WITH RAIN continuing to tip down at Kempton, and conditions set to be very testing on Boxing Day, Kauto Stone has been the subject of significant support for the William Hill King George VI Chase.
Having been a 10-1 chance yesterday morning, the money came in for Kauto Star’s half-brother later on and Ruby Walsh’s mount is now at 8-1.
William Hill’s Richard Thomas said: “The name Kauto has been synonymous with the King George for the last six years, and now his half-brother could be the toast of punters.
“With a CV chock full of soft ground wins, we have been inundated with cash for Kauto today, and his current price of 8-1 could be well a lot shorter next week. The combination of Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh is always popular and Kauto Stone could become one of the biggest Boxing Day gambles if the rain continues to fall.”
Fifteen horses remain in the big race following the latest confirmation stage. They are headed by the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run, second to Kauto Star 12 months ago but the winner of the rescheduled race the previous season.
His stable companion Riverside Theatre, runner-up to Long Run that day, has also stood his ground, while Henderson also has 2012 Champion Chase victor Finian’s Rainbow.
Philip Hobbs is represented by last season’s third Captain Chris, Menorah and Wishfull Thinking.
David Pipe has supplemented Rehearsal Chase winner Junior and has left in Grands Crus, who would be having his first run since a wind operation.
Colin Tizzard has a leading contender in Cue Card, while David Bridgwater’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster and Martin Keighley’s Champion Court also feature.
Kauto Stone is Paul Nicholls’ only entry after the defections of the injured Al Ferof and the ill-fated Cristal Bonus. Sir Des Champs, from Willie Mullins’ stable, is the only Irish-trained possible while Hunt Ball and For Non Stop complete the list.
Jockey Joe Tizzard is confident Cue Card, winner of the Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance, will get the trip as he steps up to three miles for the first time. “I gave him a school on Monday morning. It was the first time I’d sat on him since Exeter and he felt superb,” he said.
“The more rain, the more stamina is going to come into use for the King George but I’m confident he’ll get the trip and he’ll handle the ground.”
Henry de Bromhead has confirmed that Sizing Europe will not run in the King George. The ten-year-old has looked as good as ever in winning his two starts this season and connections remain keen to test the multiple Grade One winner over three miles on a sound surface.
However, with Kempton conditions set to be testing, Sizing Europe will instead head to Leopardstown for either the two-mile-one-furlong Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase or the Lexus Chase over three miles.
With rain continuing to fall over most of Britain and Ireland, it would seem the shorter race is his most likely target.
De Bromhead said: “We said at the start of the season we’d love to try him over three miles on better ground but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get that at the moment. Sometimes you do at Kempton on Boxing Day, but unfortunately we won’t this year. He has the two options at Leopardstown and we’ll leave him in both races but the way the weather is going, I would imagine he’ll probably run in the two-mile race.”
Another Irish-trained horse ruled out of the Boxing Day feature is First Lieutenant. Mouse Morris scratched his Hennessy Gold Cup third on Wednesday and he will instead head for the Lexus Chase on 28 December. Morris also plans to saddle China Rock, his first appearance since claiming the Punchestown Gold Cup in the spring.
“He [First Lieutenant] is in great form, but we’ve decided to stay at home with him,” said the trainer.
“Leopardstown will be as good a ground as we’ll get over Christmas, so we’ll go there and see what happens. China [Rock] will be there as well. I’m very happy with him at the moment.”