Colin Tizzard’s yard has been besieged with a low-grade virus in recent weeks and the Somerset handler will doubtless be praying that stable star Cue Card remains infection-free ahead of his intended assignment in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The seven-year-old was propelled to favouritism for the big race following his victory in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock where he had several of Thursday’s likely rivals behind. Connections now know beyond question that Cue Card stays three miles-plus with aplomb.
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But whether or not he will be hit with the lingering virus which is causing many of Tizzard’s charges to underperform is impossible to predict. The son of King’s Theatre is currently a top-priced 11/4 for the King George with Bet Victor and Paddy Power.
Can Long Run join elite club of multiple King George winners?
One of Cue Card’s Betfair Chase victims was Long Run. On the face of it, Nicky Henderson’s chaser was disappointing at Haydock – and on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby – but there are reasons to believe he can bounce back.
Indeed, Long Run was beaten in his prep race prior to winning the King George in 2010 and last year, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the French import will join an elite club of horses that have won this race three times or more – Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.
Dynaste out to end Pipe hoodoo in Kempton spectacle
It’s hard to believe that Martin Pipe failed to win the King George as a trainer, and so far son David’s attempts have proved futile. However, the Pond House yard has a very realistic chance of ending its hoodoo this time round with Dynaste.
The grey was one of last season’s leading novice chasers and landed the Grade 1 Feltham Novices’ Chase over C&D on this card 12 months ago. He ran a fine race when runner-up to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase, beaten four-and-a-half lengths by Colin Tizzard’s horse on that occasion.
It should be noted, however, that Dynaste was conceding race-fitness to Cue Card at Haydock, and with just six starts over fences under his belt the seven-year-old could have more to offer. He’s 7/2 across the board to emerge victorious on Boxing Day.
Paul Nicholls double-handed in bid for eighth King George victory
In recent years the King George has been a source of great success for Paul Nicholls. The Ditcheat trainer has won the race on seven previous occasions – five times with Kauto Star and twice with See More Business – and he is set to field Al Ferof and Silviniaco Conti in Thursday’s renewal.
Silviniaco Conti, a best-priced 7/1 with 888sport, was third behind Cue Card and Dynaste in the Betfair Chase on his seasonal reappearance, while Al Ferof coasted him of sole rival French Opera in a Grade 2 at Ascot on his return from injury last month.
Al Ferof, who was forced to miss this race last year due to a setback following his victory in the 2012 Paddy power Gold Cup, is generally a 9/2 chance and is likely to emerge as a major player. He has yet to race over farther than 2m 5f under Rules, but landed a point earlier in his career, so stamina shouldn’t be an issue for the eight-year-old.