Guest post written by Elliot Slater
When the mighty Desert Orchid landed his fourth King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day 1990, most who witnessed that amazing feat would have thought it highly unlikely for any horse to equal that record – let alone surpass it, writes Elliot Slater.
Twenty years later, the superb Kauto Star stands on the threshold of equine immortality as he prepares to line up for the Christmas highlight bidding for his fifth successive win in the William Hill King George VI Chase, a feat that truly may never be equalled again.
Paul Nicholls’ 10-year-old remains a major force with horse racing odds in the National Hunt game, even if he no longer holds the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown having run unexpectedly below-par when falling in the championship race won last March by Imperial Commander. Many had hoped to see Imperial Commander take on Kauto Star at his beloved Kempton, but a cut leg that has refused to heal in time has ruled Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge out of the contest, apparently paving the way for the ‘King of Kempton’ to proceed to a fifth coronation.
Anyone who wondered if Nicholls’ great warrior was in decline would have been very much heartened by his reappearance at Down Royal last month where, (showing no adverse signs following his uncharacteristic fall at Cheltenham in the spring), he comfortably accounted for smart opposition when beating Sizing Europe in the Grade 1 JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
A 10/11 shot with boxing day horse racing betting odds to create a new ‘King George’ record, Kauto Star looks to hold all the aces, but racing is a funny old game and he will need to jump a clean round and be on top form, or young pretenders such as Long Run (5/1) and Forpadydeplasterer (8/1), amongst a number of potentially dangerous rivals, could catch him out and spoil the party.
The big race takes place this year on a Sunday, Boxing Day, 26 December.
A broadcast journalist specialising in horse racing for more than two decades, Elliot Slater remains a keen student of the form book and of handicapping. A successful tipster, he combines his knowledge of the on and off-course betting markets with an in-depth appreciation of pedigrees and bloodlines, factors that contribute to his all round understanding of the racing industry.