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King George VI Chase – Preview + Verdict For The Boxing Day Grade 1 Feature At Kempton

For fans of racing, Boxing Day eclipses Christmas Day for sheer joy and excitement. The primary source of this is the King George VI Chase, run at Kempton, and competed for as one of the jumps season’s most significant staying chases.

Festive cheer has been brought by an outstanding roll call of winners, with Kauto Star’s five triumphs between 2006 and 2011 standing out as one of the ultimate achievements in the sport. Other greats of the game, such as Arkle, Best Mate and Desert Orchid, on no fewer than his own four occasions, all strode to victory in the race as well.

GG’s Joe Napier previews the big race on Boxing Day, and provides his selection.

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Last year’s renewal saw the rise of a potential superstar as Bravemansgame defeated his recent Haydock conqueror Royale Pagaille by 14 lengths.


  • 8 of the last 10 winners were aged either 7 or 8
  • No favourite has won since 2017
  • 4 of the last 5 winners, and 6 of the last 10, were trained by Paul Nicholls
  • Nicholls has trained 13 winners of the race overall
  • 7 of the last 10 winners had a prior success in a Grade 1 chase
  • 5 of the last 10 winners had won a race previously at Kempton

Runner-By-Runner Guide

Bravemansgame

Bravemansgame won this in superb style a year ago to take his record over fences to six wins from seven runs. Though aided by the fall of L’Homme Presse at the last, he would almost certainly have won authoritatively anyway, and he backed the victory up with a game effort to be runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Galopin Des Champs. However, while the wheels haven’t totally fallen off since, it is now four starts without a win since he was victorious in this last year.

His Punchestown Gold Cup run, when a narrow third to Fastorslow, was also top form, but he has found precious little in defeat in both the Charlie Hall and Betfair Chase so far this season. The return to the King George course and distance, over which he has won twice in comfortable fashion, needs to spark the revival, though there is very chance of it doing so.


Allaho

The King George has promised to suit Allaho for several seasons. Either a change of schedule or unforeseen injuries have always prevented him from doing so, but he at last looks set to run in the race for Willie Mullins, who seeks a second victory in three years after Tornado Flyer’s shock win in 2021.

The nine-year-old has now won his last five races over fences, though the primary concern would be that these have been stretched over more than two years due to his lengthy injury absence. After winning the Punchestown Gold Cup in 2022, he missed 563 days before winning the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase last month. That win is worth precious little in terms of form, but it highlighted he is still fit and well enough. Should he reach anything like his peak levels, he will be firmly the horse to beat.


Shishkin

Good luck trying to work out what Shishkin will do next. Racing’s chameleonic character was the bright young thing as a novice hurdler and chaser, morphed into a more attritional stayer last term, but most recently decided to cosplay as Mad Moose in the 1965 Chase at Ascot. His talent for trouble is currently unmatched.

However, his late season form last term hinted that the 3m+ scene could provide a glorious crescendo to his acting career. A destructive success in the Ascot Chase, an error-strewn second in the Ryanair, and a gutsy late victory in the Aintree Bowl when first upped to stayers’ distances, showed his ability remains. If Nico De Boinville can cajole him to start, his record fresh, and the promise that course and distance could prove ideal, make him a genuine contender.


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The Real Whacker

The ultimate underdog last season, Patrick Neville’s seven-year-old defeated horses trained by Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins to claim the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival. He owes his career success to date to outstandingly accurate jumping from the front, an attribute which would ordinarily stand him in good stead at Kempton.

Despite his propensity to constantly overcome the odds last term, there do remain doubts. Chiefly, he was well below his best on his return in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. That was his first chase run when fresh (had a hurdles prep last term), though this will be his first fencing experience away from Cheltenham, and there will be others more likely to claim the lead.


Hewick

It’s rare to see a National Hunt globetrotter in 2023, but Hewick is undoubtedly that. His last five runs have come in four different countries, including victories in the American Grand National and the Oaksey Chase at Sandown. He only narrowly missed the frame at Auteuil in that time too.

Arguably his best run in that time came in the Gold Cup though, when crashing out at the second last having led for a large part of the second circuit. He couldn’t shoulder top weight in the Galway Plate, but he has had a well-deserved break since then and comes in freshened up. If running up to his best, he is not without a chance.


Frodon

Nominally, it’s wonderful that Frodon turns up in his fourth successive King George. His record in the race stands up to the test too, with his memorable 2020 win preceding a fourth to Tornado Flyer and an honourable third, making the frame behind stablemate Bravemansgame.

It was a distant and fortunate third which he claimed a year ago, and even then, he came into the race in half decent form. This term, he was only third in the Badger Beer handicap at Wincanton carrying the same weight off which he won it a year prior. If he finishes anything other than last of sixth, it will probably be an achievement.


Big-Race Verdict

An on-song Allaho would be a devastating prospect for his rivals, but little was learned on his comeback. While he may still be capable of galloping this field into the ground, it is far from a given with the likes of Frodon and The Real Whacker to pester him early. If all press on, this will suit a closer regardless of the ground, and if you are willing to forgive his recalcitrance at Ascot, SHISHKIN may write another colourful chapter to his autobiography. Setting off could be the biggest threat to his chances, but there were enough excuses for why he did so last time. Bravemansgame was so impressive last year and clearly loves Kempton, but his form this season raises genuine questions as to his abilities at present. Hewick could be another to shake up the places.

  1. Shishkin
  2. Allaho
  3. Bravemansgame

SELECTION: SHISHKIN 1pt win at 9/2 (William Hill & Boylesports)

*Odds Correct At Time Of Writing – 9.08pm Saturday 23rd December*


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