King George VI Chase Preview
The King George VI Chase is one of the races of the year and this year’s promises to be one of the best renewals in recent years, particularly if the Irish raiders do come over for it. Last year’s impressive winner Bravemansgame has disappointed in his two runs this season so will need to be at his best here, especially with the possibility that Gerri Colombe and Allaho do come over for the test. Even if they don’t, Shishkin and The Real Whacker will prove serious dangers to Paul Nicholls star, in what promises to be a truly special race on Boxing Day!
It can often pay to look at recent trends in the race to narrow down the field, so I’ve listed some of the key trends here from the past ten renewals:
- 9 of the last 10 winners had an official rating of 160 or higher.
- 8 of the last 10 winners were aged 7-8.
- Only 3 favourites have won in the last ten renewals.
- 7 of the last 10 winners came from the top three in the betting.
- 5 of the last 10 winners won their last race.
- Paul Nicholls has trained the winner in 6 of the last 10 renewals, including last year with Bravemansgame.
Looking at the trends, Bravemansgame should have a big chance of following up, with him fitting the ratings, age and top three in the betting trends, as well as being trained by King George VI Chase master Paul Nicholls.
LAST YEAR’S RACE
Paul Nicholls landed a record 13th win in the race as BRAVEMANSGAME romped to a thirteen length victory under Harry Cobden, with Royale Pagaille chasing him home in second after L’Homme Presse unseated rider Charlie Deutsch after the final fence:
Where better to start than with last year’s winner! Bravemansgame was a dominant winner of this 12 months ago, running out a 14 length winner over runner-up Royale Pagaille, giving Paul Nicholls a record 13th win in the race. He followed that up with another impressive effort, chasing home Galopin Des Champs to finish runner-up in the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, this season he has disappointed in both runs – first when beaten by Gentlemansgame in the Charlie Hall Chase and latterly when losing out to Royale Pagaille in the Betfair Chase. He was sent off as odds-on favourite for both of those races so it was discouraging that he couldn’t win either.
The hope would be that a return to Kempton, where he is 2/2, will see him back to his best and connections will be hoping he can become the first back-to-back winner of the race since stablemate Clan Des Obeaux did so in 2018 and 2019.
Gordon Elliott’s staying star looks to be the chief danger to Bravemansgame here, and he does look to have leading claims, having only tasted defeat once in his career. That came in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, where he would’ve won if the race was just a few yards further, so he’s unfortunate not to come into this unbeaten over fences.
Following that Cheltenham run, he bolted up in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the end of last season, before reappearing with a game victory in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal. That was a career best performance on RPR ratings, and it really showed his battling qualities, which could prove crucial in a race like this.
Connections have already stated he’s heading for the Gold Cup in March, so if he wins this you can expect him to shorten dramatically in the ante-post betting for that one. He seems to be getting better with each run so I wouldn’t be surprised if he did win this, before going for Gold at the Festival!
It remains to be seen whether Allaho will run in this or in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown two days later, but if the betting is anything to go by it would appear connections are leaning towards sending him here. That’s hugely exciting and if he does opt for this, it will be one of the best renewals that I can remember.
Having missed the whole of the 22-23 season due to injury, he made the perfect return to action when easily winning the Clonmel Oil Chase last month. However, this will be a much harder race than that, although I doubt he will be too worried, having already won over three miles and being a three time Grade 1 winner.
He bolted up in the Punchestown Gold Cup and if he can replicate that performance he would be a danger to all in this. This will be his first appearance outside of Ireland or Cheltenham, so it remains to be seen whether the Kempton course would suit, but I’m praying he does opt for this race as it will be a serious spectacle if he does!
Nicky Henderson’s star has been a bit of an enigma horse, so his chances might depend on what mood he turns up in! If he’s on best behaviour, he’ll be a major threat to the market leaders. However, that is far from guaranteed these days and I’m not sure I’d want to be backing him here.
He did run out a cosy winner on his sole previous race over this kind of trip, when beating Ahoy Senor in the Aintree Bowl earlier this year, but it was his seasonal reappearance that has got people doubting him. He lined up a short priced favourite for the 1965 Chase at Ascot last month, but despite the jockey’s best efforts refused to go with the others at the off and just stood still.
He then missed his next race as he was pulled out of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle due to the unsuitable ground, so he comes into this with no prep race. That is another negative to his chances, so as talented as he might be, I think there’s enough doubt around him to steer clear of him for now.
The Real Whacker
Patrick Neville’s star doesn’t quite have the experience of some of his rivals here, having only had eight races to date (only four over fences), but he does have some solid form over this trip and could be a lively outsider.
His battling victory over Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory proved he does have a touch of class about him and a repeat of that performance would surely see him go close in here. He was a shade disappointing on his seasonal reappearance when pulling up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but he was found to be lame that day so it’s easily excusable.
He has won on his second appearance of the season in every season he’s raced, so you expect he will come on for that run at Cheltenham last month. If he can get into an early lead out in front then he could take some stopping, but I highly doubt Gerri Colombe will give him such a head start this time around!
Venetia Williams’ Royale Pagaille will be hoping to replicate Cue Card’s gallant effort to become just the second 9YO winner of the race in the last ten years. He comes into the race in red-hot form, having comfortably beaten Bravemansgame in the Betfair Chase last time out, and connections must be confident of his chances.
He chased home Bravemansgame in last year’s renewal, and the fact he’s already reversed that form this season must give his trainer plenty of confidence coming into this race. He has already won at Kempton previously too, having won a handicap over a similar trip on his only other previous visit to the course back in 2020, so you know the course brings out the best in him.
Jerry Roberts, who rides him each day at home, has said he’s in better form this year than he was coming into the race last year, so if the ground does have a bit of cut in it, he could have a lively chance of going one better than his runner-up effort in the previous renewal.
This is going to be a fascinating renewal and one I cannot wait to watch, especially if Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins send over Gerri Colombe and Allaho respectively. I’m certainly hoping Gordon sends over his star, as I think GERRI COLOMBE will take all the beating. He’s getting better with each run he has over fences and I just can’t see how Bravemansgame will be able to get the better of him, particularly after his poor recent efforts this season. For each way backers, if the ground is soft or worse, ROYALE PAGAILLE would surely have a huge chance of at least finishing in the top three. After finishing runner-up in the race last year, he comes here in better form and should have a live chance. Whatever happens, this promises to be one of the races of the season and should be a brilliant watch.
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