have the responsibility towards the safety of the wildlife that live there. Nor should people have the ability to decide the negative fate of Wildlife due to our disturbance of the sites.

  2. Diapensia I think Nick was being ironic, but you are of course right and for some sites this decision by NE is ill advised to say the least. Myself well I've extracting some bird records from our natural history society website in anticipation of using them in the next bird report, listening to the football on 5 live and reading Derek Moore's book. My partner bought me it for christmas and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I've as yet to play the Buddy Guy cd I got but It'll be good.

  3. Just a tad ironic.....
    We will see in the fullness of time what happens. NNRs are like the cathedrals of the wildlife world. They should be treated with the utmost respect....and not played in or played with come to that.

  4. It seems to me that policies that are likely to have a considerable impact on wildlife are enacted by management personnel who have little understanding of nature conservation,and have barely consulted those that have, at a time when NNR staffing levels are falling and site interpretation is woefully inadequate on Natural England managed sites, even basic free nnr leaflets have been discontinued.
    Natural England is a disgrace to the ethos of true nature conservation.


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