The King George VI Chase remains the festive showpiece at Kempton Park and looks a high-quality renewal with last season’s winner Frodon joining Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo and five other Grade One winners.
Conor Stroud talks us through the runners for the Boxing Day blue-riband event and gives his big-race verdict.
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Asterion Forlonge (Jockey: Bryan Cooper, Trainer: Willie Mullins)
This enigmatic seven-year-old looks to have all the ability but is yet to really pull it all together on the big stage.
A winner of a Grade One as a novice hurdler, he struggled to make an early impression over fences with two consecutive falls and some lacklustre jumping in behind the likes of Colreevy, Monkfish and Chantry House.
He did however land a Punchestown handicap at the end of last season, and looked the likely winner of the John Durkan on seasonal reappearance before unseating Bryan Cooper three out.
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If – and it’s a big if – he can jump with fluency and handle the step up in trip, he could go very close for the Willie Mullins team.
Asterion Forlonge could be a live contender in Sunday's King George VI Chase
Chantry House (J: Nico De Boinville, T: Nicky Henderson)
For a horse that has already won Grade One races at both the Cheltenham Festival and at Aintree, Chantry House is probably a shade underrated for the Seven Barrows team.
The talking point after his Cheltenham success was the fall of Envoi Allen, and it was widely considered that Espoir De Romay would’ve won but for falling at Aintree.
That being said, he returned with a bloodless victory over The Big Breakaway at Sandown and should be cherry ripe for Sunday, so must have every chance even if he has been overlooked a little by the market.
Chantry House and Nico de Boinville on their way to victory at Aintree in April
Clan Des Obeaux (J: Harry Cobden, T: Paul Nicholls)
A two-time winner of this race, Paul Nicholls has picked his races to perfection with Clan Des Obeaux, who put a poor run behind him at Kempton last season to land Grade One races at both Aintree and Punchestown, beating Al Boum Photo in the latter.
Nicholls himself admitted that running him at Haydock last season was a mistake and probably the reason for his flat run in the King George.
He makes his seasonal reappearance this time around at Kempton and will surely go well for the in-form Ditcheat handler.
Clan Des Obeaux after winning the 2019 King George under Sam Twiston-Davies
Frodon (J: Bryony Frost, T: Paul Nicholls)
Last year’s King George winner has formed a seamless partnership with Bryony Frost, and it would be a fairytale winner for the rider if she could go back-to-back at Kempton after what has been a difficult year off the track.
A game winner in the Down Royal Champion Chase last time out – defeating Minella Indo in the process – he comes into this race in form but there’s a slight doubt that others may have had this as their target for the season, unlike Frodon.
Will go hard from the front but could struggle to see off speedier rivals.
Frodon will go in search of back-to-back King George crowns on Sunday for Bryony Frost and Paul Nicholls
Lostintranslation (J: Brendan Powell, T: Paul Nicholls)
Like the Colin Tizzard yard, Lostintranslation has enjoyed a resurgent campaign so far, bouncing back with victory in a competitive 1965 Chase at Ascot. He flopped in this race in 2019 though, having dominated the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
If he’s right back to his best, he must have a chance but you would think that he will need to improve on his Ascot run, having beaten the likes of Master Tommytucker and Defi Du Seuil who haven’t done much for the form.
Brendan Powell and Lostintranslation en route to victory in the 1965 Chase
Minella Indo (J: Rachael Blackmore, T: Henry De Bromhead)
Last season’s Gold Cup hero Minella Indo returned with a run behind Frodon and Galvin at Down Royal that was a little disappointing, although trainer Henry De Bromhead admitted the horse would come on for the run but he will need to.
There’s also a slight doubt that he may prefer more of a stamina test, but he could get that if Frodon adopts his usual front-running tactics. Must have every chance, but possibly one to take on at the prices.
Jack Kennedy wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Minella Indo
Mister Fisher (J: Sean Bowen, T: Nicky Henderson)
Has bits of form to suggest he could run well but remains a lively outsider on balance.
Was a neck behind Frodon on his last run at Sandown but will need to improve on that. He has jumping frailties and has been pulled up in two of his last five starts.
The yard has a likelier winner in Chantry House and can be readily opposed.
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Saint Calvados: (J: Gavin Sheehan, T: Paul Nicholls)
The outsider of the three Nicholls darts on Sunday, Saint Calvados makes his first start for the Ditcheat handler after moving from Harry Whittington’s yard in the summer.
If he can recapture the form that saw him finish a neck behind Min in the 2020 Ryanair Chase, he would have a decent each-way chance.
Probably another that can’t be trusted with some patchy form in the last 18 months.
Paul Nicholls gives us the lowdown on his trio of King George runners, including two-time winner of the race Clan Des Obeaux and last year’s victor Frodon.
Tornado Flyer (J: Danny Mullins, T: Willie Mullins)
Another who looks like a stable second-string, he often runs well in defeat but is yet to really make it at the top level.
Danny Mullins takes the ride and is likely to be ridden for a place, so could make late gains to snatch a place. However, he’s probably best left alone for win purposes.
In arguably one of the most competitive renewals of the King George in the last decade, realistic cases can be made for at least six of the nine runners.
At an each-way price, it might just be worth taking a chance on Asterion Forlonge who has the pace and class to contend at this level. If his jumping holds up, he could be the horse to thrust Gold Cup winner Bryan Cooper back into the spotlight.
Clan Des Obeaux will not be easily dismissed and can run another big race in the Kempton showpiece for Cobden and Nicholls, having missed out earlier targets at Haydock and Down Royal to run fresh on Boxing Day.
Minella Indo could be outpaced over this quick three miles, but could well to stay on to finish third. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be a Christmas cracker.