A Superb King George VI Chase Awaits Punters on Boxing Day 2021

Whisper it: The King George VI Chase, which is widely regarded as the second most prestigious chase in England after the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has been a bit of letdown in recent years. Steeped in history, it has been won by luminaries like Arkle, Desert Orchid, and Kauto Star. The latter made it box-officing viewing on Boxing Day in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But more recently, it has felt, for want of a better term, “lacking”, a feeling that’s mostly been down to some big names swerving the event.

But could things be about to change in 2021? After all, the current list of entries looks as strong as any race you’ll see in the jumps calendar, and that includes the Cheltenham Gold Cup. At a glance, we see around half-a-dozen runners with serious Gold Cup chances in March, along with a few who will be among the Grand National fancies. And there are some intriguing big names looking to bounce back. It all makes for a fascinating line-up, which could put the historic event back where it belongs on the racing calendar.

Of course, we are about a month away from the race and the card will be whittled down before Christmas, but the consensus is that the majority of the big names will stay. That means we will see Clan Des Obeaux in the hunt for a third victory. Paul Nicholl’s horse, who leads the ante-post betting markets ahead of stable-mate Frodon, loves the course at Kempton and looks a worthy favourite.

Some decent each-way value

And yet, for a big race like this, you should always be looking at the different ways to bet on horse racing, and that includes each-way betting. Fusil Raffles, who recently won the Charlie Hall Chase, albeit with a bit of luck on his side, looks exactly the type of horse to contest a place and pay dividends with a big price of 33/1. He’s probably not good enough to win in this company, but he’s usually in the mix.

Perhaps the most intriguing name on the race card is Al Boum Photo, the double Gold Cup winner trained by Willie Mullins. If he lines up for the race (Mullins has hinted that he will), it’ll be the first time he’s run for Mullins in the UK outside of the Cheltenham Festival. Mullins has wrapped Al Boum  Photo in cotton wool in recent years to prepare him for the Gold Cup, but he says he wants to battle-harden him this season. 20/1 is a huge price for a horse that could well be the best on the race card.

While Al Boum Photo won the Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020, the 2021 winner is also there. Minella Indo is inconsistent, to say the least, however. And while we wouldn’t say that winning the 2021 Gold Cup was a fluke, you can understand why he’s not the firm favourite here.

Envoi Allen should not be overlooked

Another two to keep an eye on are Chantry House and Envoi Allen. The former beat the latter in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last March at Cheltenham. Envoi Allen, who was unbeaten up until that point, fell in the race and pulled up on his reappearance a month later. But switching to fences clearly suits him. Chantry House has been tipped for big things, but this is the horse’s first real test in truly elite company.

That’s just a snapshot of what looks like one of the best renewals of the King George since the days of Kauto Star. As mentioned, the card will be whittled down a bit. But if the majority of the big names stay, it looks like it will be a superb winter warmer for punters braving the Kempton weather. Moreover, it bodes well for a vintage 2022 featuring some of the very best long-distance chasers in jumps racing.