Yardsticks – those are what all horse racing punters crave when getting their ante-post house in order.
One such ‘marker’ came on Boxing Day when Kempton Park played host to an outstanding renewal of the King George VI Chase.
According to the bookies, this royal renewal looked set to be a two-horse race between Cyrname, from the Paul Nicholls yard that has enjoyed so much success at this meeting in the past, and Lostintranslation, the brilliant Mildmay and Betfair Chase champion.
But neither could lay a glove on Clan Des Obeaux, who became the fifteenth multiple winner of the King George in successfully defending his title by some 21 lengths.
|1st||Clan Des Obeaux||Paul Nicholls||Sam Twiston-Davies||11/2|
|2nd||Cyrname||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden||5/4 Fav|
|3rd||Footpad||Willie Mullins||Barry Geraghty||13/2|
|4th||Aso||Venetia Williams||Charlie Deutsch||28/1|
|PU||Lostintranslation||Colin Tizzard||Robbie Power||15/8|
It was a renewal that offered punters some interesting insight of how these horses can cope with competing in a top-class field, and one that also had some implications for the Cheltenham Festival 2020 markets – especially with the two favourites running such indifferent races.
So let’s take a look at the major players in the King George field, and whether there is any value in backing them early on for success at Cheltenham.
Clan Des Obeaux
There is an obvious path from the King George to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and it’s one which has been well-trodden with success and failure in equal measure in recent years.
The Nicholls yard had high hopes for Clan Des Obeaux when he won the King George 12 months ago, but a rather indifferent run at Prestbury Park just a few months later saw him finish fifth and some eleven lengths back from the Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo.
It means that the seven-year-old still hasn’t won at Cheltenham at any point in his career, and so punters backing him in so feverishly to as short as 6/1 in the Gold Cup 2020 ante post market have perhaps moved prematurely.
Like another multiple champion of the King George, Bristol De Mai, Clan Des Obeaux is a horse who tends to falter to deceive away from his favourite Kempton Park hunting ground.
Given Paul Nicholls’ record in the King George, it was little wonder that Cyrname was so easily backed in to 5/4 for the Grade 1 affair.
But he turned in a rather listless effort in his three-mile debut, with Harry Cobden reporting that the horse seemed ‘flat’ both before and during the race.
We can all but write him off at the longer distance, and a return to 2m 5f surely beckons.
The seven-year-old will make a return to his favourite Ascot stomping ground for their Grade 1 Chase in February, but it’s a bit of a headscratcher trying to figure out where – if at all – he will appear at the Cheltenham Festival.
For now, the French horse might be one to park if you are shortlisting Cheltenham contenders.
Of all the performances in the King George, it was the error-strewn showing of Lostintranslation that most got tongues wagging.
The seven-year-old delivered a schizophrenic effort, running keenly to track the leaders before a number of jumping mistakes forced him to the rear of the field. He was pulled up by Robbie Power with three to jump.
But this is a horse with a decent record at Cheltenham, where he has won the Dipper Novices’ Chase and finished second to Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Connections will point the Colin Tizzard trained horse at the Gold Cup, but he will need to step up in class once more to compete with the stacked field in the Festival’s showpiece renewal.