King George VI Chase 2018: Guide to the leading contenders
Horse racing on Boxing Day is all about the King George VI Chase and we've taken a look at the leading contenders for this year's Kempton showpiece.
One of National Hunt racing's blue riband events, this contest has had some famous victors, including five-time winner Kauto Star and four-time champion Desert Orchid.
Here are the leading contenders to come out on top in the King George VI Chase 2018:
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Form figures: 1121-5
Was a joy to watch for most of last year's renewal and never looked like being caught by Double Shuffle, despite idling late on.
Followed that up with a brave second to Native River in the Gold Cup and then closed his campaign with an emphatic defeat of Bristol De Mai at Aintree.
Faded out on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock but Henderson felt the big fences "flummoxed him" that day and he remains a worthy favourite if getting in the right rhythm here.
Chances: The nine-year-old still has scope for even more improvement and is rightly rated the one to beat again in the King George VI Chase odds.
Trainer: Ruth Jefferson
Form figures: 1/111-
Injury problems cut short what promised to be a superb campaign last term, with the seven-year-old last seen in action when comfortably accounting for Cue Card at Ascot in February.
That was his sixth straight win over fences and by far the most significant, as he took a big step up in class in his stride.
The sky is the limit for this northern raider and the lack of a warm-up run isn't worrying, as Jefferson feels "he's probably better fresh".
Chances: This would be another level up from what he has achieved so far, but the potential is there to be a superstar.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Form figures: 1241-1
Ditcheat handler Nicholls is chasing a 10th victory in this race and is convinced this striking grey will cope with a step up to three miles.
The seven-year-old certainly battled on well to score over 2m 5f at Ascot last month and that form was franked when runner-up Charbel won at Huntingdon next time out.
"He likes going right-handed, he's good on flat tracks and his form is red-hot now," beamed Nicholls. "He is bred to stay. The other day at Ascot he travelled supremely well and I don't see the trip being a problem."
Chances: Sure to be a popular pick, as his presence will evoke memories of the great Desert Orchid, and has eight wins from 13 races over fences.
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Form figures: 13/11-2
Made light of a lengthy absence to land the Denman Chase at Newbury and then grind his rivals into the ground to claim Cheltenham Gold Cup glory.
Jumps for fun and has the heart of a lion, so few will be willing to discount him from securing another Grade 1 success.
However, Kempton is a sharp track and that will put pressure on this former Welsh Grand National winner, who failed to quicken up when second at Haydock last month.
Chances: His loyal fans are sure to remain faithful, but we fear this is not a strong enough test of stamina to play to his strengths.
BRISTOL DE MAI
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Form figures: 1632-1
Another flying grey, who had Native River, Thistlecrack, Clan Des Obeaux and Might Bite in behind when landing his second Betfair Chase at Haydock last month.
He failed to fire in this contest 12 months ago, but Twiston-Davies blamed a bad mistake going away from the stands for that below-par display.
Nigel Twiston-Davies speaks about stable star Bristol De Mai ahead of his run in the King George Chase on Boxing Day pic.twitter.com/126medF17b-- Racing Post (@RacingPost) December 21, 2018
The trainer reported: "He is 100 per cent and there are no concerns at all. He proved at Haydock that he is not ground dependent. He seems to be in the form of his life."
Chances: If he could transfer his Haydock form to this track, then the smooth-travelling seven-year-old would be right in the mix.
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Form figures: 2/54-3
Not much has gone right for the 10-year-old since his impressive success in the 2016 renewal of this race but he plugged on well enough when third to Bristol De Mai at Haydock.
A more efficient round of jumping could see this former Cheltenham Stayers' Hurdle hero turn back the clock and show his true worth once more.
Jockey Tom Scudamore commented: "I know what Thistlecrack can do and he's showing the signs that he did a few years ago."
Chances: This gelding's King George odds have been coming down all the time, so connections are clearly pleased with his work at home.
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