THE King George is fascinating. The Ladbrokes King George VI Chase. It usually is.
Many different strands, many imponderables surrounding many contenders.
Even Clan Des Obeaux. We know that he is a Kempton horse, a King George horse, and that is huge.
The King George is a race that fosters repeat winners, and Clan Des Obeaux is already a repeat winner.
To put it into context, in the last 50 years, there have been just three horses who have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup more than once. In the same time, there have been 13 horses who have won the King George more than once. Clan Des Obeaux was the 13th when he won his second two years ago. That’s significant.
The King George is a specialist’s race. A proven ability to be effective in the race is a big asset to take back to the race.
Not many horses have the mixture of class and pace and stamina and that metronomic jumping ability that is key over three miles at Kempton in the highest grade.
The imponderable with Clan Des Obeaux is that he hasn’t had a run this season. He finished fourth in the Betfair Chase in 2018 before he won his first King George, and he finished second in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in 2019 before he won his second.
Last year, he had a hard race on his seasonal return in the Betfair Chase, and he may still have been feeling the effects of that race when he finished third in the King George, so Paul Nicholls decided to go straight there this year.
It is a risk, history tells you that it is difficult to win the King George on your seasonal debut, but Paul Nicholls has trained horses to win the King George 12 times, more times than any other trainer ever, so you know that you can trust the reasoning behind the methodology.
Frodon is also a King George winner, he was brilliant last year, Frodon and Bryony Frost.
They have that aforementioned metronomic rhythm that is so important at Kempton, but they were left to their own devices up front last year, a largely unconsidered 20/1 shot, as others watched others.
They are not unconsidered this time around, and it is unlikely that they will have it as easy up front this time.
Chantry House has questions to answer too. Like, he has never run at Kempton before, not even over hurdles. He is a second-season chaser, he has never raced in open company before and he has to prove that he is up this grade.
But he was a high-class novice hurdler, he finished third behind Shishkin and Abacadabras in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and he progressed nicely as a novice chaser last season, winning four of his five chases, including the Marsh Chase over two and a half miles at the Cheltenham Festival and the Mildmay Chase over three miles at Aintree.
He stayed on well to win the Marsh Chase, when he had Asterion Forlonge five lengths behind him in third, and he ran out a 32-length winner of the Mildmay Chase at Aintree, after Espoir De Romay’s departure.
He couldn’t have done much more than he did in beating The Big Breakaway in a match in an intermediate chase at Sandown on his debut this season, and that should have brought him forward nicely with the King George in mind.
He will have to step up on all that he has done to date if he is going to win this King George, but he jumps well, he has two-and-a-half-mile pace, so he should be able to sit comfortably just behind the leaders on Sunday, and he should stay the trip. Also, he has raced just six times over fences, so he still has the potential to progress further.
Asterion Forlonge is another who has the potential to step forward. Willie Mullins’ horse was travelling like the most likely winner of the John Durkan Chase on his debut this season when he departed at the third last fence.
He goes well right-handed, and he is a pacey horse who travels well, and it is likely that he will stay three miles, but he just lacks certainty at his fences sometimes, and there is a chance that that will catch him out at Kempton in the white-hot heat of a King George.
Minella Indo obviously sets the standard, the Gold Cup winner, the highest rated horse in the race. And there is a chance that he could blow the race apart in his first-time cheekpieces.
He is brilliant at Cheltenham, as evidenced by a Gold Cup win and an Albert Bartlett Hurdle win and an RSA Chase mugging, and it is obviously more than possible that he can be as good at Kempton.
The addition of checkpieces is really interesting. But he is short, given that he has never run at Kempton before and, at a bigger price, it might be worthwhile taking a chance on Chantry House’s potential.
Coral Welsh Grand National
It might also be worthwhile taking a chance on Iwilldoit’s potential in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Monday.
Sam Thomas’ horse was very good in winning the Welsh National Trial over three miles of Monday’s course three weeks ago. Sent to the front as they raced up the home straight first time, he travelled well in front and he had his rivals on the stretch from the top of the home straight final time.
Colorado Doc did close at the second last fence, but Iwilldoit came away again on the run-in to put 24 lengths between himself and his main challenger by the time he got to the winning line, winning in a good time, with Colorado Doc clear of the rest.
That is the race that Secret Reprieve won last year before going back to Chepstow and winning the Welsh Grand National under his 4lb penalty.
Iwilldoit will have to race from 6lb out of the handicap on Monday, under his 4lb penalty, but, actually, he would have been 6lb well-in if top-weight Native River hadn’t been declared, so he is actually set to race off his correct handicap mark of 140.
He has raced just three times over fences, so he has the potential to go beyond that mark now.
It was good to soft when he won the Welsh National Trial, but he also has good form on softer ground, so he won’t mind if the rains arrive.
We know that course form is crucial for the Welsh National, so the fact that he is one for one there over fences is a significant positive.
You have to respect Secret Reprieve, bidding to win the race again off a mark that is just 6lb higher than last year’s mark, but he hasn’t had a run yet this season, and that is not ideal. His record after a break of 50 days or more reads 5552F.
The Big Dog is a big player, while the Sandown one-two Highland Hunter and Deise Aba have chances but, in a wide open contest, Iwilldoit looks over-priced at around 12/1.
Chantry House, 3.05 Kempton Sunday, 5/1 (generally), 1 point win,
Iwilldoit, 2.50 Chepstow Monday, 12/1 (generally), 1 point each-way,