Staged at Kempton Park racecourse on Boxing Day (Sunday, 26th Dec) the King George VI Chase is the highlight contest on the festive racing calendar as 'once-a-year' punters try and get their Christmas turkeys paid for by the bookies.
With star names like Desert Orchid, One Man and, more recently, Kauto Star, who won the King George Chase a staggering five times, amongst the household names to land this decent pot then the 3m Grade One race never fails to attract the best longer distance chasers in training, while it’s also seen as a good guide to that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
We take a look back at recent winners and highlight the key stats to take into the 2021 renewal – this year run on Sunday Dec 26th, where the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux, who won this in 2018 and 2019, will be trying to win back his crown
Past King George VI Chase Winners
2020 - Frodon (20/1)
2019 - Clan Des Obeaux (11/2)
2018 – Clan Des Obeaux (12/1)
2017 - Might Bite (6/4 fav)
2016 – Thistlecrack (11/10 fav)
2015 – Cue Card (9/2)
2014 - Silviniaco Conti (15/8 fav)
2013 – Silviniaco Conti (7/2)
2012 – Long Run (15/8 fav)
2011 – Kauto Star (3/1)
2010 – Long Run (9/2)
2009 – Kauto Star (8/13 fav)
2008 – Kauto Star (10/11 fav)
2007 – Kauto Star (4/6 fav)
2006 – Kauto Star (8/13 fav)
2005 – Kicking King (11/8 fav)
2004 – Kicking King (3/1 fav)
2003 – Edredon Bleu (25/1)
2002 – Best Mate (11/8 fav)
Note: The 2005 renewal was staged at Sandown Park
King George VI Chase Trends
17/19 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
17/19 – Had won a Grade One chase before
17/19 – French (13) or Irish bred (4)
16/19 – Finished in the top three last time out
16/19 – Placed favourites
16/19 – Had won over 3m or further (fences) before
15/19 – Officially rated 168 or higher
15/19 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
15/19 – Aged 8 or younger
12/19 – Had won a race over fences at Kempton before
11/19 – Winning favourites
11/19 – Won last time out
10/19 – Ran in the Betfair Chase (Haydock) last time out
10/19 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
10/19 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (12 times in all)
8/19 – Won by a previous winner of the race
2/19 – Won by an Irish-based yard (only 3 in the last 35 runnings)
Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard and Nicky Henderson have trained ALL of the last 15 winners between them (10 Nicholls, 2 Tizzard, 3 Henderson)
The average winning SP in the last 19 years is 5/1
Did you know - only three different trainers have landed the King George VI Chase since 2006?
Yes, the powerful Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Colin Tizzard stables have been responsible for ALL of the last fifteen Boxing Day King George winners - amazing!
Of the trio, Paul Nicholls has landed 10 of the last fifteen runnings, with Henderson three and Tizzard two of the last six.
For many, the King George is certainly one of the jumping highlights on the racing calendar and a contest that seasoned racegoers and the more recreational punters come together to try and get their Christmas expenses paid for by the bookies.
The Grade One Chase is probably second only to the Grand National when it comes to the ‘once-a-year’ punters crawling out of the woodwork to have a bet, and in recent years it’s certainly been a contest the bookies have hated with eleven of the last 19 favourites winning!
However, it was the bookmakers turn to lick their lips 12 months ago with 20/1 shot Frodon landing the prize - that said, being trained by the already-mentioned Paul Nicholls yard, then you suspect there was still a fair few supporting him.
So, what can we expect this year?
Despite being run over 3 miles, many feel the King George does not require too much stamina to win, with Kempton being a flat track. However, the race is normally run at furious pace, so whereas in some of the other staying chases horses can get a chance to fill their lungs – it’s not always the case here. Meaning that stamina is still a huge asset to have – and this is supported with 16 of the last 19 winners having previously won over 3 miles.
It’s also a race that’s been dominated by previous winners. We’ve seen National Hunt legends like Desert Orchid, The Fellow, One Man, See More Business, Kicking King, Kauto Star, Long Run, Silviniaco Conti and most recently Clan des Obeaux all land the King George at least twice.
And having lost his crown 12 months ago, it will be interesting to see if the Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux can become the first horse since Long Run to wrestle back his title.
What are the other key trends to look for?
I’ve already mentioned the excellent recent record of the favourites, while past winners can’t be ruled out – especially if they are young and have time on their side - since 2005 we’ve had eight past champions win the King George again.
Add in the dominance of the Tizzard Henderson and Nicholls yards in this race, then it’s no shock to see at this stage they are well represented again at the head of the ante-post market with the likes of Frodon, Clan Des Obeaux and Chantry House.
What about the Irish Record? We all know that the Irish have had many top staying chasers over the years, but it’s slightly surprising that they’ve only won the King George three times in the last 35 years – and the most recent of those was now back in 2005 with Kicking King.
Yes, they’ve gone very close several times recently, but it’s still quite shocking that that leading Irish handler – Willie Mullins – has only won the race once (Florida Pearl, 2001) , while it’s also a prize that has so far eluded the powerful Gordon Elliott team.
Maybe the busy Christmas Period puts the Irish off these days, plus, the Savills Christmas Chase is only run two days later, with a lot of the big Irish stayers having this race as a preference with a lot less travelling, but there is some whispers that the likes of Minella Indo, Allaho and Envoi Allen could make the trip - let’s hope at least one of them does!
Other positive trends to have onside are that 17 of the last 19 winners have raced within the last 5 weeks, plus 16 of the last 19 successful horses had also been placed in the top three last time out. 11 of the last 19 winners also won last time, so it’s certainly worth looking for recently winning horses that have raced within the last five weeks.
Are there any decent trial races to look for?
Yes - the main one these days is the Betfair Chase - run at Haydock Park (20th Nov). Ten of the last 19 winners participated in that race before heading to the King George. By the time you read this, that 3m chase would have been run, so it’s well worth looking back at – oh, not only the winner, but also horses that ran in the race too.
What are the other main trends to look for?
French and Irish-bred horses have won 17 of the last 19 runnings, while the age of winners is another leading trend to consider. 15 of the last 19 winners were 8 or younger. Last year’s winner - Frodon - was an 8 year-old at the time, while 8 of the last 9 winners have been aged 8 or younger.
Winning form over fences here at Kempton is another plus - 12 of the last 19 winners had tasted success over the Kempton obstacles in the past. Backed up again last year with Frodon being a past course winner at the track.
15 of the last 19 winners were also officially rated 168 or higher – last year’s winner – Clan des Frodon was rated bang-on that marker at 168, plus, 17 of the last 19 winners had been successful at Grade One level.
In summary, once the final runners are out these trends will hopefully help point you towards another King George winner and assist towards paying for this year’s Christmas turkey!
But unless some of the main 3m Irish chasers make the trip over, this year it could very much be more of the same with Nicholls and Henderson seemingly both holding strong hands again.
TQ VERDICT: The Paul Nicholls yard have had a stranglehold on this race in recent time - winning the prize a staggering 12 times in total - including 12 months ago with FRODON. This popular front-runner is back for more this Boxing Day and will be looking to follow in the footsteps of his stablemate - Clan Des Obeaux - who won this race back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. Clan Des Obeaux was also a fair third in the race last year and both these past winners are sure to be popular and it will be a shock if they are not involved in the closing stages. Frodon also returned this season better than ever with a top win at Down Royal at the end of October. That was his 16th career win over fences (from 33) and has now won his last three here at Kempton. This track seems to play to his strengths and the likely good ground will also be a plus - he can go well again under Bryony Frost. Clan Des Obeaux will be looking to become the first horse since Long Run (2012) to win back his King George crown but does have just over 8 lengths to find with Frodon from last year’s form in this race. That said, he’s since bounced back to win the Betway Bowl at Aintree and the Punchestown Gold Cup - both back in April. He returns here off a break, but is sure to have been well-tuned up for this and being a two-time winner of the race is hard to ignore. Of the Irish challengers it remains to see who makes the trip over. Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo would, of course, be a big player, if he does, but this would be his first run at the track and he was also 5 lengths behind Frodon last time at Down Royal. Surprisingly, trainer Willie Mullins has only won this race once - Florida Pearl (2001) he could send over Asteroin Forlonge. This 7 year-old certainly has the ability to go well, but his downfall is his jumping - he’s fallen twice over fences and again unseated last time at Punchestown when going well at the time. You just worry about that again here at Kempton, where they can often go a bit quicker on this flatter track. The other main player, for me, though is the Nicky Henderson runner - CHANTRY HOUSE. The Seven Barrows camp also have a fine record in this race - winning it three times since 2010. This 7 year-old has a bit to find on the ratings with the past winners mentioned already, but he’s got time on his side and looks likely to have more to come. He’s won 5 of his 6 starts over fences and was a nice winner of the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival back in March. He returned this season with an easy win at Sandown and back in April also beat the useful Shan Blue easily in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree. Yes, this will be his first run here at Kempton but there is no reason why it won’t suit. Jockey Nico de Boinville gets the leg up and he’s now won 5 times (from 6) on this exciting and improving chaser. Of the rest, Lostintranslation was pulled up in this race 12 months ago, but has bounced back to form this season with a nice win at Ascot last month and the reports coming out of the Tizzard yard are that he’s back to somewhere near his best after a wind op in the summer. Of the outsiders, he could be the most interesting, but I just worry that the track at Kempton doesn’t play to his strengths.