King George VI Chase Betting Tips, Stats & History

Steeplechases rarely come any bigger than the King George VI which has long been the highlight of the festive season. It stands as the showpiece event of Kempton Park’s Winter Festival as well as being one of the most prestigious races on the entire National Hunt calendar.

Race Info

This 3m Grade 1 chase is set to run on good to soft ground. The prize fund sits at £250,000 with £142,000 set to go to the winner.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Good to soft 3m 1 £250,000 11 1/5 1-3

King George VI Chase Betting Tips

Kempton, 15:05, Wednesday 26th December 2018

There’s several strong trends that have emerged from this race. 15 of the last 16 champions had previously won at Grade 1 level, raced within five weeks of the King George VI and finished in the top three last time out. Interestingly neither favourite Might Bite nor second favourite Waiting Patiently tick all of these boxes.

Every King George VI winner since 2004 set off at odds no larger than 9/2. It’s not been a race for surprises so consider the bookies’ prices to be a useful guide. Might Bite is gunning for glory for a second time in this race but he’s in no danger of catching up to Kauto Star’s achievements at Kempton. The French-bred horse won this race five times between 2006 and 2011, a record which will surely stand the test of time.

There really is no shortage of quality among the entries for this King George VI renewal which is headed by the highly regarded Might Bite (5/2). He’s not the only former winner set to be involved though, with Thistlecrack (6/1) also in the mix. Joining this pair are the likes of reigning Gold Cup champion Native River (7/1) and recent Betfair Chase victor Bristol De Mai (6/1).

Given the quality that will be present for this race, winning it will be no easy feat. The finest of margins could decide the outcome of a contest that is shaping up to be a true thriller. Many of those involved are being prepped for Cheltenham and how they perform here will give us an indication of their Festival chances.

Might Bite goes back to school

Nicky Henderson said the confidence of Might Bite over the fences has been shaken following a gruelling test at Haydock Park last month. The nine-year-old was the favourite for the race but his inability to handle the fences saw him wind up last. The obstacles at Haydock received criticism for being too tall and stiff but Might Bite struggled more than most. Concerned by the display, his trainer sent him to train with jumping expect Yogi Breisner. There’s no guarantee of a quick fix though so the race favourite makes for a big risk in this race.

Waiting Patiently rarely disappoints

Waiting Patiently has gone from strength to strength during a run of six victories from six chase starts. There have been some low class wins in this time but there was nothing low class about his Ascot Chase success in February. The gelding commandingly held Cue Card at bay as he proved his emphatic Listed win at Kempton a month earlier was no fluke.

He’ll have the stamina for a three mile test but you have to question what shape he’ll be in having not been out for 10 months. The seven-year-old has pleased in recent workouts though and has showed no rust on his last two season returns.

Bowen heaps praise on Coneygree

Last season was a disappointing one for Coneygree with the former Gold Cup hero pulled up in his only two starts. There was growing concern that the now 11-year-old had lost it but he showed signs of life last month at Cheltenham. Despite a heavy handicap, Mark Bradstock’s horse finished a credible third and could’ve have done even better had the race been a little shorter. Jockey Sean Bowen called him the best horse he’s ever ridden after the contest and was in an equally upbeat mood following a recent public ride. The 21-year-old said Coneygree schooled brilliantly and is confident of more to come from him.

Final Verdict: Waiting Patiently to win

He’s yet to be beaten over fences and this is a record Waiting Patiently could well keep intact. Ruth Jefferson’s entry ended last season with a couple of fine victories and there seems little reason why he cannot begin this campaign in a similar fashion. Coneygree may struggle to keep up but at such a long price, the once formidable horse remains a tempting each way bet.

Recent Winners

2018 Clan Des Obeaux 12/1 Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden
2017 Might Bite 6/4 Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville
2016 Thistlecrack 11/10 Colin Tizzard Tom Scudamore
2015 Cue Card 9/2 Colin Tizzard Paddy Brennan
2014 Silviniaco Conti 15/8 Paul Nicholls Noel Fehily
2013 Silviniaco Conti 7/2 Paul Nicholls Noel Fehily
2012 Long Run 15/8 Nicky Henderson Sam Waley-Cohen
2011 Kauto Star 3/1 Paul Nicholls Ruby Walsh
2011* Long Run 9/2 Nicky Henderson Sam Waley-Cohen
2009 Kauto Star 8/13 Paul Nicholls Ruby Walsh

*2010 race took place on the 15/01/2011 after the meeting was abandoned.

About the King George VI Chase: A Boxing Day Belter

king george vi chase

There aren’t too many races over the course of the season that even the average non-racing fan is not at least dimly aware. We of course have the Grand National at Aintree, the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and the Epsom Derby on the flat, but not far behind these is the annual Christmastime chasing spectacular that is Kempton Park’s King George VI Chase. Held on Boxing Day each year, and televised since back in 1949, this remains one of the real landmark sporting events of the calendar year.

The jewel in the crown of Kempton’s two-day Winter Festival which takes place on the 26th and 27th December each year, this top tier Grade 1 contest, open to all runners aged four and older, is a headline act fit to grace any stage, and a race rich in both history and racing legend.

Royal Beginnings

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Disembarking HMS Bicester in 1942
Royal Navy official photographer, Tomlin, H W (Lt), Wikimedia Commons

Coronated in December 1936, the renowned National Hunt fan King George VI soon had a race named in his honour, with the inaugural edition of this contest taking place in February 1937.

The first ever winner, Southern Halo, set an early benchmark for the oldest winner of the race when coming home in front at the grand old age of 12. As of 2017, this record remains unequalled.

The event’s initial run was soon interrupted by the onset of the Second World War in 1939 though, during which time Kempton racecourse served the rather less entertaining function of being utilised as a prisoner of war camp.

Bouncing Back On Boxing Day

The race was back with a bang in 1947 though, with Fulke Walwyn steering Rowland Boy to victory in the first ever edition of the race to be held on its now customary date of Boxing Day, and Kempton has been serving up this late Christmas present ever since.

Well, almost ever since. The race has been lost to the wintery elements four times, and foot and mouth once over the years. The only two editions to ever take place away from came in 1996 and 2005 when nearby Sandown Park stepped up to the plate to host this most famous of races.

List of Abandoned King George VI Chases at Kempton

Year(s)Reason for AbandonmentDetails
2010 Snow & Frost Race took place 15th Jan 2011 at Kempton
2005 Redevelopment Race took place 26th Dec 2005 at Sandown
1995 Snow & Frost Race took place 6th Jan 1996 at Sandown
1981 Snow & Frost Races were not rescheduled
1970 Snow
1968 Frost
1967 Foot-and-mouth outbreak
1962 Frost
1961 Frost
1939 - 1946 World War II

Not Too Young and Not Too Old The Recipe For Success

Whilst it may be open to chasers aged four and older, it is relatively unusual for such youthful horses to contest the race, and even rarer to see one come home in front. So rare in fact that as of 2017 no four year old had ever claimed the trophy. Indeed, up to and including the 2017 edition of the King George VI, the five year old winner of the 1950 edition, Manicou, was the only runner younger than six to prevail.

Looking a little closer at the age trend, the graph below gives a full breakdown of the age of the winners up to and including the 2017 race. It would appear that the seven to nine age bracket is the golden window of opportunity for the top chasers in the game to get their noses in front here.

Chart Showing the Age of King George VI Chase Winning Horses Between 1937 and 2018

Look To The Past To Predict The Future

The 1950s saw the first dual winner of the race. Named Halloween, it may have been expected that this Fred Winter-trained runner might have been in his prime at the back end of October, but it turns out Halloween rather liked it on Boxing Day, returning in 1954 to reclaim the crown he first won in 1952.

The next dual winner followed soon after, with viewers finishing off the last of the chocolate oranges in 1957 and 1959 witnessing the Fulke Walwyn ridden, Mandarin, coming home in front.

This has in fact been an excellent race for previous winners overall as the table below shows. Years shown in bold signify King George VI Chase victories in successive races.

List Multiple King George VI Chase Winning Horses

HorseTrainerYears Won
Kauto Star Paul Nicholls 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011
Desert Orchid David Elsworth 1986 1988 1989 1990  
Wayward Lad M & M Dickinson 1982 1983 1985    
Silviniaco Conti Paul Nicholls 2013 2014      
Long Run Nicky Henderson 2010 2012      
Kicking King Tom Taaffe 2004 2005      
See More Business Paul Nicholls 1997 1998      
One Man Gordon W. Richards 1995 1996      
The Fellow Francois Doumen 1991 1992      
Silver Buck T & M Dickinson 1979 1980      
Captain Christy Pat Taaffe 1974 1975      
Pendil Fred Winter 1972 1973      
Mandarin Fulke Walwyn 1957 1959      
Halloween Bill Wightman 1952 1954      

Of the 68 renewals run up to 2018, no fewer than 20 had been landed by a previous winner of the race. That’s close to 30% and is most certainly a stat worth bearing in mind when weighing up future editions.

All Time Greats Take To The Stage

In any other decade, 1963 winner, Mill House, would likely have been the dominant chaser of his generation. Unfortunately for Mill House he was around at the same time as many experts’ idea of the greatest racehorse of all time, Arkle. Arkle himself claimed this title just the once, in 1965 when he was an eight year old.

Wayward Lad (1982 to 1985)

The early eighties belonged to the Michael Dickinson-trained Wayward Lad who claimed King George gold in 1982,1983 and 1985, becoming the first ever three-time winner of the race. By 1990 though that record hand not only been equalled but overtaken.

Desert Orchid (1986 to 1990)

Step forward everyone’s favourite grey, Desert Orchid. This true legend of the chasing game was crowned the king of Kempton four times between 1986 and 1990, creating some of the most unforgettable moments in the sport, and going some way to boosting the popularity of the event still further.

Kauto Star (2006 to 2011)

All records are made to be broken though, and even good old Dessie’s couldn’t last forever. Could a horse really claim this prize on five separate occasions?

Yes they could. And that horse went by the name of Kauto Star. Successful four times in succession between 2006 and 2009, the majestic Paul Nicholls star was dethroned by Long Run in the 2010 edition before producing a jaw-dropping display to conquer that rival in 2011. Truly the stuff of which racing legends are made, and a just a part of what made Kauto so popular with the racing public. A horse who won’t soon be forgotten.

A Million Reasons To Win This One

As if the value and prestige of winning this race wasn’t already rewarding enough, the Jockey Club upped the ante still further in 2015, when including the King George in its £1million bonus scheme. Land this prize in addition to the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and connections will find a cool million winging its way into their bank accounts.

Stayers' Triple Crown Races: The Betfair Million

LegRaceCourseMonth Run
1 Betfair Chase Haydock November
2 King George VI Chase Kempton December
3 Gold Cup Cheltenham March

With the backing of such history and modern incentives like this, one of the greatest shows on turf can surely only continue to go from strength to strength! Who cares about presents on Christmas Day when we have the King George on Boxing Day?!

Other Races of Note at Kempton

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