The King George VI Chase: Everything You Need to Know About This Christmas Cracker

Kempton Park Racecourse Sign

Photo © John Light. (cc-by-sa/2.0)

As Cliff Richard so kindly informed us in his festive hit ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, Christmas is a ‘time to rejoice in the good that we see’.

Typically, world politics shuts down over the Yuletide period, so we won’t know of Boris Johnson’s dastardly plans or Donald Trump’s planned impeachment into the new year – we can save those for a post-Christmas treat.

Instead, we have ample opportunity to rejoice in the good that we see in a tremendous schedule of festive horse racing from around the UK and Ireland.

Various engagements catch the eye, including the Welsh Grand National from Chepstow, but the undoubted jewel in the crown has to be the King George VI meeting at Kempton Park on December 26-27 – otherwise known as the Winter Festival.

You know what it’s like: the post-Christmas lull, where even getting out of bed or changing out of your pyjamas becomes a chore. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to! The King George meeting – headlined by the eponymous chase on Boxing Day – will be broadcast live on ITV for your viewing pleasure.

The more energetic among you could even head to the Surrey track to see the action unfold first hand, with a fantastic duel in the King George expected between a handful of the best young chasers around.

In the meantime, here’s a guide of everything you need to know about the King George VI Chase.

History of the King George VI Chase

As you may have gathered from the name, the King George is a race with a royal connection.

Named after the ruling monarch of the time, this three-mile renewal was first run in 1937 and the winner that day – Southern Hero – remains the oldest horse to prevail in the race’s history at a sprightly 12-years-old.

The running of the race was temporarily halted by the Second World War, during which Kempton Park was used as a prisoner-of-war camp to keep those unruly Germans where we could see them.

When the conflict ended and the racetrack was back up to working order, the King George VI Chase returned in 1947 and has largely been run every year since, with a brief hiatus in 1961-62, 1967-68, 1970 and 1981.

Who Has Won the King George VI Chase Most Times?

As the second most prestigious chase behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it’s no surprise to learn that the rollcall of former winners reads like a who’s who of National Hunt racing.

There are plenty of notable champions, including Desert Orchid, who won it four times between 1986 and ’90, as well as three-time winner Wayward Lad and a host of two-time victors, which includes One Man, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti.

But the horse that has won the King George VI Chase the most is the brilliant Kauto Star, who enjoyed four back-to-back successes from 2006 to 2009, before returning in 2011 to triumph after witnessing Long Run triumph the year before.

Horse Number of Wins Years
Kauto Star 5 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
Desert Orchid 4 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990
Wayward Lad 3 1982, 1983, 1985

As a result, Ruby Walsh has won the King George more times than any other jockey, while Paul Nicholls – who schooled Kauto Star – has won the King George on ten occasions, more than any other trainer.

King George VI Chase 2019 Preview

Betway Kempton King George VI Chase Ante Post OddsNicholls will be looking for an eleventh King George winner this year, and in Cyrname he has a horse with untold potential.

The seven-year-old was considered a rather inconsistent sort in the past, but three wins in as many starts in 2019 have gone some way to counter that.

A brilliant winner of the Ascot Chase, Cyrname also made history when becoming the first horse to beat Altior over the jumps in the Christy 1965 Chase. With two wins in two at Kempton, he has obvious claims here.

The main opposition could come from Lostintranslation, who won a strong Dipper Novices’ Chase heat on New Year’s Day and who hasn’t looked back since with victories in the Mildmay and a Class 1 at Carlisle and a second place at the Cheltenham Festival.

But the crowning glory for Colin Tizzard’s horse came in November, when he saw off two-time champion Bristol De Mai and Cheltenham winner Frodon in the Betfair Chase.

That step up in trip to three miles worked wonders for the seven-year-old, and he has to be respected in the King George too.

And keep an eye out for Clan des Obeaux too. The reigning champion may not have had the best of years since winning here 12 months ago, but as we know you simply can’t write off Paul Nicholls’ horses in the King George!