I ran out of time to complete a full preview on this race so thought it best to upload a few of my diary notes with a brief summary.
No bet for me but a fascinating renewal of the King George nonetheless.
A few notes to compare with your own thoughts.
I thought this was a particularly tricky renewal of this grade one chase with plenty of negatives to attach to most of the runners. The morning favourite for the race is Waiting Patiently which is rather surprising. I believe he is quite probably the best two and a half mile chaser around when competing on soft going. I doubt he will have much trouble staying this extra distance on a relatively quicker surface; my dilemma with him, however, is whether or not he will find himself too far out of his ground in what is likely to be a fast run affair.
Might Bite is the very obvious winner of this race if we choose to forget his seasonal debut run at Haydock. Of course we cannot just brush this disappointing effort under the carpet; especially when his current price of around 7/2 does not allow for the possibility that he may repeat the quality of that last performance.
I am not keen on Native River round here in good to soft ground and hold plenty of doubts about the chances of Politilogue. I am against so many of these that I have come round to thinking that the latter could end up winning or going close by default – even if he does not quite get home. Still…. not for me. If Native River is the one for you I would suggest backing him at one of the points in the race he looks very likely to get outpaced. I suspect he will struggle round the final bend before staying on in the home straight. I would be very disappointed if a horse like him that is so clearly unsuited to the day were to prove good enough to win. If this were to happen I think it would be more to do with the failings of others.
I am not betting in this race but by a process of elimination I felt that Bristol De Mai had less to forgive than most at around 8/1
Thistlecrack ran with some promise at Haydock in the finish. His poor round of jumping, however, is of major concern. The fact that he ran below what would be required here in each of his previous two performances adds to my doubts about him. I would rather take a chance on Clan Des Obeaux at twice the price.
Coneygree will probably not be quick enough unless it rains heavily before 3pm (no rain predicted) Ironically this leaves Double Shuffle and Tea For Two at 50/1 whilst both competing in their ideal conditions. I don’t particularly fancy either of them; at the same time it would be no surprise to see one of them remain competitive until the latter stages given how many doubts are attached to some of the shorter priced horses. They will both presumably be trading even bigger on the exchanges closer to the off and, although it is difficult to see one of them actually winning this race; equally either one could easily finish in the places once again or even in the SFC position.
17th February 2018 – Ascot – As superb a performance as this was his trainers comment post-race were of as much interest. She questioned whether or not he would handle the undulations and also confirmed that he will need cut in the ground in her opinion. I think the second point in itself is fairly obvious; however, it is still crucial to hear that she believes this to be true as it must cast strong doubt on his participation in the Ryanair Chase. He was quite brilliant here and probably beat a top class chaser returning to near his best and who was running in close to perfect conditions. If he does stay further then the Betfair Chase at Haydock will be the one on his connections minds for next season.
13th January 2018 – Kempton – On the one hand he beat very little in what was a relatively poor contest with most of his rivals competing in less than ideal conditions. On the other hand he will be much better on a softer surface and on a more galloping track. Once again he was impeccable over his fences and made up ground effortlessly in the home straight to win with consummate ease. He has shortened up considerably in both the Champion Chase and the Ryanair markets; however, unless he is lucky enough to find soft ground at the festival in March I cannot see either race being the right one for him. I have long felt that the Betfair Ascot Chase is the race for him so I was very pleased to be told that his connections had nominated that race as his next target. The other point about the festival is that a run round Ascot in a grade one on testing ground in the middle of February is not always the best prep for March.
24th November 2018 – Haydock – If we take this race in isolation he looked very dangerous five out and then blew up in the home straight. It may well be a simple case of him needing the run more than today’s rivals. Whatever the reasons this was clearly not his form and I feel happy drawing a line through this effort and marking him up on another day. Of course there will be a slight question mark against him if he goes straight for the King George; at the same time one would imagine that the market will offer some compensation for that minor doubt. He has now been beaten on his seasonal debut in four out of five seasons and this might be all there is to do with this disappointing looking performance. He has won on his second start in each of the last four seasons which is a very positive stat.
26th December 2017 – Kempton – This is quite an interesting race to consider in terms of its final placings. The best horse certainly finished in front though what we make of the placed horses has to be open to some debate. From four out until the first in the home straight Might Bite was approximately 20 lengths quicker compared with Black Corton in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on ground that would be softer than ideal. Part of the reason for this was Black Corton being given a breather on the home bend and the other reason was Nico de Boinville driving his horse to see of the wilting challenge of Bristol De Mai. As a consequence of this energetic push Might Bite was ultimately less impressive looking in the finish than he otherwise might have been with an easier journey from four out to the third last fence. Bristol De Mai struggled home after taking on Might Bite and Thistlecrack ran okay after being the next closest horse to the two leaders for most of the race. If Fox Norton did not stay then this only leaves Whisper who most likely ran up light after his recent exploits in what was the Hennessy. With a relatively small field I doubt there is much more mystery to the finishing order than that.
NH stated that the idea was to ride him like the last fence was just another fence rather than a finish of something. This tactic would also result in him not surging clear after two out like he did last season here.
24th November 2018 – Ascot – As usual he jumped really quickly and clean throughout. The first half of this race was relatively slow compared with the two mile handicap chase on the card. From about five out to the line he made up close to three seconds on Speredek which adds to the notion of this being run at only a steady gallop with a really strong finish from half way down the back to the winning line. It is possible that he would look more impressive off a faster pace; at the same time this effort does not take anything away from my slight concerns regarding the extent of his stamina for this trip. I doubt very much that Charbel has suddenly developed into being a near championship performer so his proximity at the line is a worry. This run has increased my belief that he may well have ‘outstayed a non-stayer’ in Min at Aintree in April.
I would not be interested in Politologue over further in the King George Chase on Boxing Day. Firstly he has to prove he will stay the extra distance and secondly he will have to improve on anything he has done previously to figure in the finish. His owner is mad keen to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup and I would strongly suspect that if he does go for that race it will be more down to the owner rather than the trainer.
24th November 2018 – Haydock – He needs a stiffer test of stamina and was always going half a stride faster than ideal. He will be equally if not more inconvenienced if heading for Kempton next; moreover, the Gold Cup will be the race to judge him on.
16th March 2018 – Cheltenham – Along with the runner up he was in the first two for the entire race and led for most of it. The recent rain played into his hands and he won this with a powerful staying performance jumping absolutely brilliantly along the way. The runner up probably just failed to get home; however, this was as much to do with the winner’s tenacity as any frailty in the Henderson horse. He was about six seconds quicker over the final circuit compared with Gino’s Trail on my time comparisons which supports the notion that this was a particularly high class performance. I compared their times from the final fence with a circuit to go to the line.
Bristol De Mai
24th November 2018 – Haydock – He won this race in a time more than 30 seconds quicker than when winning the 2017 renewal on heavy ground. On this evidence the significant variable in his profile is the name of the course rather than the testing nature of the ground. We could easily still pick holes in the quality of this form but that would not give enough credit to the winner who is now unbeaten in four runs round Haydock. He may well have been advantaged by leading as plenty of horses have struggled to make up ground on the chase track today. The runner up needs a less speed oriented track and was going half a stride too quickly all the way round. The third horse home was returning after a lengthy absence and did not jump with enough fluency to stay with the winner. The fourth horse home is a little below top class standard and is probably still a work in progress whilst the favourite looked set to be very competitive five out before blowing up early in the home straight. The winner’s Haydock form remains far superior to anything else he has achieved in his 20 races over fences. He will no doubt have his supporters when lining up in the King George and even in the Gold Cup; nonetheless, he will have to perform to a far higher level than he has ever managed away from Haydock to remain competitive until the latter stages on Boxing Day or at Cheltenham in March.
24th November 2018 – Haydock – He has performed okay on this first race since Boxing day 2017. At the same time he did not jump as fluently as his rivals and probably finished in front of very little in the way the race panned out. He was also never able to challenge a stable mate that was blatantly unsuited to the challenges on the day. His third place finish will read better than it was in reality and he will need to take a major stride forward to trouble an in form Might Bite at Kempton.
Clan Des Obeaux
24th November 2018 – Haydock – He has been a slow developer and remains a bit of a work in progress in his trainer’s mind. He was only beaten less than nine lengths and may improve on another day. He looks to have a decent prize in him; whether that will be in grade one, two or three level is more difficult to guess at this point of the season.
Tea For Two
9th December 2018 – Huntingdon – He was outpaced at the back and simply picked up plenty of pieces left by tiring rivals that had tried to keep tabs on the front end. He is usually best at Kempton and will presumably head for the King George next. He may well prove to be good enough to pick up plenty of prize money for the second year in a row.
8th December 2018 – Aintree – He has been highly tried and very badly handicapped of late in my view. The handicapper has finally relented and dropped him 7lbs for this defeat. This still leaves him as a horse that might be very difficult to place. One can imagine his connections going for the King George with him after his fine second place finish in it last season. I remain convinced he is massively flattered by his finishing position on that day; at the same time he does run his best races over the King George course and distance so he may well pick up plenty of prize money again this year.
17th November 2108 – Cheltenham – As exciting as this was we must still remember that he held a massive advantage by being ridden out in front. He should improve on this effort when competing on softer ground. His mark of 160 will make life difficult in handicaps; maybe he could be a threat in a soft ground Denman Chase if there are few runners.