Every year, the highlight of the Boxing Day card at Kempton is the King George VI Chase. This year, a hugely competitive field has lined up and this contest will be the perfect way to continue the Christmas festivities. With such an open renewal I’ve been on the search for a bit of value with a big price selection!
The King George VI is a race that has always had huge emotional connotations for me; from a six-year-old boy fighting back the tears when his equine hero, Desert Orchid was beaten by Nupsala, to the 30-year-old man choking back the same lump in his throat when Kauto Star won for an unprecedented fifth time in 2011. It is truly a race for the ages and the mid season zenith of the jumps season.
Of those at double figure odds, there is only one place I can begin and that's with dual winner, Long Run (12/1 Stan James). He boasts a formidable record at Kempton with three wins and a second place in four visits. There definitely seems to be something about Sunbury that makes this Nicky Henderson chaser come alive. He will need a bit of that Christmas sparkle to be in contention this year though, as he has been miles below his best so far this season. He ran a little better in the Betfair Chase last time out and it will be interesting to see if connections continue with the cheekpieces as he is winless in four starts when sporting them and they certainly don't appear to have had the desired effect. The recent rain that has fallen boosts his chances as he beat Captain Chris in last year’s renewal when the ground turned especially testing.
Regarding last year’s runner-up; Captain Chris (NON-RUNNER), he looked the likeliest winner when jumping to the front but he was worn down in the shadow of the post. His stamina must be a doubt as he is currently is 0 from 5 when running over three miles and further. If able to repeat last year’s effort he may yet put those ghosts to rest but the interrupted campaign he has had so far is a definite concern. Withdrawn at Ascot, he made his seasonal reappearance just a fortnight ago at Huntingdon in the Peterborough Chase. He ran an absolute screamer to finish 3rd, beaten less than a length but to be turned out again so quickly after a hard race is definitely a worry for me.
His owner, Mrs Whateley is lucky enough to have MENORAH (33/1 BetVictor) in the field as well. Rated just 5lbs lower than Cue Card, he is available at more than ten times the odds! He is no slouch with Grade 1 and Grade 2 wins under his belt over fences and has shown an affinity for Kempton, unbeaten in three starts there. So why the huge price? He, like his stablemate, has stamina to prove; he has shown that 2m4f is probably his best trip but he hasn't been disgraced the two attempts he has tried over further. The second is fitness, we last saw him trying to give Champion Court 17lbs at that horses' beloved Cheltenham and failing by less than a length to do so back in April. He ran poorly on his seasonal debut last season and this is a tough race to begin his campaign. It is definitely worth checking to see if there are any market moves for this horse on the day because, if fit, then his price is massively insulting.
The aforementioned Champion Court (40/1 Coral) lines up for this race again having been in front when heads were turned for home last year before fading into a gallant 4th (still infront of the makret leader Cue Card). He is another who ran a corker in the Peterborough Chase on his latest start and whilst there is a lot to like about his battling qualities he has a bit to find with almost every horse in this field on official ratings.
Of the others, we have the Irish raider Prince De Beauchene (NON-RUNNER) who is the lowest rated and would have to put in the performance of his career to even get placed.
So where does this all leave us? The answer is with MOUNT BENBULBEN (14/1 Coral) who has been receiving glowing reports from trainer Gordon Elliott. Five of his six wins under rules have been going right handed and he certainly won't object to the further ravin forecasted. His comeback run ended in mishap at Down Royal, unseating four from home so he will need to be tidier over his obstacles, especially at the speed they fly round Kempton, but it's last seasons Punchestown festival win that really sticks in the memory. One could argue that he benefited from the departure of contender, Boston Bob, but Mount Benbulben was travelling far better than his rivel at the time. He fairly tanked his way through that race, decimating a decent field by 22 lengths. He has something to find on official ratings but if he is able to reproduce his Punchestown form then he has an excellent chance of running a big race at an attractive price.
MOUNT BENBULBEN (14/1 Coral) (E/W)
MENORAH (33/1 BetVictor) (E/W)
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