PHILIP Hobbs and Richard Johnson can do very little wrong at present. Everything they run has to be respected as the Minehead yard is in stellar form. On Saturday MENORAH came close to providing another big weekend winner when just being outstayed by Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase. This is a race that provides clues aplenty for the rest of the National Hunt season, especially the King George VI Chase at Boxing Day.
Silviniaco Conti was a deserving winner and showed great courage and stamina to fend off Menorah, Dynaste and co. But can he kick on and retain his King George crown? A lot will depend on the ground at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. If it’s soft then the Conti will be the one to beat. But if there’s any semblance of “good” in the title then the bang in-form Menorah may exact revenge.
From the moment he won on his hurdling debut in November 2009 for Hobbs and Johnson, this horse has exuded class. His roll of honour includes the Supreme Novices, the Greatwood, International Hurdle (where he beat Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti), Peterborough Chase, and the Charlie Hall. He normally comes alive in the spring when he gets his favoured better ground but his run on Saturday was astonishing when you consider his supposed dislike for bad ground. His career has been beset by inconsistency but his last two runs have given the impression that at nine years old he might now be at the peak of his equine powers.
He has been clipped in price with most firms for the King George VI Chase and is now best priced 12/1. That looks pretty good value if we get a dry Christmas and good to soft ground. Unlikely you might say, but not impossible.
Silviniaco Conti is as low as 3/1 for the King George after his Betfair Chase victory. He will be bidding for his second King George and will be a tough nut to crack if he gets his ground. The horse he beat at Kempton last year, Cue Card, was disappointing on Saturday. He jumped well and set a decent pace but either looked as though he needed the race or that something might be amiss with him. Colin Tizzard still indicated that he will probably go to Kempton. He is out to 12/1 for the King George… a great price if he recaptures his best form.
Dynaste plugged on to be third and is also a decent each-way price at 14/1 for the King George but he looks more of a middle distance horse and may always come up short when put over 3m-plus.
Taquin Du Seuil was the big disappointment (especially after I tipped him). He jumped scratchily and raced wide, presumably in a search for slightly better ground. Some reports say he hated the ground, which I find hard to believe for a horse who has good form on the soft. The jury is out on this fellow but maybe he is mentally not ready to take on the real big boys. The Betfair Chase has seen many rising stars come a cropper: My Way De Solzen was put in his place by Kauto Star and was never the same horse afterwards. Hopefully this was just a blip in Taquin Du Seuil’s burgeoning career and fair play to Barry Geraghty for pulling him up early after a series of poor jumps down the back straight. He is now friendless in the King George VI Chase market and out to 25/1.
Paul Nicholls has another strong King George candidate in Al Ferof who was mighty impressive winning the Amlin Chase at Ascot and his odds range from 6s to 12/1 for Kempton while, of course, there is also Simonsig and Champagne Fever to consider. A Christmas cracker indeed…
Who is your ante-post fancy for the King George VI Chase? Feel free to respond below…