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King George VI Chase 2018: Guide to the leading contenders

With the ante-post King George VI Chase betting already attracting interest, we're taking an early look at this year's Kempton Boxing Day 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:

MIGHT BITE

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Form figures: 1121-

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.

The quirky problems of a couple of years ago, when he fell in a novice event at this venue and then almost threw away the RSA Chase, seem to have been ironed out by his shrewd handler.

Chances: The nine-year-old still has scope for even more improvement and has to be rated a worthy favourite in the King George VI Chase odds.

WAITING PATIENTLY

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 if he can be nursed back to full fitness and stay in peak condition.

Chances: This would be another level up from what he has achieved so far, but the potential is there to be a superstar.

NATIVE RIVER

Trainer: Colin Tizzard

Form figures: 13/11-

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 was also a runner-up in the four-miler at the 2016 Festival.

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.

ALTIOR

Trainer: Nicky Henderson

Form figures: 1/111-

Has succeeded former stablemate Sprinter Sacre as the most visually eye-catching chaser in training and is certainly a fascinating entry.

Could not have been more impressive when winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March, completing a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival triumphs.

However, that contest, the Arkle Trophy and the Supreme Novices' Hurdle were all over two miles and he would be going into unknown territory if taking on this longer trip.

Chances: Travels smoothly and the effortless way he clears fences will tempt many into thinking the extra mile will be well within his compass.

ROAD TO RESPECT

Trainer: Noel Meade

Form figures: 2143-1

This multiple Grade 1 winner stayed on strongly to land last year's Leopardstown Christmas Chase and then ran well for a long way when fourth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Has already proven his well-being this season with a 16-length romp at Down Royal and is the apple of his trainer's eye.

Chances: Can be prone to the occasional jumping error, which invariably proves costly at this level, but extremely talented when everything goes right.

FOOTPAD

Trainer: Willie Mullins

Form figures: 1111-F

The King George has eluded legendary trainer Mullins since Florida Pearl took the trophy back to Ireland in 2001 but he has lots more ammunition to go into battle with this year.

Footpad was sensational when landing the Arkle at Cheltenham as a novice and followed up in similar fashion at the Punchestown festival.

Those victories were over two miles but he was tried over three during his days as a hurdler, so connections clearly feel he can stay the extra distance.

Chances: Blotted his copybook with a fall at Naas first time out this term but has unquestionable ability and thrives on the big stage.

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Andrew McDermott
@a_mcdermott in Horse Racing