One race dominates the Christmas schedule and, as it should be, that is the King George. Will it be a day for the greys? Here’s a runner by runner summary.
1 Bristol de Mai**** 15/2
A favourite of mine, he didn’t run to his best in this race last season (on the back of wins in the Charlie Hall and the Betfair Chase). However, he won on his first outing in this year’s Betfair, beating Native River by four lengths on good ground. I expect that we’ll see a better performance this time. Some say that he’s a Haydock specialist but he was second to Might Bite in the Betway Bowl at Aintree last April. I suspect that the key to him is that he needs to be run sparingly (not normally Nigel Twiston-Davies’ style) and I think that having this as his second race of the season could make a big difference.
2 Clan des Obeaux* 16/1Embed from Getty Images
He is a progressive 6-y-o and definitely open to improvement. His 8 3/4 lengths fourth to Bristol de Mai in the Betfair Chase represents a fair measure of his ability at this level.
3 Coneygree* 33/1Embed from Getty Images
Imperious and unbeaten in 2014/15, including the Gold Cup. However, he’s had a number of injuries and as an 11-y-o was probably showing the peak of his current potential when third to Rock The Kasbah in the Grade 3 BetVictor Chase at Cheltenham last time out.
4 Double Shuffle* 33/1Embed from Getty Images
Was a highly unexpected second to Might Bite in the 2017 King George. There is every reason to believe that this was a one off at this level, although he was a decent second to Definitly Red on soft ground in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last time out.
5 Might Bite** 3/1Embed from Getty Images
Now here is the conundrum of the race. If it was not for his last outing he would be a much shorter priced favourite. However, his poor last in the Betfair Chase raises serious questions. It was suggested that he didn’t take to the stiff fences at Haydock that day, but I think that far too much has been made of that. Apparently there were no abnormalities detected following the race and I couldn’t possibly back him on the back of that performance. It is far from unusual for dominant top level performers to peak and then fail to make a transition from one season to the next. That said, if the Haydock outing was a blip, then I would have him in the first three.
6 Native River*** 6/1Embed from Getty Images
The going is good to soft but he is all about stamina (former Welsh National winner over 3m 5f on soft), as demonstrated in this year’s Gold Cup. I can see him being run out of it, while putting in another decent performance. I don’t see him turning round the form with Bristol de Mai in the Betfair Chase but a safe call for a place.
7 Politologue**** 5/1
There are two big pluses which could well see this one marking a changing of the guard at the top level. First, I see him as the most progressive horse in this race and he has excellent recent form, having beaten Peterborough Chase winner Charbel in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot last month and Min in the Melling Chase at Aintree last April. Second, and most importantly, as a son of Poliglote he is bred to stay three miles and this is his first outing over the distance. As a 7-y-o (rising 8) he is ideally placed to show his full potential.
8 Tea For Two* 25/1Embed from Getty Images
Third in this race last year and fourth of five in 2016, he is a very in and out horse. His form since last running in this race is PU76PU/3 and he can’t be fancied in this renewal
9 Thistlecrack** 7/1Embed from Getty Images
He was given much praise for his last outing when third in the Betfair Chase, but I’m not so sure. He seemed to be struggling round the back of the course and was, in truth, never challenging. He’s not won since taking this in 2016 and there’s good reason to believe that he’s not the same horse as he was then.
10 Waiting Patiently** 7/2Embed from Getty Images
The price is way, way too short. Although unbeaten over fences he’s not run for 312 days and it would be nothing short of a miracle for him to take this on his return. He beat Politologue but that was back in January 2017 and his subsequent wins were in an intermediate chase in Carlisle, a listed race here and, his single top class performance to date, beating a past his best Cue Card in the Ascot Chase, his last outing. I think that the odds are stacked against him.
My two against the field are Bristol de Mai and Politologue. I’m finding it very hard to split them and, just on balance, I’m going for the former to follow up on his impressive win in the Betfair Chase. I will also be having a forecast at an appealing 15/2-5/1.