IN SUMMARY: To say this is a fascinating renewal of the King George would be an understatement, with lots the intrigue surrounding whether Thistlecrack can get back to his best after a poor return. He’s too risky today and preference is for FOX NORTON, who is yet to go beyond 2m 4f but has shaped as though he’ll improve markedly for it. He romped home in the Melling Chase over 2m 4f on his final start of last season and his run in the Tingle Creek was another super effort. His best form is right up with the best of these and he can use this step up in trip as a catalyst to sizeable improvement. Might Bite was the leading staying novice last season and is the main danger, as he remains with any amount of potential and returned this season with a great run at Sandown.
1 BRISTOL DE MAI – Has been hugely progressive this season, winning the Charlie Hall (form boosted) before scoring at Haydock last time in the Betfair Chase. He clearly has a big form chance, but with the ground currently Good to Soft, he could do with plenty more rain. Leading player nonetheless and is respected.
2 DOUBLE SHUFFLE – Course and distance winner on this day last year, but that was in Class 2 Handicap. He ran a solid race behind Top Notch on his latest start and although a step up in trip will suit, he’s hopelessly outclassed in this company.
3 FOX NORTON – Multiple Grade 1 winner including over 2m 4f in the Melling at Aintree, but he now makes his first start beyond that trip. He was far from disgraced when second in the Tingle Creek Chase on his latest start and has shaped as though he’ll suit this step up in trip. His best form is right up there with all of these and he’s touted to improve markedly for this step up in trip to take victory.
4 MIGHT BITE – Leading staying Novice Chaser last season for Seven Barrows who won the RSA in amazing circumstances at the Festival. He returned in great heart when scoring in the Future Stars Chase at Sandown last month and there should be plenty more to come from him. Leading claims for Nicky Henderson, who can do no wrong at present and has a good record in this race.
5 TEA FOR TWO – C&D winner when scoring in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices Chase, getting his day in the sun when winning the Betway Bowl back in April. Both his runs this season have been poor though and he has something to prove at this level. Can be excused his latest run behind Bristol De Mai but others are preferred.
6 THISTLECRACK – Won this race in great style twelve months ago before a tendon injury scuppered his chance of competing in the Gold Cup. He was disappointing on return over hurdles behind Beer Goggles and has something to prove now. Hard to rule him out, but he’s risky as there is no guarantee he’ll be able to get back to his very best.
7 TRAFFIC FLUIDE – Has some smart form in the book but he still has something to prove at this level and at this distance. He can be excused his latest defeat in the Betfair Chase as the ground went against him, but the percentage call is to avoid him with too many question marks to answer.
8 WHISPER – Chased home Might Bite twice last season and despite a welterweight he was only beaten a neck in the Ladbrokes Trophy on his latest start. He’s well worth his place at this level and judging by his proximity to Might Bite last season in similar conditions, he’s got a strong each way chance.
Might Bite (IRE) | J: T: Nicky Henderson
Fox Norton (FR) | J: T: Colin Tizzard
Outlander (IRE) | J: T: Gordon Elliott, Ireland
Whisper (FR) | J: T: Nicky Henderson
Tea For Two | J: T: Nick Williams
Double Shuffle (IRE) | J: T: Tom George
Bristol De Mai (FR) | J: T: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Traffic Fluide (FR) | J: T: Gary Moore
Thistlecrack | J: T: Colin Tizzard
Disko (FR) | J: T: Noel Meade, Ireland