Champion trainer Paul Nicholls to saddle a record 13th winner of the midseason highlight

The King George VI Chase is one of the most eagerly awaited contests of the racing year and this year’s race looks a vintage renewal with Irish raider and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo going head-to-head with the best of British staying chasers.

In ten weeks time at Cheltenham, Minella Indo would pick this lot up over the extended 3m 2f+ of the Gold Cup trip, but Sundays three miles on a flat right-handed track on ground that will not be any worse than good to soft is a totally different examination. And one I don’t think he will pass.

Indeed, if he were mine, he would be staying in Ireland to contest the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Tuesday with more significant rain forecast for the area. Trainer Henry De Bromhead also houses A Plus Tard – who must go left-handed – who heads the market for that Grade 1 contest, and I am convinced that has influenced the decision to run his stablemate at Kempton.

There are many at Ditcheat who believe that Clan Des Obeaux (3.05) left last year’s King George at Haydock when he lost out to Bristol De Mai on heavy ground in the Betfair Chase over an extended 3m 1f.

To my mind he is best judged on his two victories in this great race in 2018 & 2019 and his excellent Punchestown Gold Cup win back in the spring when he had a sustained duel with former dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo. Clan Des Obeaux is 11/4 with MansionBet.

The Willie Mullins’ trained Asterion Collonges must go right-handed and would be a threat to all if his stamina lasts. Last year’s winner and stablemate of the selection Frodon must enter calculations, but a bigger danger looks likely to come from the dual Grade 1 winning novice Chantry House who I felt would have picked up Espoir De Romay at Aintree back in the spring had the latter not come down two out.

King George VI tricast:

  1. Clan Des Obeaux
  2. Chantry House
  3. Minella Indo

If we have a vintage King George, the same cannot be said of the two other Grade 1 contests on the card although if pushed I think Ahoy Senor can land the Kauto Star and Soaring Glory the Christmas Hurdle.

I love to have a crack at the 2m 4f handicap chase on the card and this year is no exception. This is invariably one of the hottest novice handicap chases of the season and all eight who go to post hold realistic claims.

Danny Kirwan has been the one for money in recent days and the return to a right-handed track will suit the Paul Nicholls trained 8-year-old who can race from the same mark as when runner up at Cheltenham on his chase debut when he dived at more than one of his fences. He has always promised more than he has produced so far on the track, however, and is now short enough in the betting at 7/2 with 10Bet.

Nicky Henderson’s Bothwell Bridge heads the market at 11/4 with MansionBet but my each way recommendation is Your Darling (1.20) who is held in high regard at the stable of Ben Pauling and looked a natural over the larger obstacles when making a winning chase debut at Huntingdon back in October.

Pauling blames himself for running the horse too quickly at Aintree the following month when he never got competitive having shifted slightly out to his right at a number of his fences. He has been given seven weeks to get over that slightly disappointing effort and leading conditional Kevin Brogan takes over in the saddle taking off a valuable 3lbs.

Do note that 5lbs claimer Luca Morgan rode the horse at Huntingdon, and he returns to that track for three rides for the yard on Boxing Day. A tip in itself?

The each way recommendation is a best price of 12/1 with William Hill.

Over at Sedgefield I will be supporting Poldark Cross (2.35) in the handicap chase over an extended 2m 3f. The selection was recently taken out of a race at Ffos Las with a vet’s certificate and he made an inauspicious start to his chasing career when pulled up at Bangor-on-Dee over three miles back in October.

The selection has the scope to make his mark over fences, however, and the forecast soft ground is ideal for this winning pointer. I will certainly be keeping an eye on the market regarding Laura Morgan’s chase debutant Gentle Jolie who won both starts over timber for the stable back in the spring.

At Market Rasen I hope to see Duke Of Rockingham (12.30) go one better than when runner up at Lingfield when he was weak in the market and did not jump as well as the winner Sherborne. The selection finished with a rare rattle on that occasion and will get further, but this looks a good opportunity.

Fergus Gregory has not exactly been firing in the winners for the yard in the absence of Aidan Coleman, but I will be disappointed if he cannot steer this Olly Murphy inmate home.

David Pipe gave Sidi Ismael a favourable mention in an interview with Dave Orton of Racing Post TV last week and he must have every chance of defying top-weight in the Lincolnshire National, but he must give 22lbs to The Last Legend (2.15) – if you include Luke Scott’s 7lbs claim – and the latter gets the each way vote.

This is another race where all eleven hold a realistic claim, but the selection can race from the same mark as when runner up at Exeter last time when he appeared to not get home over the marathon trip of 3m 6f+. The drop back in distance should suit Tom Weston’s 8-y-old who can race from his last winning mark.

Have a great Christmas, be lucky and please bet responsibly

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