Colin Tizzard’s decision – or at least the rival owners’ agreement – that new kid on the block Thistlecrack and reigning King George VI champ Cue Card have ‘at it’ has breathed new life into the traditional Boxing Day spectacle, the King George VI Chase.
A first win in four attempts last year, also saw Cue Card capture the second leg of the £1m bonus before it came crashing down with his fall three out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, it’s the reigning World Hurdle champ – who is looking to become the first novice to win a King George – who could end his stablemate’s pursuit of the million pound booty before the year is out.
Top jock Ruby Walsh has had his say and it looks a match between the pair. Nicky Henderson’s Josses Hill is starting to get his act together and beat another of his Boxing Day rivals Tea for Two by six lengths at Huntingdon last time in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase. Good-ish ground, plus a right-handed track brings out the best in him, while he boasts two wins and two seconds in four runs at Kempton.
The concern though is that his stamina peters out quicker than Arsenal’s title challenge as he races over three miles for the first time.
Dual winner Silviniaco Conti looks past his prime but this is his Gold Cup and the more rain that falls the better his chances of living up to his flat-track bully reputation.
Irish super powers Gigginstown House Stud saw their eventual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack tip up, two out, last year when getting into a challenging position. The rely on the B team this year with Noel Meade’s Road to Riches (only 50/50 to take part) and Gordon Elliott’s Roi Des Francs.
Both have patches of form, Road to Riches was third to Coneygree in the 2014 Gold Cup, but has spent more time out injured recently than Daniel Sturridge.
Either way, it will take something out of the ordinary to stop the King George VI Chase title heading back to Colin Tizzard’s Venn Farm on Monday for successive years.
Whether it’s Cue Card or Thistlecrack who wears the crown we’ll know come 3.30pm on Monday 26th.