Timeform King George VI Chase Preview: Waiting no more

Might Bite
Might Bite returns to try and defend the title he won last year
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Timeform preview a stellar renewal of the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, which is set to feature two previous winners of the race, and pick out their best bet...

"...it’s likely he will become a major player in these contests for years to come."

Timeform on Waiting Patiently

Wednesday's King George VI Chase has been kind to punters in recent years, with favourites winning three of the last four renewals. With 11 runners declared at the five-day stage, this year's renewal could boast the biggest field since 2009, when Kauto Star clinched a fourth of his record-breaking tally of five wins in the race.

Two previous winners are due to take their chance this time around, including Might Bite, who was of course triumphant in this 12 months ago. Seen just four times on the racecourse last term, Might Bite got within four and a half lengths of the perfect season, denied only by Native River in one of the most compelling renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for years. Stamina is ultimately the one chink in Might Bite's armour, simply outstayed by Native River back in March, and he seemingly was in need of the run when disappointing in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month; not looking as straight as anticipated and lacking his usual flamboyance, finishing tired and last of the five runners. He therefore has something to prove here, but he was an electric winner of this race last year, and considering that he is likely to have ideal conditions here, it would be no surprise should he bounce back to his former self.

Strictly on Timeform ratings, though, Might Bite would have 2 lb to find with his Cheltenham conqueror Native River, who also made his reappearance at Haydock last month. His run was far more pleasing, finishing second under conditions that didn't place enough emphasis on stamina. In that respect he is the polar opposite of Might Bite, and for all that he has leading form claims, he may have to settle for a place once again, with the Gold Cup the ultimate target next March.

The aforementioned two are part of the established elite in the staying chase division, though one who is seemingly ready to join them is Waiting Patiently, who remains unbeaten over fences after six starts. This has been the plan for him for a while, and he passed his biggest test to date to win a thrilling renewal of the Grade 1 Ascot Chase when last seen in February; putting up a top-class effort to hold off a monumental challenge from Cue Card on what proved to be that rival's swansong and score by just under three lengths. Ruth Jefferson has maintained that he's better fresh and he has won on the back of breaks in excess of 250 days on two occasions during his career. He is open to more improvement yet, and still only a seven-year-old, it's likely he will become a major player in these contests for years to come.

Like in boxing at the moment, several of these have claims to the title of outright heavyweight in the division, and having won the Betfair Chase last month, Bristol de Mai aims to maintain his bid for the National Hunt Triple Crown by following up here. His record at Haydock Park is a remarkable one, stretching it to 4-4 last time, and he has proven to be a dominant winner on each occasion. He has been labelled as a mud lark in recent years, never quite being at the same level away from Lancashire, but his victory on good ground this time around proves he is more flexible, and he heads here a fresher horse than last year, when disappointing. Kempton's flat track should suit him in theory, and he may be a different proposition this time around.

The other former winner is Thistlecrack, who won this as a novice in imperious fashion back in 2016. A stablemate of Native River, Thistlecrack had at one point threatened to dominate this division himself, but he has been beset with problems since winning this race, seen only twice in 2017/18 and running below his best on both occasions. He made an encouraging comeback from 11 months off when third at Haydock last time, and though he has to prove he can back that up, it's not out of the question that he'll sharpen up all around, and shouldn't be written off here.

It has been a couple of years since Paul Nicholls has had a bona fide Grade 1 staying chaser, but he is represented by two here in the form of Politologue and Clan des Obeaux. The former found life tough whenever he bumped into Altior last term, being put in his place on two occasions, but he otherwise enjoyed a stellar year, winning two Grade 1 races in the form of the Tingle Creek at Sandown and the Melling Chase at Aintree. He made a winning reappearance in the Grade 2 1965 Chase at Ascot last time, beating Charbel by half a length; form which has been franked since. He's bred to stay three miles (dam a sister to 3½m hurdle/chase winner Adelaide Square) and he would be an interesting contender provided the ground doesn't become too testing. Clan des Obeaux was highly progressive last term, and put in a good effort to finish fourth in the Betfair Chase on reappearance last month. He's still lightly raced over staying trips, and could yet improve further.

The sole remaining Irish entry is the Gordon Elliott-trained mare Shattered Love. She's a very smart chaser who has run to a similar level in finishing runner-up both starts this season, latest when beaten one and a half lengths by Min in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase over two and a half miles at Punchestown last time. She will appreciate the return to three miles but place claims are likely the best she can hope for once more if journeying over the Irish Sea (also has an entry in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown two days later).

Last year's runner-up Double Shuffle has plenty to find on Timeform ratings, and whilst that was also the case last year, this year's renewal looks a stronger one. For all that, his record going right-handed is much better than going the other way and the Tom George-trained runner should appreciate the return to this venue. Another with something to prove in this company is the 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree, who has been riddled with injuries since. He has C&D form, producing a fine performance to win the Kauto Star Novices' Chase in 2014, but he would need more than he showed when third off top weight in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham last month.

Completing the field is last year's third, Tea For Two. He was more miss than hit in 2017/18 (albeit highly tried), but took a step back in the right direction (having undergone a breathing operation) when 12 lengths third to Charbel in the Peterborough Chase last time. He will be suited by the return to this trip, but his losing run is mounting up and he will likely prove vulnerable from a win perspective once more.

In conclusion, this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting renewals of the King George for years, and it is easy to make a case for several of these. Last year's winner Might Bite is likely to find this far more to his liking than when disappointing at Haydock last month and is respected, as is the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, who sets the standard on form. However, the old guard may struggle to hold off the challenge of Waiting Patiently, who is unbeaten over fences and announced his arrival at this level when winning the Ascot Chase in February. He's done nothing but impress so far, and can improve again to take this.

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