Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and predicts a grey day at Kempton.
Recommended bets - King George VI Chase, December 26
POLITOLOGUE won’t be out of place when it comes to raw ability in the 32Red King George VI Chase and, at the prices, it’s worth chancing he’s able to stay the trip well enough at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Paul Nicholls' grey has had a touch of class from the outset since joining the team but only broke through at Grade One level last season when landing the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown over two miles.
That success came between two Grade Two wins at Exeter and Kempton – all around two miles – but he was then slightly outpaced on a couple of occasions against Altior, firstly in the Game Spirit at Newbury, and then the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
His Festival fourth doesn’t quite tell the whole story, though, as he completely boiled over before the start and ultimately wasn’t able to give his running.
The hood went on at Aintree, when stepped back up to two and a half miles in the JLT Melling Chase, and it worked a treat as he really toughed it out to beat a back-to-form Min by a neck with Ryanair winner Balko Des Flos well beaten off in fourth.
This season could hardly have started any better for Politologue on Saturday, the grey travelling as well as he ever has, before digging deep after the last to repel Charbel.
The form is strong, there’s little doubt of that, Charbel – who was in receipt of 6lb – arriving fit and firing on the back of his Chepstow handicap success over subsequent BetVictor Gold Cup hero Baron Alco.
The third at Chepstow, Garde La Victoire, also came out and won at the November Meeting, while the likes of Barney Dwan, Marracudja, Art Mauresque and Ballyhill have all subsequently been placed in nice races.
In Politologue we’re clearly dealing with a top-class performer – we knew that already following last season’s exploits – but it’s the untapped potential over three miles which is what makes him so exciting.
Stepping up to three for the first time in a race as tough as the King George is never going to be easy, but the nature of the track should definitely help in that regard, no matter how gruelling the race can be if they go flat-out from the off.
History shows that horses with slight questions marks over their stamina going into the race have blossomed in the King George. In recent years we’ve seen top-class two milers Edredon Bleu, Kauto Star and Cue Card deliver on this stage, and Nicholls has confirmed he fully intends to test the water before any future plans are made.
At the 9/1 (Sky Bet, bet365) currently on offer, Politologue represents the best value at this stage with even greater question marks hanging over his likely rivals, some of which at shorter prices.
Native River is the one major positive to take from the Betfair Chase, especially when you consider how Bristol De Mai was unable to repeat his Haydock performance in last year's King George.
But Colin Tizzard’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner also has it to prove going right-handed. He’s been kept to his favoured left-handed tracks since a very scratchy third to Tea For Two in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, when sent off the 6/4 favourite.
Leopardstown’s Christmas Chase would seem like a realistic potential alternative for Native River, even though connections have yet to suggest they’ve given it any consideration, and when it comes to Tizzard’s King George prospects perhaps Thistlecrack will emerge as the leading hope.
He showed that the fire still burns bright within with his Betfair Chase third at the weekend and it's worth recalling he’s generally improved around 10lb for his first run back in previous seasons.
The general 10/1 about him appeals more than backing Might Bite (7/2 best) to suddenly rediscover his mojo on Boxing Day, as his was a fairly lifeless comeback run.
The overly daunting fences at Haydock may have frightened the son of Scorpion to some degree, but there wasn’t much to like at all about his finishing effort and it’s him at the head of the betting still which primarily makes it such an attractive race to have a shot at right now.
Waiting Patiently has the ability to run a huge race first time out for Ruth Jefferson, though he looks short enough at no bigger than 6/1 given his own stamina doubts, while Altior would obviously enter the picture in a big way should this race come onto his agenda. He has the Tingle Creek and a clash with Saint Calvados looming large on the horizon first and foremost.
Bellshill is a fascinating potential contender for Willie Mullins, but he's no more than that, having yet to have a spin this season and clearly in dire need of some significant rainfall, while the selection’s stablemate Black Corton must be worth a mention, too.
He beat Elegant Escape in last year’s Kauto Star on the same card and looks absolutely made for Kempton on Boxing Day.
He’d have to put up a serious effort in this weekend’s Ladbrokes Trophy for Nicholls to start considering the King George, but that’s not beyond the realms of possibility after his pleasing comeback run in the Charlie Hall, when Bryony Frost performed miracles to keep the partnership intact early on.
Black Corton is 33/1 at the time of writing but the uncertainty over his participation is just about enough to put me off a speculative each-way bet, with ready preference for the classy Politologue to put his blistering speed and accurate jumping to maximum effect.
Posted at 1130GMT on 27/11/18.