ITV Racing Tips: Minella Indo can emulate Kauto Star in Ladbrokes King George VI Chase
For many racing fans the highlight of the festive period is not Christmas Day, but Boxing Day. It’s the one day of the year when Kempton buzzes to the sound of large crowds who will flock, masks at the ready, to Sunbury-on-Thames for one of the most historic chases in the calendar, the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
It’s an annual pilgrimage that has delivered many gifts, from the performances of the flamboyant grey Desert Orchid to the amazing feats of Kauto Star, a record five-time winner.
Kauto Star’s trainer Paul Nicholls has continued his obsession with the race and now seeks his 13th victory with two of his previous winners, dual victor Clan Des Obeaux and last year’s winner Frodon.
New to the mix this year is Minella Indo, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, who will bid to become the first horse since Kauto Star in 2009 to win both championship races in the same year. It could be the Rachael Blackmore v Bryony Frost show.
The Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle is a less prestigious affair in which Epatante and Not So Sleepy, who dead-heated for the Fighting Fifth, face a rematch.
The Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase will feature the two most exciting British staying novices seen so far, Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame.
They will be part of a five-race card shown by ITV, comprising four races from Kempton and one from Wetherby. Coverage begins on ITV at 13:00 and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing Tips.
Scottish raider Ahoy Senor is rated 3lb superior to Bravemansgame by the handicapper and this race should go a long way to determining whether that is an accurate reflection of their ability over fences.
Ahoy Senor came home unchallenged at Newbury and is very highly regarded by his team. He beat Bravemansgame when they met over hurdles in April.
However, Ahoy Senior’s transition to fences has not been blemish-free. He unseated first time out and made mistakes at Newbury so Bravemansgame, impressive in both wins over fences, could be the safer option.
Nicky Henderson is chasing his tenth victory and in truth there is probably only one horse capable of stopping him adding to his score. His former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante won this race two years ago and was not at her best when second to Silver Streak last year.
She made a winning return to action when taking the Fighting Fifth in a dead heat with Not So Sleepy last month.
She is bound to come on for that run and while Not So Sleepy is a strong opponent, Newcastle was the closest he has ever come to defeating the Henderson mare. On all previous form she should come out on top this time.
This is a strong renewal this year thanks to the presence of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo who takes on two former winners Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux.
Paul Nicholls has made this race his own and he is sure to have his challengers tuned to the minute. The game Frodon was match-ready when he defeated Galvin and Minella Indo at Down Royal while Clan Des Obeaux took the scalp of Al Boum Photo at Punchestown last spring.
Neither are as effective at Cheltenham but at Kempton they are a match for anyone. Minella Indo was not at his peak at Down Royal and only has five lengths to find on Frodon.
He travelled well until lack of fitness caught up with him so with the race under his belt, he can find more improvement at Kempton in first time cheekpieces and seal an extraordinary year in which the Henry de Bromhead stable has won the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Gold Cup and Grand National.
ITV Racing Schedule, Sunday 26th December
13:20 Kempton – 2m4f novices’ handicap chase
13:55 Kempton – Kauto Star Novices’ Chase
14:10 Wetherby – Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase
14:30 Kempton – Christmas Hurdle
15:05 Kempton – King George VI Chase
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing