The King George VI Chase is right up there with the biggest races of the National Hunt season. This Grade 1 contest was first run back in February of 1937 in honour of the newly crowned King George VI. The first couple of races were low key affairs with the race not really growing in stature until the post-war period when it was moved to Kempton Parks’ Boxing Day fixture.
The King George has since flourished and is viewed by jumps racing fans as second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in terms of prestige. It is always a very challenging race to win but the quality field assembled for each renewal ensures we are in for a thrilling spectacle.
Next Race: Sunday, 26th December 2021
The next race is scheduled to run on 26th December 2021. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 26th December 2020
- Winner: Frodon
- SP: 20/1
- Trainer: Paul Nicholls
- Jockey: Bryony Frost
Three miles is the trip for one of the most famous Grade 1 chase contests of the calendar year. Offering a guaranteed £204,000 in total prize money, the race annually attracts the cream of the staying chase division. The ground at Kempton is currently described as good to soft and, with only minimal rain forecast, isn’t expected to deteriorate come the day of the race.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good to Soft||3m||Grade 1||£204,000||10 Runners||1/5 1-3|
King George VI Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in the history of this great race, and by some distance too, with the Ditcheat handler’s tally of 11 successes being more than double the amount recorded by any other handler.
There looks to be a pretty strong chance that Nicholls will make it a dozen in 2020, with four of the current 10-runner field hailing from his yard, including the top two in the market, the superb duo of Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname.
This has been one of the better Grade 1s on the calendar for repeat winners. Wayward Lad claimed the prize three times in the 1980s, whilst Desert Orchid went one better when bagging the trophy for a fourth time in 1990. Best of all though is the Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star, who came home in front on an incredible five occasions. Those looking to follow the previous winner angle this year will no doubt be keen to support the 2018 and 2019 champ, Clan Des Obeaux.
Partly down to those repeat victors, this has also been a solid contest for the jolly in terms of strike rate in recent years, with four of the past 10 favourites having come home in front. There haven’t been any great prices in amongst that lot, but the sequence has still been enough to sneak supporters of the market leader into a profit of 35p to £1 level stakes. That is mostly thanks to the defending champion who was priced at the very tidy odds of 12/1 for his first victory in 2018.
Odds are a decent place to continue looking at trends, with only one winner in the last 20 runs going in at bigger than that 12/1 price. Unsurprisingly, 19 of our last 20 winners had also previously won a Grade 1, whilst that same percentage had also scored at least a place with 70 days of this contest. Lastly, in terms of age it is the younger horses who have tended to do best in recent times.
Whilst we have had two winners aged 11 this century, most recently when Kauto claimed his final victory in 2011, they are the only horses aged over nine to win since Desert Orchid completed his hat-trick in 1990. Since 2011 horses aged seven or eight have won six of the eight contests.
|Clan Des Obeaux||7/4||171||Paul Nicholls||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|Cyrname||15/8||176||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|Santini||6/1||172||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
Clan Des Obeaux – 7/4
Given his previous record in the race, and the many trends boxes he ticks, it is no real surprise that it is dual champ Clan Des Obeaux who heads the betting in most lists. 1½l too good for the defending champ Thistlecrack when causing a 12/1 shock in the 2018 edition, he then made a mockery of 11/2 odds in a five runner edition of the race 12 months ago when demolishing the field by an eased down 21 lengths.
The bare form of that is particularly strong ahead of this year’s edition, as the horse to finish a distant second to him that day was non-other than stablemate, Cyrname, who the market rates as his most likely challenger this time around.
Much like in each of the last two seasons, the eight year old heads into this on the back of just the one previous outing. And it was a pretty decent return too when finishing a 2l second to course specialist Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. On the downside, Nicholls was pretty bullish about his chances of winning in the lead up to that race, suggesting he had him at close to his peak for his return.
Looking back at that race though, the heavy ground did suit the winner far more on the day, and Clan Des Obeaux should be much better suited by the likely conditions here. Moreover, it is perhaps he who can be deemed the course specialist here. A winner on his second start in each of the past four seasons, and thoroughly proven over the course and distance, he looks a worth favourite.
Cyrname – 15/8
As solid as the case for Clan Des Obeaux looks on paper, he is not actually the best horse in this race - at east according to the official handicapper. That honour belongs to the fellow Paul Nicholls runner, eight year old Cyrname. Given this horse’s mighty reputation, it is a little surprising to learn that he has just the one previous Grade 1 chase success to his name, with that effort coming when destroying the field from the front in the 2019 Ascot Chase. It was in fact that 17-length demolition job which resulted in him being handed a lofty perch of 176, making him the highest rated chaser currently in training.
As impressive as that Ascot Chase contest was, Cyrname’s highest profile win to date came back at Ascot in the 2019 Grade 2 Christy 1965 chase, when becoming the first - and so far only - horse to beat the brilliant Altior over fences, albeit over a distance far more in his favour than that of the Nicky Henderson star.
That looked a tough race at the time, and the subsequent efforts of Cyrname do suggest it may have left a mark, with the mount of Harry Cobden being beaten 21l in this race and falling when beaten in defence of his Ascot Chase crown. Those efforts posed a question headed into the current season, but he answered them with aplomb when cruising clear in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. With 5lb in hand on the book, and the possibility of getting his own way in front, he looks a big threat here.
Santini – 6/1
Unexpected further intrigue was added to this year’s edition with the late news that Nicky Henderson had taken the decision to supplement his talented Milan gelding, Santini for the race, with the eight year old immediately being installed as third favourite across the board. Henderson is certainly no slouch with staying chasers and, whilst he doesn’t come close to matching the record of Nicholls in this race, he does have three wins to his name since 2010, so clearly knows the type of runner needed to succeed.
Sitting on a mark of 172, Santini is actually 1lb superior to Clan Des Obeaux on the book, but unlike the market leader, he does not yet have a Grade 1 chase win to his name, not a great pointer on trends. He could hardly have come much closer though having finished second to Topofthegame in the 2019 RSA Novices Chase, and gone down by only a rapidly diminishing ½l to Al Boum Photo in the 2020 Gold Cup.
That’s clearly high-class form which brings him right into contention, but considering he often takes a while to get going before doing his best work late, this step down to 3m on a sharpish track does pose a question. That said, he is fit and well from a recent comeback at Aintree and can go close if in touch as they turn for home.
King George VI Chase Winners
|2020||Frodon||20/1||Paul Nicholls||Bryony Frost|
|2019||Clan Des Obeaux||11/2||Paul Nicholls||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|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|
About the King George VI Chase: A Boxing Day Belter
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.
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 Abandonment||Details|
|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|
|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 2019 no four year old had ever claimed the trophy. Indeed, up to and including the 2019 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 2019 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.
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, with Clan Des Obeaux the latest to do this with wins in 2018 and 2019.
List Multiple King George VI Chase Winning Horses
|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|
|Clan Des Obeaux||Paul Nicholls||2018||2019|
|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|
Of the 69 renewals run up to 2019, no fewer than 21 had been landed by a previous winner of the race. That’s over 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
|2||King George VI Chase||Kempton||December|
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?!