ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin on the King George: At his best Allaho will win on Boxing Day

Betfair horse racing tipster Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin provides the antepost preview of the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and says new favourite Allaho will take the festive racing highlight if he is on song...

  • 6/42.50 Allaho is new favourite for King George

  • 9/43.25 Bravemansgame has point to prove

  • 21/122.00 Hewick has most antepost upside on Exchange


It looks like Operation Big Dog (apologies if that conjures up unsightly images of Boris Johnson, but I guess that was the intention) is on course for the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day at 14:30, so it is no surprise that he has taken over favouritism for the race.

The horse I am referring to is, of course, the imposing Allaho, who is now the 6/42.50 market leader with the Sportsbook. He is 3.02/1 on the Exchange as this piece goes live, though.

That premier betting position has been held by Bravemansgame and, more recently, Gerri Colombe, this month but the latter has been on the slide in recent days on the Exchange.

His current price of 9.617/2 there compares to the rather shorter prices knocking about in the fixed-odds arena - he is 9/25.50 with the Sportsbook - so that is obviously telling us that he is an unlikely runner.

He last-traded price on the Exchange ante-post market before it was suspended early on Wednesday morning was actually 15.014/1, and those layers will be feeling uneasy to have seen him confirmed for the race on Wednesday afternoon.

Whether he runs is another matter entirely.

To be fair, connections of Gerri Colombe have been hinting at a no-show in recent days, pointing to the weather as a significant factor.

Now, he is a dual Grade 1 winner on official good to soft ground, but he does seem very well suited by a deeper surface and connections seem to want a testing surface in order for him to shine over 3m around Kempton.

But he is still in the race, as it stands.

The going at the track, as of the BHA update at 5.44pm on Tuesday, was good to soft after they had 13mm throughout the day.

Gordon Elliott may decide to stay at home for the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on the 28th - a race that Gentlemansgame was ruled out of on Tuesday, but one that Galopin Des Champs may contest - especially as the Kempton forecast doesn't look too bad from hereon in.

Around 11mm could arrive from noon onwards on Boxing Day itself, if the current forecast holds true, but there are only spits and spots before then. But, as we saw on Tuesday, when we got 15mm when we were expecting around half that, who knows?

The Gold Cup second favourite's absence would be a blow to the race, albeit one softened if Allaho lines up at the tape.

Small but select field for King George VI Chase

There were 16 in the race prior to Wednesday's confirmation stage, and we now have a small but select field (that is very much all sponsors' speak of these days) of just eight.

I am very surprised the Sportsbook are betting 1/5 1,2,3 for each-way purposes.

In fact they have just changed their terms to a quarter 1,2 on the race and that doesn't surprise me.

We lost Edwardstone, Galopin Des Champs, L'Homme Presse, Midnight River, My Drogo, Pic D'Orhy (surprisingly perhaps), Protektorat and Shan Blue at the Wednesday confirmation stage.

There is no doubt in my mind that Allaho is the most talented chaser in training (including his stablemate, the aforementioned Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs) but unfortunately he does look to have a fragility about him, with just 17 starts for Willie Mullins since Boxing Day 2018.

He missed Cheltenham earlier in the year after suffering an abdominal bleed in February.

But, boy, is he good when on song.

His runaway wins in the 2021 and 2022 Ryanair were the best chasing displays at the Cheltenham Festival in those years, and his Punchestown Gold Cup win in April 2022 was arguably even better.

The Punchestown win showed he stayed 3m in top company, too. Of course, he always stayed it, as third places in the Albert Bartlett and RSA underlined, but he was only one from five at the trip previously and that 14-length win put to bed any real doubts.

He returned from a 561-day absence to win the Clonmel Oil Chase last month and if he runs to his best here - and I suppose there has to be a fair "if" given his sparse appearances, and he will be 10 in a few days - then I would fully expect him to win.

Kempton Boxing Day 14:30 - No antepost bet

That may seem a touch disrespectful to last year's winner Bravemansgame, as he was so good when beating Royale Pagaille by 14 lengths in this race year, having seen off L'Homme Presse when that one came to grief at the last.

However, he has been beaten in his four starts since and perhaps the most disappointing performance of those was when he was beaten 6 ½ lengths in the Betfair Chase last time.

Maybe this track, on which he is two from two, is more his bag than Allaho's, but he has questions to answer now. He is 9/43.25 with the Sportsbook and a touch bigger on the Exchange at 3.953/1.

As for questions to answer, that comment rather applies to a certain Shishkin too, available at 5/16.00 with the Sportsbook.

He refused to race at Ascot and wasn't able/allowed to run at Newcastle and Sandown either this season, so his preparation for this race has been anything but ideal.

But are we over-reacting to his mulish display at Ascot, where the first-time cheekpieces may have had an impact on his errant behaviour?

We know how talented this six-time Grade 1 winner is if they can sweeten him up - in his 2m pomp he was not far off a peak-form Allaho and better than Bravemansgame - and you wouldn't want to have laid him at his current Exchange price of 6.611/2 if he jumps off.

I say that 11/26.50 quickly becomes 7/24.50, and probably a bit shorter, after 50 yards.

That "if" word again, though. As I often say, it is the most expensive word in racing.

The Real Whacker, a 15/28.50 chance, returned lame when pulled up in the Paddy Power over 2m4f on his reappearance and this trip is obviously going to suit him far more. He is 10.519/2 on the exchange.

I appreciate he has that short-head defeat of Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory on his dance card, but I don't think he deserves to be a slightly shorter price than Royal Pagaille, available at 10/111.00 with the Sportsbook, after what Venetia Williams' 9yo did at Haydock last time.

I know that 3m+ around Haydock in bad ground is his bag - though he handles good to soft perfectly well - but I think you have to conclude that the Betfair Chase win was a career-best and give this course winner the respect and credit, accordingly.

Maybe his Exchange price of 12.5 underplays his chances.

Frodon won this in 2020 and will enjoy the decent ground (should that materialise) but it is exceptionally hard to see him rolling back the years, as his price of 50/151.00 implies.

He is the oldest horse in here by two years and leading entering the straight is surely the limit of his ambitions as a now 156-rated chaser.

Hewick is another horse for whom the better the ground the better his chance, and he certainly has a form squeak, one bizarrely that is based on non-finishing efforts in the Gold Cup (fell two out on what was probably softer ground than ideal) and off a mark of 163 in the Kerry National (trading at odds-on when unseating at the last). He is 16/117.00 with the Sportsbook.

I can half see the case for him at 20s+ on the Exchange (currently 22.021/1, even if we haven't seen him since an underwhelming run in the Galway Plate in August.

However, it sounds as if that absence was by design and trainer Shark Hanlon was making positive noises after sending him for an away-day gallop last week. Then again, he is hardly going to come out and say if he worked like a drain, is he?

In summary, I can't see a price worthy of a bet at this stage, especially as Allaho is perhaps not an ante-post conveyance, but Hewick on the Exchange is maybe the outsider with the most betting upside.

Kempton Boxing Day 13:55 - No antepost bet

We have five other Boxing Day races on ITV, and none of these were early-closers.

The most significant of these (if certainly not from a betting perspective) is the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at 13:55 at Kempton, in which it is reasonable to expect Constitution Hill to rock up and hack up, as he did when beating Epatante by 17 lengths in the race last season.

There has been some talk that he has been slow to come to hand this season and he certainly wasn't at his imperious best when we last saw him over 2m4f at Aintree in April, but it is difficult to entertain, as his odds of 1/101.10 rather suggests.

Then again, Epatante was chinned at 5s on in this race in 2020, and Verdana Blue infamously beat her stablemate, 1/41.25 poke Buveur D'Air in 2018 - you've never seen a more unhappier jockey coming into the winners' enclosure - so Henderson has unwelcome previous for money-buyers in this Grade 1.

Mind you, the five-strong opposition is ridiculously weak, with none rated higher than 149.

And, of that quintet, Black Poppy, Nemean Lion and Sceau Royal are in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot on Saturday.

We could be looking at a three-way go here for a 130k Grade 1. A sad sight.

We also have the Grade 1 Kauto Star novices' chase at 13:20 (nine entries) and a novices' handicap chase at 12:45 (11 entries) on the ITV roster on Boxing Day, as well as the re-located Tolworth Hurdle at Aintree (14 entries) at 13:05 and Wetherby's Rowland Meyrick Chase at 13:35 (16 entries).

Not exactly plentiful numbers at the five-day stage. We could have some very small fields on ITV.

Good luck.


Read Tony Calvin Antepost Tips: Back 12/1 Flegmatik to seize his chance at Ascot on Saturday

PROFIT AND LOSS (Nov 1 onwards; 2023-24 NH season); to be updated

STAKED: 31

RETURN: 36.6

P/L: +5.6

ANTE-POST: -9

PROFIT AND LOSS (April 16-Oct 31; 2023 Flat season)

STAKED: 202

RETURNS: 168.9

P AND L: -33.1

ANTE-POST: -24

Exchange bets settled at Betfair SP for fairness

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