Junior bids to be King for the day
Junior will attempt to drag the stamina out of the opposition when he aims to justify a late entry for the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
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Owners Middleham Park Racing stumped up £10,000 to add the David Pipe-trained nine-year-old to the field at the confirmation stage and believe they can a get run for their money.
Junior, a rare winner at both the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot, showed his well-being when winning the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on his first run since he fell at the second fence in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in April.
"I don't think it's a classic King George - no Kauto Star, no Denman - and I fancy our chances," said Nick Bradley, spokesman for owners Middleham Park Racing.
"There is no obvious front-runner in the race, other than ourselves. He'll get a tap in the belly and away we go.
"Newcastle was a confidence-building run. He wasn't quite 100% fully tuned up. I've seen the race a few times and I don't think Conor (O'Farrell) really went for him. I think there's plenty left in the tank.
"David (Pipe) says he has never had him as good as he is now. The plan was to go for the Rowland Meyrick (at Wetherby) and try to build-up for his confidence for the end of the season.
"Then myself and Tim (Palin, Middleham racing manager) were looking at the King George and we couldn't think of any three-mile horses in there.
"When you are told the ground is going to be heavy or soft, personally I would have doubts about a few of them staying. That was in the back of our minds as well.
"Junior stays all day and if we go a good pace we might get one or two at it early doors."
Middleham specifically asked for Conor O'Farrell to be on the horse after his fine performance at Newcastle and on the other occasion he was in the plate.
"Conor rode him on New Year's Day at Cheltenham a couple of years ago and I had never seen Junior jump and travel as well as he did that day," said Bradley.
"He looked so professional and I've been a Conor fan from that day onwards. Obviously Tom (Scudamore) is the stable number one and he always gets the choice. We asked for Conor to ride in the King George and Tom would have been on Grands Crus anyway.
"I think he's the right man for the horse as he just gets on so well with him. The horse is a bit of a character and can be playful down at the start.
"Sometimes he wants his own way but when he's happy, and in the right mood, he can certainly go."