The highlight of the National Hunt season around Christmas is the King George VI Chase, which takes place on December 26 at Kempton racecourse. Here is a look at everything you need to know about the prestigious contest and who the horses to look out for are in the race this year.
What is the King George VI Chase?
The King George VI Chase is the second leg of the Chase Triple Crown in the UK and is run over three miles (4,828 metres). The race has Grade One status and £225,000 in prize money and consequently attracts the best National Hunt horses from around the world. This contest was first run in 1937 when Southern Hero was the inaugural winner. Kauto Star holds the record for the most wins in the race, with five victories between 2007 and 2011.
Who is the Reigning Champion?
Might Bite was successful in the 2017 King George VI Chase in what was his first attempt at the Chase Triple Crown contest. Ridden by Nico de Boinville, the then eight-year-old was always prominent with the pacesetters and was then driven out after the last fence to out-battle Double Shuffle who had to settle for second place behind the former RSA Chase winner. Might Bite went off as the +250 favourite and justified that strong market support before finishing runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup later that season.
Who are the Leading Contenders This Year?
The betting for this year’s race is headed by defending Might Bite, who stands at 7/2 in the King George Chase odds. Nicky Henderson’s runner was last of the five runners on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock in the opening leg of the Chase Triple Crown, but he is expected to improve for that run on Boxing Day.
Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River is expected to line up in the King George this year for the first time in his career. If the ground becomes testing on the day, his chances will improve as he is a former Welsh Grand National winner, and will have no problems with challenging conditions. The Gold Cup in March will be his main target this season, however, connections will be delighted if he can add the second biggest race in the division to his name before the Festival.
Waiting Patiently is set for his return to action at Kempton in what will be his first run in nine months. The seven-year-old has been off the track through injury ever since his success in the Ascot Chase back in February where he defeated Cue Card and Top Notch. Ruth Jefferson’s runner will be having his first shot at the 3m distance and if he is as effective over the longer trip, he is expected to be in contention for the first prize.