CeeBee looks ahead to the King George at Kempton and he is keen to take on both Silviniaco Conti and Champagne Fever at head of the market.
King George VI Chase
1 point win Cue Card at 8/1 with Ladbrokes
The highlight of an action packed Boxing Day (St. Stephen’s Day) comes from Kempton. Steeped in history the King George VI Chase always attracts a quality field. This year is no different. It’s highly competitive and I’m sure 6 of the runners will be tipped multiple times across your racing pages on the 26th. There’s only 1 of the 6 I’m currently interested in backing. Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card.
Interestingly 5 of these ran in last year’s renewal so it’s the obvious starting point. Despite finishing 3L behind Silviniaco Conti one could argue Cue Card was the best horse in last year’s race. He led and jumped well from the front and looked to have everything easily beaten off approaching 2out only for the race to change dramatically in a few strides. Cue Card looked to go from full of running to running on empty in the space of a few strides. Some argued he didn’t stay and his stamina ran out, I’m not convinced because he clearly ran on again after jumping the last, had his stamina given way completely he’d have walked over the finish line a distant second. It looked to my eyes that he had wind/breathing issues and interestingly CC has had a wind op over the summer. He was off track after the King George until he reappeared at Exeter this year but it was not a serious injury, just a few niggles so I’ve no fear he can return to his very best.
There are a few reasons why I can see him turn it around with Silviniaco Conti. SC is not a speedy 3miler; he needs a strong relentless gallop. The Charlie Hall chase at Wetherby showed this, he looked laboured behind Menorah off a very slow gallop. That trip was allegedly shy of 3miles also which would not have suited. At Haydock (3m1f) SC took it up 4out and set a strong gallop (they already went a right good clip down the back) the whole way to the line. At Kempton he’ll face a shorter trip, bare 3miles, and more importantly he’ll probably face better ground. The ground is currently good to soft, soft in places. Last year on soft ground Cue Card set a strong gallop which set it up for Conti to finish powerfully. With rumours of CC due to be held up more than usual, not ridden aggressively from the front like last year it’ll be up to Conti to set the strong gallop he needs. On good ground at the 3m trip he’ll be vulnerable, similar to Wetherby this year, the Betfair last season and the Aintree Bowl in 2013 when he was beaten by First Lieutenant and Menorah. Cue Card on the other hand is not a dour stayer at this trip so the step back from 3m1f to 3m and the potentially better ground will help his chances. It’s worth remembering it rained before the King George last year and the ground was soft enough by the off. It was also fairly soft underfoot in Haydock last time but even more importantly to note on the replays was his jumping. He made 3 mistakes in a row down the back and also met 4out wrongly. Plenty of room for improvement there. A combination of the wind op, likely better ground and less aggressive tactics can see Cue Card reverse form with Silviniaco Conti.
Al Ferof was a well beaten 3rd in last year’s race and was also beaten on his only other try at 3miles (albeit in very testing ground) at Newbury last spring. The form of his last win at Ascot has worked out very well with Somersby running 2nd in the Tingle Creek since and Wishful Thinking winning the Peterborough. However I’m often very weary of reading too much into the form of early season races and it must be noted Somersby often runs 2nd, regardless of whom he’s up against, whilst Wishful Thinking was held up in Ascot but it was his exuberant jumping from the front which won it for him in Huntingdon. Interestingly Al Ferof’s last 3 wins have all come after a few months off the track, perhaps he is another of these ‘best fresh’ horses that seem to become increasingly more common with changes in training regimes. At a best price 6/1 I have no desire to back Al Ferof who may not stay, may have been flattered by his last victory and at his very best may not even be good enough to win this.
When at his very best I believe Cue Card is the best of these. Two obvious examples are 1) the 2013 Betfair Chase when he had Dynaste 4L behind and Silviniaco Conti 6L back in 3rd. And 2) the 2013 Ryanair Chase when he hammered First Lieutenant to the tune of 9Ls.
On current official ratings Cue Card is second of this lot, 2lbs lower than Silviniaco Conti and 4/5lbs ahead of Menorah and Dynaste yet he’s sixth in many betting lists. It’s an over-reaction to his last two defeats where he had genuine excuses. The most glaring excuse is the form of Colin Tizzard’s horses. He had some 50 runners without a winner until the week of the Haldon Gold Cup, Cue Card’s reappearance at Exeter. Over an inadequate trip, after 10mts off, conceding 8lbs+ to all his rivals it was no surprise to see him struggle. Next time at Haydock whilst Tizzard had had a few winners they were not yet firing on all cylinders. It was really only a week after the Betfair Chase that the yard really got up and running, 9 winners and a 25% strike rate since. He jumped poorly and neither the soft ground nor the extended 3m1f trip would have suited either so I expect to see a marked improvement from Cue Card on Boxing Day.
Double Ross is a likeable consistent chaser but on all known form he has plenty to find. He was well behind in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Wonderful Charm is similar; he will need to step up drastically on anything he has shown so far to trouble the market leaders here. Johns Spirit has 4 attempts at 3miles in his formbook and none of them ended in victory. He’s also coming from a yard absolutely bang out of form, easy to pass over.
Dynaste has 1 win in 5 starts since graduating from novice ranks. That win came at the expense of Hidden Cyclone, Rajdhani Express and Hunt Ball. His form just doesn’t stack up as a genuine top drawer performer. Cue Card beat him 4L in the Betfair last year before he ran well below par in the King George. Silviniaco Conti defeated him in Aintree last April and again in Haydock (by 10L) last time out. He could easily be involved in the finish and was a smart e/w bet at 14/1 when tipped by Pricewise but I can’t help feel he’ll need some of the others to be below par to win, 8/1 doesn’t appeal.
Menorah has been a terrific servant to the Philip Hobbs team; he won the Supreme Novice Hurdle way back in March 2010. He’s far from past it however. His last two runs have arguably been as good as we’ve seen from him. At Wetherby Silviniaco Conti may have been unfit and unsuited to conditions but Menorah still gave weight and a 4L beating to Double Ross, Medermit and Taquin du Seuil. Then in HaydockSC exacted revenge to the tune of 2L but Menorah still beat Dynaste and Cue Card home. He deserves his place towards the head of the market but at his very best he probably has a few lbs to find with some of these and he has not been the most consistent horse throughout his career. He has won twice at the Kempton Christmas meeting before.
Champagne Fever is a big danger but I wouldn’t dream of backing him at 3/1. I suggested Menorah wasn’t consistent; this fella has not put two good runs back to back since his novice hurdle campaign. He disappointed last season at Punchestown and Leopardstown last year and disappointed at Punchestown and Naas the previous year. He also has obvious stamina questions to answer having never raced beyond 2m4f. He is bred to stay and stayed well over 2m4f last time but if you’re prepared to take 3/1 to find out against a quality field like this you’re a braver punter than me! It’s also worth noting he is only 2 from 5 over fences where the best he has to his name is either a defeat by Western Warhorse or a G2 victory where he was getting weight from Alderwood and Realt Mor.