Alan King has given Smad Place the go-ahead to run in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The devastating Hennessy Gold Cup winner satisfied King in a workout yesterday and is now poised to line up in the Christmas showpiece.
“He schooled grand and Wayne [Hutchinson, jockey] was very happy with him,” said the Barbury Castle handler. He’s been confirmed for the King George and, at this stage, everything is going according to plan.”
King had initially been set to miss the King George with Smad Place after his exceptional Hennessy success, with the BetBright Cup Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on 30 January the target.
King’s hope will face Irish challengers Don Cossack and Vautour, who are among the star names among the 10 horses left in the King George.
Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott, has been a star performer so far this season, with impressive victories at Punchestown and in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal. He is owned by Gigginstown House Stud, who have two other possibles in Noel Meade’s Road To Riches and Valseur Lido, trained by Willie Mullins.
The latter is also responsible for Vautour, emphatic winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and successful on his reappearance in the Stella Artois 1965 Chase at Ascot last month.
Leading the home team is Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card, who has returned to his best this term with wins in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase and the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Silviniaco Conti was beaten seven lengths by Cue Card on the latter occasion but cannot be discounted as he has won this race for the last two years.
Al Ferof, a former Nicholls inmate, has finished third in the last two renewals of the King George and showed his well-being with a facile victory in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon earlier this month – his first outing for Dan Skelton. Completing the 10 are David Pipe’s Ballynagour and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Irish Cavalier.
Meanwhile, the return to six furlongs should do for Fortinbrass when he takes in the Daily Price Boosts At Unibet Handicap at Southwell today. John Balding’s five-year-old has not won since December 2013, but recent performances suggest he can win a small race of this nature.
The gelding was not beaten too far in three tries at Wolverhampton in the autumn, after which he was sent into action over seven furlongs at Southwell on December 8.
Fortinbrass was the subject of a mini-gamble at the Nottinghamshire circuit, but the money went west as he could finish only third as the 7-2 favourite. That was, however, another step in the right direction as he only ran out of juice inside the final furlong.
12.30 Berkshire Beauty
1.00 Royal Holiday
1.30 Twin Appeal
2.30 Dragoon Guard
3.00 Dark Diamond
3.30 Fortinbrass (nap)
12.40 Doctor Parkes
1.10 Madame Barker
1.40 Always Welcome
2.10 Go On Go On Go On
2.40 John Coffey
3.10 Mops Angel
3.40 Horseguards parade
4.10 Jumbo Prado.