With the National Hunt season set to get in full swing in October,
we take a quick look ahead to the second most prestigious chase on
the English hunt racing calendar.
The King George VI Chase is second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup
in the pecking order of National Hunt chases. The Grade 1
steeplechase is run at Kempton Park over a distance 3 miles (4,828
metres) on Boxing Day each year. Horses aged four-years-old and over
qualify for the event which was won by the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan
des Obeaux in 2018.
The race was first held in 1937 and has produced famous stars such
as four-time winner Desert Orchid and five-time
winner Kauto Star. Jockey Ruby Walsh was on board for each of
Kauto Star’s wins and remains the most successful rider in the
history of the race.
Prospect of big-name showdown
Although the race is some months away, preparations are already
underway and the stage is being set for a showdown between two of the
sport biggest names. The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior has been
targeted for the race and will warm up with a run at Ascot in the
Christy 1965 Chase in November. There, he will almost certainly go up
against Cyrname who could also line up in the King George.
Early bookmaker’s favourite
Altior is unbeaten in 19 starts over jumps but has never run more
than two and a quarter miles before. If all goes well, he could even
take a shot at the Gold Cup next year. His is already favourite for
the King George VI Chase in the early
horse racing odds with ante-post prices of 5/2 available, while
Cyname can be backed at 5/1.
New kid on the block
Cyrname is the new kid on the clock who will be hoping to upset
the party having already excelled at Ascot this year. The handicapper
has rated the newcomer slightly higher but the Christy 1965 Chase
should offer some clarity on their respective credentials before the
Boxing Day bash.
Altior has barely put a foot wrong in the last four years has
already gained superstar status. He regained the Champion
Chase at Cheltenham earlier this year to make it four-consecutive
years with a festival win.
The Gold Cup question
Those two races will be crucial in deciding whether Altior will go
on to compete in the Gold Cup or revert back to the Champions Chase.
If he can go on the claim the King George and the Blue Riband prize
at Cheltenham, he will go down in history as one of the greats. But
there is a lot of work to do between now and then.
Whatever happens in November and December, the prospect of
seeing these two horses going head to head during the Xmas festival
at Kempton has already got National Hunt fans licking their lips in
anticipation. The big question is: Can Altior make the step up in