King George VI Chase Preview 2020

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Ladbrokes King George VI Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Since 1947, families have clustered around their radio or television with eager anticipation to watch the King George VI Chase. It is a Christmas Tradition for many.

The King George VI Chase has obtained a sensational role of honour – greats like Arkle, Pendil, Captain Christy, Silver Buck, Borough Hill Lad and Wayward Lad have passed the post in front. During the late 1980s, Desert Orchid won the race four times (1986,1988,1989 and 1990). The bold, exuberant grey held the record for twenty-one years until 2011 when Kauto Star gained his fifth win in this Boxing Day highlight.

Paul Nicholls has won eleven of the renewals since 1997. This has made him the most successful trainer in the history of the race. Kauto Star was responsible for five but, before that, See More Business gave Nicholls a first taste of King George success in 1997 and 1999. Silviniaco Conti won the 2013 and 2014 renewals and, in the past two years, it has been Clan Des Obeaux who has taken top honours. The first time was under Harry Cobden and then Sam Twiston-Davies hopped on board for last year’s race with Cobden partnering Cyrname.

Clan Des Obeaux (Left) (JTW Equine Images)

Cast your minds back to twelve months ago, before all the Coronavirus craziness and when racecourses were full with National Hunt racing fans. (Feels like a long time ago – I know!) This was an extremely controversial decision. Everyone had an opinion: should Harry side with Clan Des Obeaux, who gave him a day in the sun on the previous Boxing Day? Or, should he stay on board Cyrname who had stamped himself as the highest rated chaser in Britain by beating the mighty Altior?

Harry Cobden chose Cyrname. Sam Twiston-Davies picked up the spare ride on Clan Des Obeaux. This proved the wrong decision with Clan Des Obeaux skipping to the lead at two fences from home and annihilating his opposition by a huge twenty-one lengths. Jockey bookings remain the same in 2020 and arguably the race is much stronger. Twenty-one lengths is a huge deficit to overcome so, can Cyrname do it?

Both sets of connections have said that the Altior Vs Cyrname clash took a lot out of both horses on soft Ascot ground. Cyrname obviously felt the pinch with the race just thirty-three days later. Clan Des Obeaux, on the other hand, had been over to Down Royal and finished second to Road To Respect on soft ground. It appeared to put him spot on for the King George.

During the rest of the 2019/20 season, we saw both horses just once. Cyrname reappeared first at Ascot for the grade one Ascot Chase. He had the most sickening fall and was down for quite a while. Thankfully, he got up safely. Paul Nicholls even said, remarkably, that he would’ve been ready to run again if Coronavirus hadn’t come along and put a stop to racing! Clan Des Obeaux went straight to the Gold Cup and ran below-par, finishing eighth. To be honest, it seems as though he hates Cheltenham so you may as well ignore that race entirely. Kempton is his happy hunting ground.

This season, Cyrname reappeared with an easy victory at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall. He silenced every single hater – queries on his ability to go left-handed were dismissed with a flick of his tail. Obviously, that isn’t a concern for this race as Kempton is right-handed. Cyrname seems to have miraculously grown up over lockdown so that his mind now matches his physical ability. It also helps that they seem to know how to ride him and how to stop him from getting too silly now.

Clan Des Obeaux tasted defeat yet again on his seasonal reappearance. He followed in Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase. Not many horses can get past Bristol De Mai at Haydock. The only horse to ever do so is Lostintranslation, but he was well-beaten Betfair Chase this year. (He was probably unsuited by the ground that day, but I’ll get to him later on). Clan Des Obeaux was reported to have endured a slight over-reach during the race. Full marks to Paul Nicholls for transparency but, not to worry, it won’t be damning for his chances in this race.

These two horses are being dubbed as the main two players for this and they are, which amuses me. Clan Des Obeaux seems ridiculously underrated – maybe because his best performances are at this track and he rarely wins anywhere else. So many people criticise Cyrname. The moment he makes a tiny mistake or shows any quirk, people are on to him like hawks. The handicappers were ridiculed when they handed him a handicap mark higher than Altior but they proved to be correct.

Despite this, I think Clan Des Obeaux will finish ahead of Cyrname. It is evident that the race is tailor made for him. He’ll enjoy the ground and will be spot on after the pipe-opener at Haydock. I think we’ll get more of a race between the two of them this year, which I can’t wait for.

This isn’t a two-horse race. Paul Nicholls has two other runners and there are five other talented individuals in the race too. None of those are Irish though. A rise in Coronavirus cases has caused Ireland to implement a travel restriction that has ruled out Monalee, like the crowds, from attending. It would’ve added an extra spice to this already hot race if he had taken his chance. Lets just hope he can take part in 2021!

Real Steel (JTW Equine Images)

Looking at the other runners, Real Steel, who is part of my 20 To Watch, has been my selection for this race since the Gold Cup so I am utterly delighted that he is taking his chance and that Daryl Jacob is booked. This lovely son of Loup Breton joined Paul Nicholls’ battalion over the summer, when the cohort of Sullivan horses were taken from Willie Mullins. He can be a little bit hit-and-miss in all honesty. Last season was his best to date with two grade two victories before Brian Hughes, the Champion Jockey, partnered him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was stone last on the first circuit but, when Hughes switched him out, he came there swinging on the bridle at the point when many were starting to feel the pinch. He seemed strangely novicey in the straight and faded to be sixth.

On his first start for Paul Nicholls, he finished a decent third out of four runners behind race-fit and very talented Imperial Aura. I wasn’t too disappointed with that run. Connections will know more about him and, reflecting this, he now wears a tongue-strap to aid his breathing. It appears he’s the fourth-string for the Ditcheat team but Daryl Jacob is a great booking and Aidan O’Brien’s fourth-string horses often win the big races so I’m not too concerned.

Frodon (right) (JTW Equine Images)

The last Paul Nicholls runner is Frodon. This gutsy eight-year-old is looking to put Bryony Frost into the history books as she would be the first female jockey to win this race. He has won an incredible fifteen of his thirty-seven starts and the Ryanair back in 2019. Last season, he won once here at Kempton and, in October, he put in an insane weight carrying performance to storm to a great success in a class two at Cheltenham.

Unfortunately, Frodon ran really poorly at Aintree next time. He was fourth of five and the only reason why he wasn’t classed as pulled up was because all of the fences down the home straight were emitted due to low sun. He would’ve appreciated it if the jumps were included but, even if they had been, I doubt he would’ve finished much closer. He was beaten eighty-two lengths in all! We all know he is better than that but he is difficult to fancy off the back of such a below-par performance.

In the same race, the sun won’t have helped Santini either. You can’t do anything to stop it – the sun isn’t going to move and the horses and jockeys can’t be expected to jump if they can’t see the fences! Santini went to Newbury for a racecourse gallop and then, at Aintree, looked like he needed the run, which he always does first time out. Last year, he only just held off Now McGinty first time out. Next time, he won the Cotswold Chase and came second in the Gold Cup. That was a really impressive run and he was staying on towards the finish. At Aintree earlier this month, he was headed by Lake View Lad and could never get passed him. No disrespect to Lake View Lad but he probably shouldn’t have beaten Santini, who is rated 18lbs higher, off equal weights. I just can’t seem to fancy Santini for this race, even though he has been supplemented.

Lostintranslation (JTW Equine Images)

Lostintranslation was expected to win last time as well. He never turned up in the Betfair Chase. He didn’t jump fluently or travel particularly well. The jockey reported it was down to the heavy going. If the rain doesn’t soften the ground too much, it will greatly help him. He won a nice listed race and the Betfair Chase before contesting this race. He pulled up worryingly but that was down to a breathing problem. One wind op and a tongue strap later, he was an exceptional third in the Gold Cup, jumping and travelling with fluency, just getting tired at the end. I think the ground is critical to how he runs but he has so much ability.

On the other hand, Saint Calvados would really appreciate softer ground. He was only beaten once in seven starts before he was fourth the Arkle, which Footpad (who was third in this race twelve months ago) won. He made all on his first start of the next season before following in Altior and Min. At the backend of last season, they changed tact with him and he very nearly won the Ryanair, only beaten a neck, seemingly appreciating the step up in trip. Whilst he is a very talented horse and interesting trying out three miles for the first time, the Harry Whittington yard has been very quiet lately. They had a seventeen-day break from racing with one runner on the 22nd December, who came third. Saint Calvados himself was, reported by Racing TV, very poorly with suspected blood poisoning. I don’t know the details of this though.

Waiting Patiently has been a very delicate horse. Connections have handled him brilliantly to win seven of his thirteen starts. Those seven victories came in quick succession between January 2016 and February 2018, when he won the grade one Ascot Chase. He was as short as 4/1 for the 2018 King George and agonisingly unseated. He found Cyrname and Min too good in early 2019 and we only saw him once last season, when third over two miles behind Defi Du Seuil. I think he’ll stay the three miles but we haven’t seen him on a racetrack for 398 days.

Last to mention is the outsider Black Op. This horse has always been well thought of. He was a very good novice hurdler and got to within a half-length of Santini back in January 2018. He beat Lostintranslation by a half-length in an Aintree Grade one. He got off the mark over fences in October 2019 but has struggled to land a blow ever since, even at short odds.

In conclusion, I think Paul Nicholls will make it twelve wins in this race with one of his four runners. I am going to stay loyal to REAL STEEL because I think he’ll run well. I am adamant he is tailor-made for this test. Three miles should be the ideal trip (I think) and I expect him to like Kempton.  I do think Clan Des Obeaux is the one to beat and I’d love to see Sam Twiston-Davies win a second King George. Cyrname appears to be the finished article these days. Hopefully, the King George of 2020 will be a thrilling race!

We would like to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Enjoy the incredible racing we have in store and lets hope we can all be back on a racecourse soon!

Best wishes and stay safe,

The Rein It In Racing Team

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