Stars align at Kempton for King George Christmas cracker

Irish challengers Don Cossack and Vautour are among the star names among the 10 horses left in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

Stars align at Kempton for King George Christmas cracker

Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott, has been the star performer over fences 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.

Another strong contender is Smad Place, who was given the go-ahead to run after the devastating Hennessy Gold Cup winner satisfied trainer Alan King in a workout on Monday morning.

“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.”

Completing the 10 are David Pipe’s Ballynagour and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Irish Cavalier.

Meanwhile Un De Sceaux headlines 11 possibles for the Paddy Power ’So Quick So Easy App’ Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was forced to miss his intended reappearance in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown earlier this month, with his handler describing him as a “little flat” in the days before the race.

Mullins also has the King George-bound Vautour engaged, together with Felix Yonger, who recently won the Hilly Way Chase at Navan.

Clarcam and Bright New Dawn represent Gordon Elliott, with Henry de Bromhead double-handed through Sizing Granite and Smashing.

A host of familiar names look set for the Grade One showpiece – formerly known as the Dial-A-Bet Chase – including the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned and Shark Hanlon’s Hidden Cyclone, who has finished runner-up for the last two years.

Former star two-miler Flemenstar (Anthony Curran) and evergreen veteran Rubi Light (Robbie Hennessy) complete the field.

Un De Sceaux will be ridden by Ruby Walsh, who expects him to improve for the run.

The jockey said: “It’s not ideal that Un De Sceaux is starting off in a Grade One Chase, but he has to start somewhere. He’s in great form and schooled very well at Thurles a few weeks back.

“He has a lot of work done at home, schooled well at Thurles before having to miss the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown – but I still expect him to improve throughout the season. Everyone knows by now that he has one style of running. You know what you’re going to get when he tanks off in front.”

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