The King George VI Chase is the highlight race on Boxing Day this year and Kempton is gearing up for what should be an absolute cracker!
Horse racing betting fans are already siding with favourite Cue Card, who is 1.80 to win this prestigious National Hunt Grade 1 race.
But who will win the King George? Cue Card is not the only horse tipped to take home the €135,000 first prize.
Here’s all you need to know about the runners in the King George VI Chase.
He is a clear favourite to win he King George but Cue Card has a habit of disappointing his backers. Cue Card beat Vautour to win this race in 2015 and had a chance at the Stayers Chase Triple Crown at Cheltenham but fell in the Gold Cup just three fences from the finish.
That inconsistency is why many punters love Cue Card and his trainer Colin Tizzard is always willing to throw him into races he may lose. Luckily for Cue Card here, his main rival Coneygree has been ruled out of the King George because he is said to be “fragile” and “not himself”.
However, there are genuine challengers to Cue Card here. Here are the top picks for the King George…
Yet against Thistlecrack lines up with expectations high that he is ready to perform on the big stage. He is unbeaten since November 2015 and is growing increasingly adept at running over the three-mile mark. Thistlecrack is 3.75 to win the King George and at those odds is likely a better bet and Cue Card.
What Thistlecrack lacks in major victories he makes up for in potential. He won the World Hurdle with jockey Tom Scudamore by eight lengths or more and looked like he could have gone round the Cheltenham course again! There is no reason why Thistlecrack and Cue Card won’t be neck-and-neck heading into the final straight.
Coneygree’s withdrawal from the King George means there’s a leap in odds between the two favourites — Cue Card and Thistlecrack — and the rest of the pack. Josses Hill is the new kid on the block, being thrown in as Coneygree’s replacement. Josses Hill likes to set the pace early in races but may struggle to pull away from the two favourites here.
Josses Hill’s racing odds have already dropped for this meet and he is 9.00 with Unibet to upset the favourites. Shrewd punters may want to back this latecomer, owned by Alan Spence and who is well adept at Kempton. He has an experienced jockey in Noel Fehily riding and his Peterborough Chase triumph shows he can stay the distance.
Best King George outside bets
There was a time when Silviniaco Conti was top of his class. But not anymore. Silviniaco Conti is 21.00 to win the King George, a great bet for those who enjoy remembering names from previous Cheltenham office sweepstakes. He has twice won the King George — in 2013 and 2014 — but failed when favourite to claim the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
That failure could be somewhat forgotten with a victory at Kempton on Boxing Day. But Paul Nicholls remains unsure whether or not to run one of his top thoroughbreds, who pulled up on this track 12 months ago.
Silviniaco Conti is probably worth keeping an eye on and his odds may drop if and when Nicholls confirms he will run. One horse to track, however, is Valseur Lido, who fell to lose the 2015 King George Chase. Valseur Lido won the Champion Chase in November, beating Silviniaco Conti and another King George runner Don Poli (51.00) to the line.
It was an imperious win for Valseur Lido that makes him one of Willie Mullins’ favourites for Cheltenham inclusion. But focusing on Boxing Day here, Valseur Lido is worth backing at 11.00 after showing what he can do against this field.
Christmas Hurdle Best Bets
Away from the King George, the 2016 Christmas Hurdle is certainly the other big race to watch on Boxing Day. Rarely has a field been so tightly congested in this eight-horse race over two miles. Faugheen has won the last two Christmas Hurdles and is 3.50 to win it this year, behind favourite Yanworth (2.63).
But the punters are siding with Ch’Tibello for a shock win here. Ch’Tibello has been tipped for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham after winning at Haydock (4.00) over two miles last month. At 6.00 here, Ch’Tibello has the form to challenge the front.