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King George VI Chase at Kempton Park: A Preview

Date: 11/08/2017

Thistlecrack after winning the 2016 King George VI Chase
We're now less than two months away from the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and plenty of horse racing fans will be excited at the possibility of an eventful race. With some of the best National Hunt trainers, jockeys and horses competing in the Boxing Day showpiece, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see a very tight-knit affair. Some very good horses are set to go up against each other in what could be a memorable event.

The Field

THISTLECRACK, widely regarded as one of the most consistent horses in training, leads the betting ahead of the King George; and with good reason. The Colin Tizzard-trained star, one of the top contenders for the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup, was ruled out for the majority of last season after suffering an injury but is reportedly fighting fit and should be ready to go at Kempton Park in December.

Thistlecrack is at around 3/1 and is tempting many punters but if that's too short there are bonus bet options that can replace a straight cash stake. Alternatively, there are plenty of challengers:

Stablemate CUE CARD will also get a run at Kempton and while his best days are behind him, it would be foolish to rule him completely. He has been there and done it all on the biggest stages in National Hunt racing and the 11-year-old, winner of this race in 2015, could be set for one final huzzah in what might turn out to be his last appearances in the race. For most neutrals, this would be the ideal outcome.

Nicky Henderson has a real diamond on his hands in MIGHT BITE and the 2017 RSA Novices' Chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival could feature prominently here. Victory in this race would send a real statement of intent from Henderson's yard ahead of the 2018 Gold Cup - Tizzard certainly isn't going to have everything his own way. Might Bite vs Thistlecrack is, on paper at least, a mouth-watering battle.

2017 Gold Cup winner SIZING JOHN must be recognised as a chief contender on his efforts at Cheltenham alone. Winning the King George VI Chase takes guts and Sizing John has the talent, stamina and heart to romp home. As long as 5/1 with some betting firms, he could be ready to continue his incredible form since stepping up in trip with another triumph over his top-rated rivals.

DOUVAN and FOX NORTON also deserve consideration - although backing the former may prove difficult given his struggles at Cheltenham and lack of experience over three miles. It is one thing to prove yourself over the shorter distance but making the step up and building stamina isn't something that all horses can do. Sizing John, a former loser to Douvan, did it but that doesn't mean that the Willie Mullins-trained superstar can do the same.

2016's Renewal

Thistlecrack came out on top last year but there was a clear lack of competition. Ante post betting markets as of October 31st are showing a number of top contenders in the running for King George glory and it could be one of the best editions in recent memory. Backing a winner here may prove tricky, there are at least four or five Group One horses who may end up emerging victorious here.

Will it be defending Gold Cup champ SIZING JOHN who romps home or is it officially time for THISTLECRACK to take control of the National Hunt world? It is all ifs and buts at the present moment but the general King George VI Chase pattern will sort itself out in the near future - until then, this famous race is a bit of an unknown quantity. The two ante post leaders, both for the King George and Gold Cup, are sure to be right in the mix though...

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