All the way back in 1996, the mighty One Man beat just four rivals home for a famous King George victory. Fast forward two decades and the 2016 rendition will see a field of five head to post in search of Kempton glory. Two esteemed stablemates are on everyone’s mind and the two beasts in question Cue Card & Thistlecrack are set to serve up a Boxing Day cracker….
10yo Cue Card is gradually establishing himself as one of the great National Hunt stars of recent years and he bids to become the latest in a long line of multiple King George winners. To win it once takes some doing, to win it more than once takes greatness. Cue Card has returned to action this season in as good form as he’s ever been in and comes into this race with by far and away the far superior steeplechasing form and experience. He could easily stamp his authority here.
In his way stands his stablemate at Colin Tizzard’s yard Thistlecrack, who developed into a scintillatingly brilliant staying hurdler last season. He’s been on an unbeaten tear of eight wins in a row and is perhaps the most exciting racehorse in training. As a novice chaser, Thistlecrack comes into the race with just three chase runs under his belt, so if there is to be a chink in that armour it is likely to be the ability to jump in a chase at this level. But in truth, that is the only slight concern. In this small field he will be able to get a good view of his obstacles under Tom Scudamore, who gets on with so well and has utmost faith in the outstanding 8yo gelding. Thistlecrack is the favourite for the Gold Cup in March and this race will go a long, long way in telling us what business the horse has in this division.
Tactics will play a big part, but they are sure to go a good pace. Dual winner Silviniaco Conti is likely to make the running and although he’s far from the force of old, he can be expected to produce a respectable effort. Josses Hill will travel and jump very well into the contest, but when stamina is at a premium from the home bend to the line, Nicky Henderson’s talented and in-form 8yo is likely to be found wanting by stronger stayers when they take him into deep water on his first attempt at three miles.
Tea For Two completes the field and has to be respected given his love affair with Kempton, but Thistlecrack and Cue Card stand above their rivals here and racing fans across the land will be wishing and hoping the pair can serve up a real thriller.
This isn’t a King George VI Chase for the punters, this is one for the fans. Enjoy.
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