Well it’s finally here, the race that many of us wanted to savour as much as the Christmas dinner. Kauto Star, the Pegasus-like figure of 21st century Jumps racing, is to attempt to win his fifth King George Chase, albeit three weeks later than usual.
He truly is a superstar in every sense of the word and the video that Paul Nicholls uploaded on his website this week of Kauto gently schooling under Harry Skelton showed him to be in rude health. You could even hear Nicholls enthusiastically commenting on how the great horse seems to kick out with his hind legs mid-jump, more often than not whacking the top of the obstacle with disdain.
There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be the one to beat, and the fact that he’s 22 pounds clear of his nearest rival (Albertas Run) on ratings means that there will be a hundred riskier odds-on shots running this year, yet I just feel that things might not go exactly to plan. What’s more, I think that it could be his stablemate who will give him most to think about.
The Nightingale (3.00) has hardly put a foot wrong in his fledgling career so far and it’s common knowledge that he wants soft ground, so the increasingly likelihood of him getting his ground at Kempton is a massive bonus. His last run at Down Royal (on the undercard to Kauto’s win in the JNWine.com Champion Chase) was very impressive and who’s to say that he wouldn’t have beaten Pandorama should that horse has not been taken out of the race.
Long Run is going to be a danger, as would Riverside Theatre have been on better ground, but I just feel if any horse is likely to profit from Kauto Star being a little below his best it’s going to be the selection. That is still a big ‘if’ though.
On the same card, I think the underfoot conditions are likely to play into the hands of Paddy Brennan’s mount Khyber Kim in the Christmas Hurdle (2.25)
It’s true that Binocular, Starluck, Overturn and even Escort’men are big dangers but all of them, bar the last-named, seem to excel on good ground.
The way the race will pan out would appear to be straightforward – Overturn is very likely to lead, then Binocular sitting in behind with Starluck and Kyhber Kim preferring to play their hands late and make best use of their turn of foot. Therefore I can see Khyber, a horse that oozes class over hurdles, being produced at the last to win a shade cosily, from Binocular.
Lastly, I’d consider backing Paul Nicholl’s unknown quantity Sire Collonges (3.35) in the Lanzarote Hurdle purely for the fact that his trainer said recently that although we’re not likely to see him at his best until sent chasing next year, he’s happy that he has a handicap mark that he can work with.
Make no mistake this is a highly competitive race but with another Nicholls horse is Like Minded entered, it could throw up a very decent winner. Here’s hoping it’s Sire Collonges.
Saturday, January 15
2.25 (Kemp) KHYBER KIM
3.00 (Kemp) THE NIGHTINGALE
3.35 (Kemp) SIRE COLLONGES