King George VI Chase preview
The feature race of the day is the King George VI Chase (14.30) at Kempton, and Coral PR Executive, Lewis Knowles, has provided a preview on every runner exclusively for Coral Racing Club members.
Following his stunning victory in the Mildmay Novices’ at the Aintree festival, I really thought Lucinda Russell’s star would take his seat at the very top table this year, but things haven’t quite gone to plan so far. His jumping, as was the case in his novice season, has been his achilles heel, and that will be put under real pressure here at Kempton. Having said that, there’s no doubting Ahoy Senor’s ability, and if he can get into a good rhythm at his fences, then he could certainly get involved at a very big price.
As he showed when winning the Kauto Star on this card last season, this course is made for Bravemansgame, and Paul Nicholls’ outstanding record in this race only further enhances his claims. The only blot on his copybook over fences came when well-beaten behind Ahoy Senor at Aintree in April, but he got his revenge on that rival in the Charlie Hall earlier this season, and he’ll be confident of confirming his superiority at Kempton. All his wins over fences have come in small-field races, so it remains to be seen if he can dictate things as easily in this slightly bigger field, or if he can really battle when push comes to shove.
Although he was well-beaten behind Protektorat in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last time, Joe Tizzard’s chaser has shown that he can more than hold his own in these Grade 1 staying chases. He’s seemingly running as well as ever of late, but you’d suspect Eldorado Allen will need a few ahead of him in the market to falter, if he’s going to seriously get into contention in a race as competitive as this.
Although he’s not reached the heights that seemed likely during his novice campaigns, Envoi Allen took a big step in the right direction when winning the Grade 1 at Down Royal last month. That was only his second try at three miles under rules, so it can certainly be argued he’s very unexposed at the trip, and his high cruising speed should be a real asset round here if he can get into a good jumping rhythm. As the second highest rated horse in the field, he has a clear chance on ratings, and if Henry de Bromhead has him anywhere near his best, then he looks a very solid contender.
Course form is always crucial at Kempton, and Frodon’s record of 3-5 round here will certainly stand him in good stead. He arguably put up a career-best effort when winning this race in 2020, and he wasn’t completely disgraced when fourth here last year. My gut feeling is that Frodon’s best days are behind him, and although he seems to make a fool of me every time I write him off, I’d be surprised if a few of these aren’t too good for him on the day.
Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old certainly shouldn’t lack for pace here, but the big question mark is whether he can grind it out at the back end of the race on his first try at three miles. He won impressively at Haydock last time, but beating the 144-rated Erne River off level weights wouldn’t be form that would stand out in this line-up, and I suspect he’ll find a few too good at this level.
A win in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle off 164 proved that Venetia Williams’ horse should rank very highly in top staying chases for years to come. On ratings, he’s now 5lb clear of Envoi Allen, and 6lb clear of Bravemansgame, so with the likelihood of more to come, he could take all the beating. Connections seem to think he’ll need soft ground to be seen to best effect, but he has plenty of form on good to soft, so I don’t think conditions will be a problem, and I think he’s the one they all have to beat.
Alex Hales’ stable star has gone from strength to strength since going chasing, culminating in a Grade 1 victory in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in the spring. The form of that race is certainly open to question, as is Millers Bank’s stamina for three miles, so while he might show up well for a long way, you’d suspect he’ll have to take a big step forward on what he’s shown so far to trouble the principles.
Royale Pagaille is a high-class performer on his day, and he was far from disgraced when fifth in last year’s Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Venetia Williams’ eight-year-old has seemingly flourished in in bottomless ground when the emphasis has really been on stamina, so there’d have to be serious question marks as to the suitability of this race if the rain doesn’t arrive, but he’s another who could run an admirable race in defeat.
1st – L’homme Presse, 2nd Envoi Allen, 3rd Bravemansgame