By Simon Jackson.
Ten horses have been declared for the 64th running of the £200,000 William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Silviniaco Conti heads the betting at 5-2 with the sponsors to secure back to back victories in the Grade 1 contest following last year’s victory over Cue Card who re-opposes.
Silviniaco Conti impressed with the manner of his win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month and has reportedly come out of the race well.
Bookmakers believe his main rival is the Willie Mullins-trained second favourite Champagne Fever who is best-priced at 5-1 but as short as 3-1.
The dual Cheltenham Festival-winner impressed with the manner of his victory in a Grade 2 at Clonmel last month and will benefit from the services of Ruby Walsh, who won five King Georges on Kauto Star.
The jockey confirmed that he would ride Champagne Fever and the unbeaten Faugheen [Christmas Hurdle], after winning on stablemate Un de Sceaux at Fairyhouse last Saturday.
“I’ll be hoping for more of the same from Faugheen and Champagne Fever on December 26th because we’ve decided that I’ll be at Kempton to ride them,” Walsh said on his Paddy Power blog.
“It’s a killer to miss out on Vautour in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on the same day but as I said before, I can’t be in two places at once.
“They’re three very good horses so basically it’s come down to where two of the three are running. I’m very lucky to have the choice of such top-class mounts – but sometimes, something’s got to give.
“At least Faugheen won’t have to face the New One in the Christmas Hurdle and that makes it a little easier.
“But I won’t be under-estimating Irving. A flat track like Kempton will play to his strengths even though I can call on a few strengths in Faugheen’s game to combat him.
“Champagne Fever faces a stiff task but he jumps really well and has plenty of pace having won the Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham before just getting touched off in the Arkle.
“There is no dead wood in the King George. Everyone will go there thinking they’ve got a chance and it might come down to who handles conditions best on the day.
“Neither Faugheen or Champagne Fever wants extreme going. Deep ground would make the King George in particular a real stamina test and that could suit last year’s winner Silviniaco Conti best.”
The going at Kempton is currently good to soft and Brian Clifford, regional head of racing and clerk of the course at Kempton, has expressed his delight at the high quality of the 10 declared runners.
“It is fantastic to see such high quality entries across the card on Boxing Day and the William Hill King George VI Chase looks set to be a fantastic renewal,” he said. “The current going is Good to Soft, Soft on the bend adjacent to the lake.”
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.