The King George VI Chase is one of the most prestigious steeplechase races in England. Run each year on Boxing Day at Kempton Park, it is part of the Winter Festival and draws in some of the biggest names in jump racing. Horses such as Kauto Star, Arkle, Desert Orchid and Best Mate have all taken their place in the roll of honour, and the history books beckon for this year’s winner.
Established in February 1937 in honour of the new British monarch, King George VI, the race was only run twice before World War II. When Kempton re-opened for racing in 1947, the Chase returned. Instead of being held in February, it was run on Boxing Day – a tradition which has since withstood the test of time. The Chase is steeped in history and is one of the most anticipated races in the calendar.
Many can’t wait to get the latest horse racing odds, so let’s take a look back at some of the race’s biggest successes, while also looking ahead to this year’s field.
The big winners:
The most successful horse in the Chase is Kauto Star, with five wins. The French-bred gelding laid claim to four consecutive victories at Kempton between 2006 and 2009, before winning for a record fifth time in 2011. One of the best steeplechase horses in history, Kauto Star had an illustrious racing career. He remains the only horse to have won the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, and was a two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
The leading trainer is Paul Nicholls, who has over 3,000 winners across all competitions to date. Although he trained Kauto Star, his first success at the King George VI Chase came in the late 1990s with See More Business. He also trained back-to-back winner Silviniaco Conti. More recently, last year’s race was won by Clan Des Obeaux, famously owned by Sir Alex Ferguson. Nicholls leads the way with 10 wins in the Chase.
Irish dominance in this year’s field
Willie Mullins may be the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with 65 winners under his belt, but he’s only had one win in the King George VI Chase. Florida Pearl was successful in 2001, breaking his duck.
Mullins dominates the field this year, with nine of the 37 entries. Among the favourites are last year’s Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and Champion Chase runner-up Min. There’s a notable absentee in Kemboy who won the Punchestown Gold Cup and Aintree’s Bowl Chase last season. The French-bred seven-year-old is currently serving a ban following a dispute with owners, Supreme Horse Racing. Mullins is confident of a return and speaking at a launch at his stable facility in Closutton, he said: “I’d imagine [he’ll compete in] the King George if we can get him there but the Gold Cup is the ultimate aim for him anyway.”
Jump racing fans will relish the prospect of two of the biggest names coming together in the Chase. Nicky Henderson’s Altior is the current outright favourite, while Nicholls’ Cyrname isn’t far behind in the odds. The two will enter the field together in this month’s Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in what will be an interesting match-up. Altior is unbeaten over obstacles for 19 races, a run that extends back as far as October 2015. But more importantly, he has never run beyond two-and-a-quarter miles – the King George VI Chase is three miles. Whether he will have the stamina for the Chase remains to be seen. Also among the leading pack are last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux and Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation.