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King George VI Chase (Grade 1)
King George VI Chase tips for Boxing Day’s Grade 1 race. The Christmas treat for all racing fans, the King George has long been one of the most eagerly anticipated contests of the entire year. The 2017 field looks like being the usual top class edition. Read on for our free betting tips, predictions and analysis.
The market at this early stage is headed by the mercurial Might Bite. The Nicky Henderson trained son of Scorpion takes the bad traits that so many of the progeny of that sire do, but he also boasts a monstrous engine. Sloppy jumping cost him two of his first three starts over fences, including over this course and distance when coming down at the last in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase last Christmas. He was in the process of running a huge race, clocking quicker fractions than the King George later on that afternoon. He more than justified that impression when winning both the RSA and the Mildmay at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals respectively. He showed the Scorpion attitude once more on the run-in at Cheltenham, nearly throwing the race away when heading for the exit. If he has grown up over the summer and can keep the quirkiness in check, he could be a star.
The defending champion is Thistlecrack, he hasn’t been seen since going under to the gallant Many Clouds at Cheltenham at the end of January. His win in this contest last season was visually stunning, cruising up on the bridle turning for home, eased down after the last to win with any amount in hand. Arguably he is yet to quite get to the same heights over fences as he has over hurdles, still lightly raced over the bigger obstacles for one of his age, further improvement is a distinct possibility. Having Might Bite in opposition will allow him a strong pace to chase which will suit, with his stamina still unproven for a Gold Cup following his defeat to Many Clouds, this will surely be his best chance of a Grade 1 this season and will be trained to the second for it. He remains the one they all have to beat at Christmas.
Sizing John improved massively when stepped up to three miles last season, able to step out of Douvan’s shadow. Despite proving his stamina for the trip in the Irish Gold Cup in February, there was still a question to answer in the Gold Cup given the extra quarter of a mile. He shrugged those concerns aside in spectacular fashion, in front two from home, he bounded up the hill to claim an impressive victory at the age of seven. There should be more to come this season given his age, with connections chasing the million pound bonus for the Betfair Chase, King George and Gold Cup treble. Kauto Star is the only winner of that bonus since it came into being and while Sizing John is no Kauto Star, the triple Grade 1 winner is well capable of adding to that tally.
A step up to two and a half miles last season saw Fox Norton produce a career best when winning the Melling Chase at Aintree. Given that he began last year winning a handicap from a mark of 146, it was a season of exceptional progression to see a pair of Grade 1 victories come his way in the spring, missing out by a head in the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival from making it three. “I think he’ll make up into a King George horse” was the debrief from Colin Tizzard after his Melling Chase win, three miles on good ground round this sharp track for a strong traveller certainly doesn’t look beyond him. His participation may depend on Sizing John in the same ownership, potentially chasing the million pound bonus if he wins the Betfair Chase.
At a bigger price an interesting one is Cloudy Dream who was runner-up in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on his seasonal return. He travelled like a dream on that occasion, no disgrace on being unable to get past the dour stayer Smad Place late on. Now that Cloudy Dream has learnt to settle, a step up to three miles looks within his compass, with trainer Malcolm Jefferson no stranger to Kempton at Christmas for those who remember the wonderful Dato Star. Yet to finish outside the first three in his fifteen career starts, he has done nothing but improve throughout his career so far and it’s not hard to imagine that Jefferson has left a little more to work on yet.