The King George on Boxing Day looks a typical festive treat with a ten-runner field where only a couple can be safely ruled out of contention (3.10pm Kempton, Friday).
A dour stayer, last year’s winner Silviniaco Conti (5/2) looks a worthy favourite. He is officially the highest rated horse in the field. He was going well when falling three out in the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup but disappointed when wandering around (not for the first time) on the run-in in the 2014 Gold Cup. He was fourth, albeit beaten less than two lengths that day, behind surprise winner Lord Windermere.
In last year’s King George Cue Card (8/1) looked a certainty two fences out but he emptied badly late on to hand the race to Silviniaco Conti, who outstayed him. The ground was soft that day and unless we get an unscheduled deluge it is likely to be genuinely good to soft this time around. That will aid Cue Card’s cause while possibly counting against the favourite.
Cue Card has been disappointing in his two runs for trainer Colin Tizzard (pictured) this season when fourth at Exeter on his seasonal debut and then fourth again, beaten fully 12 lengths by the winner Silviniaco Conti, in the Betfair Chase. It is worth noting that Cue Card started 3/1 favourite in that Haydock race, preferred in the betting to the 100/30 winner. Are there any reasons for Cue Card to reverse form now? Maybe.
Finishing ahead of Cue Card in that disappointing Haydock run were both Menorah (a two-length runner-up) and Dynaste (8/1), beaten 10 lengths in third. Menorah’s (8/1) trainer Philip Hobbs has never been in such good form and the horse appears to be thriving. Dynaste has finished behind Silviniaco Conti in three of his last four runs and David Pipe fits cheekpieces for the first time in a bid to overturn the form.
Although both Menorah and Dynaste have little to make up with the favourite on their best pieces of form, there is no solid reason for them to reverse placings. Their chance of victory is dependent on Silviniaco Conti running below par, in which case this race would be thrown wide open.
In terms of raw ability Champagne Fever (4/1) should be able to mix it with this field. However he looks a short price for one so inexperienced over fences. The official handicapper has him rated 2lb inferior to 25/1 shot Johns Spirit and over a stone behind the favourite. Bookmakers and punters obviously disagree strongly with that assessment. Trainer Willie Mullins knows the time of day and Ruby Walsh has chosen this venue rather than his tempting mounts in Ireland but the current odds are fairly prohibitive. Champagne Fever does rate as unexposed and dangerous to all but I can’t advise a bet at the price.
Of much more interest at the odds is Al Ferof (6/1). He has been lightly raced and disappointing over the last two seasons. At least that was until his Ascot run last time when he sauntered home in facile fashion by seven lengths, albeit from good old yardstick Somersby (though he has since run well when runner-up in the Tingle Creek).
That Grade 2 Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot was over five furlongs shorter and there may be people questioning if Al Ferof is fully proven over this three-mile trip. My feeling is this is a very high class horse who lost his form for a while and is now ready to make his mark in the big time. The yard even have a ready reason for that time in the wilderness – he was suffering from stomach ulcers and the problem has been sorted out. However if you fancy Al Ferof then you don’t need to cling to that excuse as the manner of his Ascot victory left the impression a King George could very much be within his capability.
Johns Spirit (25/1) takes a leap in class after contesting handicaps. He is officially a stone inferior to the favourite. However if there is ever a time to land a bit of value about in-form handicappers rising in class, then it is the first time they do so.
Johns Spirit was nailed on the line in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last time and I would dismiss the subsequent poor run of the winner that day, Caid Du Berlais, as he was patently not the same horse next time out.
It is stretching things to mention that Desert Orchid was an unfancied 16/1 shot when winning his first King George in 1986 but Johns Spirit might represent a bit of each-way value at 25/1. It is a mere 10-runner race and the bookies are betting 1/4 odds a place.
Wishfull Thinking (25/1) is rated 7lb superior to Johns Spirit but is the same price and is just 4lb inferior to Cue Card, according to the official handicapper. I suppose on that basis alone he can not be dismissed. He was well held when third behind Al Ferof at Ascot on his penultimate start and I can’t see any reason that form will be turned on its head. He will be a 12-year-old in a week’s time and, while like the rest of the Hobbs’ yard he is in great form, he surely needs the race to fall apart to get his nose in front.
I will always respect a Paul Nicholls’ outsider but Wonderful Charm (50/1) has not shown the level of form to get involved in a race like this and I can not have Double Ross (50/1) on my mind. The latter has failed to complete in two of his last three race and was already beaten when unseating last time.
King George Betting Tips Conclusion
If you can’t resist betting on an outsider then I reckon Johns Spirit each-way could be the one at 25/1, but the favourite Silviniaco Conti boasts consistent high-class form and should be a tough nut to crack. On the downside he looks a dour stayer and with ground conditions not anticipated to be any worse than good to soft he might be tapped for toe where it counts. One of his biggest threats could come from stablemate Al Ferof, who certainly does not lack speed.
However take a chance on CUE CARD, who was runner-up last year and can reverse form with Silviniaco Conti on more suitable going. Do not be influenced by the stable’s typical optimism as there are more genuine reasons to expect a bold display. The Colin Tizzard yard is in much better form now than when Cue Card was last seen in public.
Cue Card does need a positive ride and, after being outstayed last year, connections could scupper their chances if they simply ride him to get the trip. On this ground the trip is not a problem, but a negative ride on an ebullient front-runner just might be. Nevertheless he looks the best value in the field, especially on last year’s form in this race, so our King George betting tip is to bet on Cue Card each-way at current best odds of 8/1 with BetVictor or Ladbrokes.