STRANGE that the betting for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase is at odds with official ratings.
Bravemansgame has been ante-post favourite for a while now, and he is just the third highest-rated horse in the race. Hitman is third favourite, yet he is only eighth best of the nine runners on official ratings.
Maybe it’s the Paul Nicholls factor. The Ditcheat trainer has won the King George 12 times, more times than any other trainer ever. Okay, so five of them were down to one horse, the inimitable Kauto Star (2006 to 2011 with the Long Run blip in 2010), but he has won it seven times even without Kauto, and that is a seriously impressive record, it’s one more than all the Dickinsons put together.
Bravemansgame is a big player too. He has only been beaten once over fences, in the Mildmay Chase at Aintree last April when, for some reason – he was taken out of Cheltenham and everything – he didn’t give his true running.
But he was impressive in winning the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase on King George day last year, at this time of year obviously and over the King George course and distance, and he was impressive again in winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his debut this season.
We haven’t seen him since, but that is not a negative. This was always the plan. Directly after the Wetherby race, Paul Nicholls said that he would probably be straight to the King George.
You know that Kempton’s configuration and topography suit him well, and you know that he will arrive there at concert pitch.
L’Homme Presse made serious progress last season. Venetia Williams’ horse won a handicap at Exeter on his return last term off a mark of 128, then won his next three, before going to Cheltenham and winning the Brown Advisory Chase.
He looked good on his debut this season too in winning the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. He raced off a mark of 164 and carried 12st to victory, leaving the impression that he had a fair bit more in hand than the length winning margin.
A 6lb hike for that takes him up to a mark of 170 and leaves him clear at the top of the ratings for Monday’s race, 5lb superior to his best rival.
We don’t know how L’Homme Presse will handle Kempton though. He has never run there and, on good to soft ground or better, it could all happen a little quickly for him. Any rain though, lots of rain, and you can see him going off as clear favourite.
That said, the under-rated and over-priced horse in the race could be Envoi Allen. We know how good the Cheveley Park Stud’s horse was: winner of his only point-to-point for Colin Bowe, four for four in bumpers and four for four in novice hurdles for Gordon Elliott, and three for three in novice chases before he had that fall in the Marsh Chase at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
He did win twice last season for Henry de Bromhead, a Grade 2 chase at Down Royal and the Grade 1 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, but he wasn’t at his best in either, and he came up short in his next two races.
In mitigation, those two runs were in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and the Champion Chase at Punchestown, both over the minimum trip, both against Energumene.
He stepped up to three miles at Down Royal on his debut this season, and he showed a lot of positive traits in winning the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase.
That was just his second run ever over three miles – there were excuses for his first – and there was always a chance that he would improve for the step up in trip.
He stayed too, he had to stay, he battled on well to get the better of a race-fit Kemboy, now rated 161, with the Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated back in third.
He did plenty wrong at Down Royal. His jumping wasn’t as slick as it can be, he made a couple of fiddly errors on the way around, but he still travelled like the most likely winner. He was the only horse who was still on the bridle when they landed over the third last fence.
He nodded on landing over the second last, and he hung to his left, but, galvanised by Rachael Blackmore, he showed a willingness and a tenacity to get the better of Kemboy on the run-in, going on to win by almost two lengths in the end.
There is a great chance that Kempton will suit Henry de Bromhead’s horse well. He has the class and the pace to travel through his race, which you need to do in a King George, and, we suspected before, but we know now for sure that he has the stamina for three miles.
If he can jump a little more fluently than he did at Down Royal, there is every chance that he will improve again on his Down Royal performance. And it is more than possible that he can improve his jumping, as he gets used to travelling and jumping at three-mile pace.
He remains wholly unexposed over three miles and there is a chance that he will out-run his odds by a fair way.
Long Walk Hurdle
There is also a chance that Goshen will out-run his odds in the Long Walk Hurdle, rerouted to Kempton from Ascot.
The change in venue is probably not a positive for Paisley Park, it might all happen a little too quickly for him at Kempton, but it could be a positive for Goshen.
We know that he can be quirky, but Gary Moore’s horse was very good last time at Ascot in winning the Ascot Hurdle, making all the running and coming home eight and a half lengths clear of the talented Brewin’upastorm, to whom he was conceding 6lb.
Rated just 4lb inferior to Champ and 3lb inferior to Paisley Park, Goshen has to prove his stamina for three miles, but he stayed two and a half miles well at Ascot last time.
Also, a half-brother to Elimay, he has won over a mile and six furlongs on soft ground on the flat. Also, he would have won the Triumph Hurdle easily in 2020 had he not unseated at the last, and Triumph Hurdle winners often get a fair bit further than two miles as they get older. (Ref. Tiger Roll, Farclas.)
He goes into the race in good form, he has the potential to improve now at the longer trip, and he could put it up to his older rivals.
Goshen, 12.45 Kempton, 9/2 (generally), 1 point win
Envoi Allen, 2.30 Kempton, 7/1 (generally), 1 point win