Dashing grey Al Ferof to give Nicholls eighth King George

Bill Esdaile
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IN THE last nine years only three horses have added their name to the William Hill King George VI Chase roll of honour.

Kicking King landed back-to-back renewals in 2004 and 2005, before Kauto Star went on a winning spree between 2006 and 2011 that is unlikely ever to be matched.

Long Run beat the champ in 2010 and then came back 12 months ago to mow down Captain Chris in the shadow of the winning post.

Kempton Park’s Boxing Day showpiece is always an absolute treat for National Hunt fans and this year’s race has a very open look to it.

Cue Card is understandably the market leader after his dominant performance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. However, he didn’t perform in this race last year and I’m not sure the track is ideal for him. Colin Tizzard has also said that his yard has been suffering from a virus, so Coral’s 5/2 quote is easy enough to pass up.

Whenever a grey horse lines up in this race there are immediate comparisons with four-time winner Desert Orchid, but I genuinely think grey horses will finish first and second this year.

Paul Nicholls has won the race a record seven times and I think he can make it eight with his classy grey AL FEROF.

The son of Dom Alco won what could turn out to be the best ever running of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2011 when he had Spirit Son, Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card behind him.

His first season over fences was slightly disappointing, but he then ran away with the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his reappearance last term.

He then suffered an injury which ruled him out for the rest of the campaign, but he showed that the fire still burns bright when winning at Ascot last month. The generally available 9/2 looks the best value on offer.

David Pipe’s Dynaste was such an impressive winner of the Feltham at this meeting last year that he must have a big chance, particularly now the rain has come.

He ran a brilliant race to be second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase and he should come on for that. He is perhaps slightly too short at 7/2 with Coral, but rule him out at your peril.

The other one that I think can hit the frame is Captain Chris who was so unlucky to get beaten last December.

He must go right-handed and ran well in the Peterborough Chase a fortnight ago, although a two-week gap is a slight worry as he looked to have a hard race there.

Bill Esdaile’s King George 1-2-3