A lot of this race revolves around the participation, or lack of, of Shishkin. He flopped in the Champion Chase when last seen and it emerged that he had developed a rare bone condition. To be honest, it is impossible to tell if that will have an effect on his racing career or not until we’ve seen him on a racecourse.
So, with the combination of that as well as the way Henderson seemingly wants to campaign him, I’d be surprised if he even ran here. I hope he does for the spectacle, but I reckon we’ll see him at Kempton on 27th December instead.
Energumene is almost certainly going to be an absentee, with his reappearance set to be in the Hilly Way at Cork. That opens this contest up somewhat, with defending champion Greaneteen at the head of the betting, and probably deservedly so. He loves the track and on paper, his Haldon Gold Cup win was top class. But he had the race fall into his lap and in my view, he’s beaten nothing close to Grade 1 calibre there to be honest, especially as Third Time Lucky needs a flat track at barely two miles to be seen to be near his best.
It was a creditable win from Greaneteen, but not quite as good as some might suggest.
I think Edwardstone is the bet here. He ran out a 16-length winner over the same course and distance on the same card last year in the Grade 1 Novice event – he seems to relish an uphill stretch to the line. He was a very sound jumper for a novice last season and even though he is stepping into open company,
I don’t have any doubts about his capability of doing it as he was mixing it very well off big weights in open handicap hurdles the season before last.
Ground versatility is a key asset, but I think if it was soft, it would help him far more than it would help Greaneteen. I just think this race sets up right for him with the trip, the track and likely ground conditions.
He does face a course specialist, but the fact there is still some 5/1 around I think it’s too big, as Greaneteen’s Haldon Gold Cup win shouldn’t really be taken at face value.
Back Edwardstone @ 5/1
It’s a massive shame Allaho won’t make it to Kempton on Boxing Day, he would have been some sight bounding around in front. But alas, Cheveley Park have a more than able deputy in the shape of Envoi Allen.
He’s been crabbed quite a bit over the past year to eighteen months, but to be honest he’s not done a whole lot wrong. He got lucky when winning the Grade 1 over two miles at Leopardstown last Christmas when a lot of horses didn’t end up running. I must admit I thought he was going to be alright over two miles, but despite running ok in the Champion Chases at Cheltenham and Punchestown, he did lack for speed when the taps were turned on. No such thing happened at Down Royal last time though.
Stepped up to three miles for just the second time in his career, he absolutely benefitted from it. He jumped well but didn’t get in much of a rhythm (which I understand is slightly contradictory) which he could certainly improve upon, but he was safe and there wasn’t any real blunders. But I think this trip allows for that a bit better and he’s not punished as much for slightly slower jumps. In winning the Ladbrokes Champion Chase, he produced his best ever RPR.
I like the angle of him as a three miler now, he travelled so sweetly and hit the line strongly.
Bravemansgame is a horse I loved last year, and I was disappointed when he got beaten at Aintree. But I have a huge worry with him now, that’s his resilience.
I think he’s a bit of a bridle merchant. He jumps so well, which makes life difficult for his rivals, but all the races he won last season, and the Charlie Hall this year, he had the race won on the bridle.
Then when you look at the races he’s lost – the Ballymore, the Sefton, the Mildmay, he’s had to come off the bridle. So, if he doesn’t have to come off the bridle in the King George, he’ll win, but I can’t see that happening.
Backing a 5/4 shot in a race like the King George, I’d want the horse to be hard as nails, and at this point in time, I’m not sure he’s got that fight in him. But if he proves me wrong, so be it.
L’Homme Presse would be interesting were he to run here I must admit, but he has to prove it stepping out of novice company. Frodon will give it a fair go at regaining his crown, as will Tornado Flyer I expect, but I’m happy thinking Envoi Allen is coming into this with plenty going for him.
Back Envoi Allen @ 9/2