Thursday 20 December 2018

King George VI Chase Preview

The King George VI Chase, due off at 3.05 p.m. at Kempton on Boxing Day, once again looks like serving up a festive treat for National Hunt fans. The ante post market for the Kempton showpiece is dominated by last year’s winner, Might Bite (3/1, in a place), but Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old is on a retrieval mission after trailing in last of five, beaten 28¾ lengths, behind Bristol De Mai (7/1) in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Henderson believes Might Bite was unsettled by the big, solid fences at Haydock on that occasion, but his mercurial ‘chaser is short enough at the odds on offer.

Bristol De Mai finished 25¾ lengths behind Might Bite in this race last year, so Native River (15/2, in a place) and Thistlecrack (7/1), who were second and third, respectively, in the Betfair Chase, make more appeal. Native River, of course, beat Might Bite by 4½ lengths after an epic duel in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March and, while he has the ‘Blue Riband’ event as his main aim again this season, looks a leading contender if the going at Kempton remains on the soft side of good.

Thistlecrack, who won this race in 2016 before finishing fourth, beaten 5¾ lengths, behind Might Bite last season, suffered a stress fracture last January, which precluded a clash with Native River in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, the ten-year-old is now apparently fully recovered and, while he lacks experience over fences compared with his rivals, remains one to take seriously.

Waiting Patiently (5/1) hasn’t been seen since beating Cue Card by 2¾ lengths in the Ascot Chase, over 2 miles 5 furlongs, in February and, although he tackles 3 miles for the first time, is unbeaten over fences and doesn’t have much to find on official ratings. He could be a potential fly-in-the-ointment if fit and ready to go after a 312-day break.

Politologue (11/2) is another who needs to prove his stamina over 3 miles after winning over 2 miles 5 furlongs at Ascot, in his case in the Christy 1965 Chase, in which he beat subsequent easy winner Charbel by half a length. The exciting grey has 7lb, or 8lb, to find with the best of these of on official figures, but trainer Paul Nicholls believes he’ll stay 3 miles and, if so, must enter the reckoning.

At much longer odds, 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Coneygree (40/1, in a place), now rising 12 years of age, has had his problems, but deserves an honourable mention after a highly promising return to action when third of 15, beaten 5¾ lengths, in the Handicap Chase, over 3 miles 3½ furlongs, at Cheltenham last month under 11st 12lb.

Win or lose, Native River has done very little wrong in recent seasons and, with the going likely to remain on the soft side, makes most appeal at the odds on offer.

Selection: Kempton 3.05 Native River (15/2 with Betfair Sportsbook) to win

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Neptune Collonges Edges Out Sunhillboy to Win the 2012 Grand National

Shakalakaboomboom and Seabass were the hot favourites in the lead up to the 2012 Aintree National, with both backed into 8-1 joint favourites. Overcast skies were thankfully not accompanied by rain, as the excitement of the race reached fever point. It was this excitement that may have played its part in Tony McCoy’s mount Synchronised unseating the jocky at the tape, escaping the clutches of the stable hands and running free onto the course.

This was followed by further delays, as two false starts ensued from the over keenness of several riders. The anticipation reach fever pitch, as well as the fear that a repeat of the 1993 ‘non-race’ debacle could be realised.

They’re Underway!

Fortunately, that was not the case, as the race got under way to enormous cheers from the Aintree crowd.

The 80-1 outsider Viking Blond was the only faller at the first and all but Tom Scudamore on Junior and West End Rocker managed to clear the second unscathed. Neptune Collonges was the early front runner, closely followed by almost the entire field, with the race yet to take shape.

Over Becher’s for the first time, it was Katie Walsh ahead on Shakalakaboomboom, with the field stretching out as this tough fence reduced the field down to 33 with the exit of the ill fated Synchronised after unseating champion jockey A P McCoy. Going over Canal Turn, the order the remained the same at the front, with the other favourite Seabass well placed in 3rd.

The race reached its halfway point with Planet of Sound around 4 lengths ahead of a now 24 strong field and the pace was proving too much for many of them, causing the remaining runners to spread out over almost half a furlong.

After much jostling for position and several more fences, Becher’s was fast approaching with Richard Johnson on Planet of Sound leading, Shakalakaboomboom second and the 14 year old Hello Bud in third

The National course was really taking its toll, as Foinavon was cleared with the runners down to 16, who were themselves spread out, with the same three horses vying for the title and Neptune Collonges running well a few lengths back. The pace picked up turning for home with 8 horses within touching distance of the front and it was promising to be a tight finish.

Over the final fence, there was nothing to choose between Seabass, Neptune Collonges and Shakalakaboomboom and the excitement remained right to the line, with the Grey Neptune Collonge involved in a photo finish with Richie McLernon after making an amazing comeback to steal it on the line.

One of the most excitingly close Nationals on record was called in Neptune Collonge’s favour by the Judge and it was a fairytale for the horse who was running his last ever race, jockey Daryl Jacob and John Hales who had finally got himself a winner at the 52nd attempt.

What a day. What a race.