The festive season brings some top-class horse racing action, including the Welsh Grand National and the Rowland Meyrick Chase, but the undoubted highlight of the week is the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Fresh from over-indulging on turkey and Christmas pudding, eager racing fans will flock from all over the country for this prestigious event. The three-mile chase gets underway at just after 15:00 and boasts a prize fund of around £150,000. Past winners include Desert Orchid, who won the race four times in the late 80s, and record-breaking five-time winner Kauto Star.
In the hunt for this year's prize will be Paul Nicholls' grey prospect Politologue. He picked up his first Grade One win over two miles in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last year. That win was sandwiched by a couple of Grade Two successes at Kempton and Exeter, also over two miles.
He has also had a couple of mediocre run-outs, but seemed to respond well when stepping up to two and a half miles in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree. In his latest trip, he came on strong to beat Charbel over 2m 5f at Ascot.
There is a belief that 3m will suit him even better, but the lack of experience over the distance will put some punters off. Will he blossom or be overwhelmed on the day? That’s the burning question. It should be remembered that Kauto Star faced similar questions in his first outing here. In the latest horse racing odds, bookies have the seven-year-old priced at 11/2.
Out to give the young upstart a run for his money will be the Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack. The 10-year-old won here in 2016 and showed a glimpse of a return to form, coming third in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. That run came after nearly a year out, and he should improve further by race day.
He finished fourth last year, but had a poor start and had to battle back to remain in contention for second in the final stages. There is plenty of positivity around this one, and a price of 7/1 will tempt a few.
Last year’s winner Might Bite will be back to defend his crown and will start the race as favourite. However, the current price of 3/1 looks a little short for a runner who has struggled for form since his return. He brought up the rear of a five-horse card at Haydock coming in behind Bristol De Mai, Native River, Thistlecrack and Clan des Obeaux, who are all due to run on Boxing Day. The chances of him turning that lacklustre display into a plucky win in tough conditions at Kempton look slim.
With all things considered, Politologue looks like the pick of the bunch in terms of form coming into the race and value in the betting markets.