King George VI Chase Tips: Cyrname can strike at Kempton

Cyrname impressed when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Cyrname impressed when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Nick Seddon previews Saturday’s King George VI Chase at Kempton, which is the feature on a stellar afternoon of Boxing Day racing…

While Christmas will be different for so many of us this year, one welcome familiarity lies with the Boxing Day racing, and we’re set for a stellar renewal of the King George VI Chase - which ought to give us a firm pointer or two about next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

All but two of the nine-strong field have won at the top level during their careers, and a logical starting place is with Clan Des Obeaux, who’s bidding to become just the fourth horse to win this race three times.

The eight-year-old has repeatedly shaped as though three miles is his absolute limit, looking beaten for stamina on both of his tries in the Gold Cup, but he’s a top-class performer on his day, and produced a ruthless performance to tear apart the field here last year. He ran out of steam in the closing stages when second on reappearance in last month’s Betfair Chase, but will arrive here fit as a consequence.

It feels unlikely that we’ll see Clan Des Obeaux triumph at next year’s Cheltenham Festival, as his stamina limitations are rather exposed now, but this is very much a home game for the eight-year-old at a track which plays to his strengths, and he’s one to take very seriously once again for the Paul Nicholls team.

Nicholls has won this Grade 1 contest a record 11 times, and he holds a strong hand as he bids to win this once again, also sending out Cyrname. The eight-year-old has the distinction of defeating Altior on his CV, form which is the strongest on offer in this field, though he was firmly held on his first try at this trip 12 months ago.

However, that attempt came on the back of the aforementioned 1965 Chase at Ascot, a gruelling contest which had a noticeable effect on both him and Altior last season. Cyrname put any doubts about his stamina to bed when producing a deeply impressive performance to win the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October - conceding weight to all but one of his rivals - and with Kempton looking a good fit for his prominent style, he’s fancied to prove his class and turn the tables on his stablemate.

Nicky Henderson hasn’t enjoyed quite as much success in this race as his great rival, but he does have three King George wins to his name, and he saddles Santini this time around, who was supplemented for the race earlier this week.

The eight-year-old has his critics, and he generally needs a stern test of stamina to be seen to best effect, but there can be no doubting that he’s a top-class stayer on his day, something he showed when a fine second to Al Boum Photo in this year’s Gold Cup. He wasn’t suited by the way things panned out when second on return at Aintree earlier this month, when several fences were omitted due to the low sun, and although he’s reportedly in good form after that outing, this feels like too much of a test of speed for Santini, and he’s passed over.

Another to seriously consider is the 2019 Betfair Chase winner, Lostintranslation. He looked as though he was ready to take control of the division with that day, such was the impressive nature of that performance, but didn’t look to be going a yard when disappointing in this last year. He’s since got back on track with a fine effort to finish third in the Gold Cup after a far from ideal preparation, but it was hard not to be disappointed with his return in last month’s Betfair Chase. He’s entitled to come on for that, and should at least give this a better go than last year, but he would need to take a huge step forward for win purposes.

Cheltenham Festival Races

Three to keep an eye on at bigger prices are Real Steel, Saint Calvados and Waiting Patiently. The first-named switched to Paul Nicholls over the summer, and showed some top-class form for Willie Mullins last season, producing two emphatic victories at Grade 2 level, before finishing a creditable sixth in the Gold Cup. That was his first try at three miles since his hurdling days, and he looked a little short of stamina that day, fading in the closing stages. Kempton’s make-up should play to his strengths, and he’ll arrive here fit after a satisfactory run at Ascot last month, but he has something to find for win purposes with the principals.

A rather forgotten figure is Waiting Patiently, who’s had just four starts since winning the 2018 Ascot Chase. One of those came when unseating through no fault of his own in this race two years ago, but he clearly has plenty of talent, and was last seen finishing a highly creditable third in the 2019 Tingle Creek. It would be no surprise to see him run well, but his  385-day absence is something of a concern, and he still needs to prove he stays three miles. Meanwhile, Saint Calvados improved in leaps and bounds last year, going down fighting to Min in the Ryanair Chase, and while he has the ability to figure, he too has both an absence and stamina concerns to defy - on his first try at three miles.

Finally, the field is completed by Frodon and Black Op. The first-named is a top-class performer on his day, winning the 2019 Ryanair Chase and producing some brilliant weight-carrying victories in handicaps, though he’s often fallen short at the top level over three miles, and has plenty to prove after disappointing at Aintree last time out. Meanwhile, Black Op was a smart novice last season, but he found life tough in last month’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, and is the outsider of the field in a hot renewal.

This looks likely to be dominated by Paul Nicholls once again, and although you can make a very strong case for Clan Des Obeaux, the instinct is to side with Cyrname, who ran no sort of race in this last year, but put any stamina fears to bed when winning the Charlie Hall in October, and has the strongest form on offer.

Selection

King George VI Chase, Kempton, Saturday 26th December - back Cyrname at 2/1

King George VI Chase
Cyrname silk

Cyrname

Pulled Up
Cheltenham Festival Tips
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