Roll up, roll up, roll up.
It’s the mid-way point of the jumps season and with the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture looking more confused than Jamie Spencer’s decision to retire – someone, somewhere needs to stamp their authority on the Grade One Chasers’ staying division starting with the King George VI Chase on Boxing day.
The Blue Riband’s ante-post market looks more like the County Hurdle just 11 weeks out from the Festival showpiece but Friday’s three-mile smash up at Kempton and Sunday’s Lexus Chase at Leopardstown should make things a little clearer. Maybe.
Top jock and ‘not-at-all cranky’ Ruby Walsh spurns an extra couple of hours in the scratcher for the early-morning red eye to London where Champagne Fever has to prove he has the heart, guts and stamina to take his place at the top table with some of the best staying chasers in England.
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- Major hat tip to Alison Sheridan in Design for the King George Infographic
Chief among these is reigning King George VI Champ Silviniaco Conti who broke Cue Card’s heart last year when galloping past him at the second last for a three and a half length success.
His trainer Paul Nicholls has farmed this contest – in no small part to the exploits of Kauto Star and Ruby – and a back-to-back win for ‘Conti’ or maiden victory for Al Ferof will give the Ditcheat handler his ninth King George title in 18 years.
The last winner not to come from either the Nicholls’ or Nicky Henderson stable (no runner this year) was former dual winner Kicking King (2004 & 2005) trained in Ireland by Tom Taaffe.
He was crowned Cheltenham Gold Cup champion the March after his first win in 2004 – something Taaffe’s compatriot Willie Mullins will be hoping to repeat – starting next Friday.
Omen, coincidence or just words filling a page? We’ll all know a lot more come 3.15pm on Boxing day.