I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas. In fact, I’m not dreaming at all. The weather outside is quite literally frightful, and word from Kempton is that the going is soft, soft to frightful in places too. http://www.kempton.co.uk/The-Going
As I sit here in bed, the Racing Post Annual 2013 freshly unwrapped next to me, the Betfair market open on tomorrow’s King George VI Chase, my mind drifts back to last year’s emotional encounter with a legend of the turf. Kauto Star’s performance on boxing day 2011 was such a beautiful event to witness from the side of the Sunbury on Thames track that I have decided to keep head dry and powder only slightly moistened for this year’s interesting contest. I have laid Long Run at 3.15, backed Riverside Theatre at 7.0, and have not touched the antepost market, something I am feeling quite relieved about now.
With Sizing Europe (Tom Segal’s pick), Hunt Ball (a fans’ favourite), Finian’s Rainbow (top rated two-and-a-half-mile chaser), Sir Des Champs (desperate to get back on winning terms after losing out on home soil to training compatriot Flemenstar in the Grade 1 John Durkanchase earlier in the month) and many others besides, all being withdrawn from the race, there is really only a sub-field of six to seriously consider. They are: Long Run, Cue Card, Riverside Theatre, Kauto Stone, The Giant Bolster and Grands Crus.
If Long Run can come anywhere close to putting together a fluent round of jumping, even on testing ground, we know he will stay and most likely win. But there is enough doubt in my mind to oppose him and the Dentist on board at the prices. Paddy Power are offering money back if your selection finishes second to Long Run and this is a typically generous insurance policy from a bookie who prides itself on hearing the punters’ cry for offers. Their blog comments on the positive jockey booking of AP McCoy on board last season’s Gold Cup runner up The Giant Bolster, who is trading at 9/1 on the exchanges this morning and has to be strongly considered in this company. I have backed Riverside Theatre with that memorable ride from Barry Geraghty at Cheltenham still as fresh in my mind as the horse will be on his seasonal reappearance tomorrow. Bazza G gave him a peach of a steer round at the festival in what was for many, including this blogger, the ride of the season http://palphabet.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/tied-up-in-knotts-over-hunt-ball.html and although he’s stepping up in trip, I think 6/1 is a fair price. The 9-8 forecast of Riverside Theatre followed home by Long Run is worth a stab too, but will require a reversal of form from the 2010 King George, where Long Run at his peak put stablemate 12 lengths into his shadow.
Another horse stepping up in trip, Cue Card, shouldn’t be the same price as Riverside Theatre in my opinion, so I’ll be leaving him. Grands Crus has been largely disappointing of late, but has had Cue Card in his pocket before so there will be some who retain a bit of faith in the grey who was so impressive when winning over C&D in the Feltham Novices’ Chase last year, a race that will be carrying Kauto Star’s name in honour of the retired chaser this year. But I’m still not sure if Grands Crus will even be lining up tomorrow.
Captain Chris is actually an interesting one at the prices and is worth an each way shout. His price has been jumping around quite a bit since winning the Amlin 1965 Chase over a disappointing Finian’s Rainbow in November, and the 2011Arkle champion is surely not a 22/1 prospect with Richard Johnson brimming with confidence after passing the 100 winners mark for the 17th consecutive season last week. Stamina, again, will be the potential hiccup over distance and in the boggy circumstances.
So that leaves the elephant in the room: Kauto! Sentiment is enough for most to have a few quid on Kauto Stone to follow in his half-brother’s footsteps, but form points towards him too. Distance has been shown not to be a problem after his Grade 1 win at Down Royal and the stable/jockey combination of Nicholls and Walsh is in great nick too. It just seems too good to be true for me, and whilst I will be punching the air if he wins and continues the family’s great success in this race, I think Henderson will get the better of PFN tomorrow, either with Long Run or Jimmy Nesbitt’s Riverside Theatre.