Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
"Jumping over-bold if anything on next start at Cheltenham a month later, but again impeccable in that department when easily winning the Grade 2 Worcester Novices' Chase at Newbury last month."
King George VI Chase (Grade 1)
Mon 26th Dec, 15:15
1. CUE CARD (Colin Tizzard)
Top-class chaser who has won eight Grade 1s, including this race 12 months ago. Memorable bid for £1m bonus put up for winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, this race and Cheltenham Gold Cup agonisingly came to grief with a slithering fall three out on the final leg last March. Predictably improved for reappearance third in Charlie Hall at Wetherby when winning latest renewal of the Betfair Chase (third race success) last month, bouncing back to his very best with a 15-length defeat of Coneygree. Chance is there for all to see.
2. JOSSES HILL (Nicky Henderson)
Supplemented for this race for £10,000. Had jumping issues as a novice chaser in 2014/15, but better in that department now. Won graduation chase at Kempton (in a match from Camping Ground) on reappearance in November, with a return to front-running showing him in a better light, and impressed again with his jumping when following up in the five-runner Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon by six lengths from Tea For Two. Likely to stay this longer trip, even with newly-employed forcing tactics, and course record reads 2211.
3. SILVINIACO CONTI (Paul Nicholls)
Made all in this race in both 2013 and 2014, though was pulled up in last year's renewal after travelling well for a circuit. Back to form in first-time blinkers when winning the Betfair Ascot Chase (by 20 lengths from Dynaste) two months later, but then pulled in the Grand National last April. Showed he is no back number when 11 lengths second to Valseur Lido in JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on return in October, but again took backwards step when a well-beaten fourth to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase. Too unpredictable to recommend.
4. TEA FOR TWO (Nick Williams)
Made winning chase debut in December 2015 and followed up in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase over C&D at this meeting. Unsuited by drop back to 2½m when third of four in the Scilly Isles next time and missed the rest of the season due to injury. Ran creditably after nine months off when fifth in Grade 3 handicap chase at Ascot in October and better than ever when a six-length second to Josses Hill in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon earlier this month. Return to 3m will suit, but needs to improve significantly against the form principals.
5. THISTLECRACK (Colin Tizzard)
The leading staying hurdler in 2015/16, successful five times, including beating Alpha des Obeaux by seven lengths in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Almost foot-perfect on chasing debut when winning at Chepstow in October. Jumping over-bold if anything on next start at Cheltenham a month later, but again impeccable in that department when easily winning the Grade 2 Worcester Novices' Chase at Newbury last month. Very difficult decision for his trainer (could have run in the Kauto Star) taken out of his hands by the horse's sporting owners and, as the best of these over hurdles, has very realistic claims of extending his winning run, despite taking on the established chasers for the first time.
Timeform King George VI Chase 1-2-3
2. Cue Card
3. Josses Hill
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
A small field but the decision of THISTLECRACK's owners to pitch him in at the deep end so early in his chase career sets up a mouthwatering clash with stablemate Cue Card. Last year's winner looks sure to make a bold bid to defend his crown on the back of a most impressive display in the Betfair, but Thistlecrack could be something very special and can maintain his unbeaten record over fences.