There isn’t a great deal that’s pretty much the same this Christmas as it was last year, but the betting for this afternoon’s King George VI Chase, the feature event of the Festive season, seems eerily familiar. Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname and Lostintranslation were the front three in the betting 12 months ago and they dominate the market again today, with only last season’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini – who was the beaten favourite in the Kauto Star Novice Chase a year ago – to remind us that it is 2020 and not 2019.
Their prices are a little different, of course, as Clan Des Obeaux was sent off at what now seems like the insulting price of 11-2 to win a second successive King George, while Cyrname was the 5-4 favourite with Lostintranslation (15-8) not far behind.
The fortunes of all three have fluctuated since, and Cyrname, oddly for a Grade One chase, is the only runner in the nine-strong field who was a winner last time out. But this is still a very deep and competitive King George, and even his devastating success in the Charlie Hall Chase last time is currently only good enough to make him the second-favourite today at around 11-4, behind Clan Des Obeaux on 5-2.
Santini is an unexpected opponent for all three after being added to the race at a cost of £5,000 five days ago, but this doesn’t really look like his ideal test – he probably needs a bit further on a stiffer track – but that is factored into his price, while Lostintranslation would also be a very credible winner at his best. He’s 9-1 because of his inconsistency rather than any lack of talent.
There are live outsiders to consider too – the ever-popular Frodon and Bryony Frost, for instance, are 25-1 to win despite being only 3lb inferior to Clan Des Obeaux on official ratings. Their army of fans will be kicking themselves all the way to next Christmas if he goes in unbacked. Waiting Patiently, despite a long absence, has the form to outrun odds of around 16-1 too if he’s fit enough to do himself justice.
In fact, the 100-1 shot Black Op is really the only runner who can be ruled out with confidence (and even he is a Grade One winner over hurdles who finished within a length of Santini at Cheltenham three seasons ago). It promises to be quite the spectacle when the tape pings back at 3pm.
It won’t be quite the conclusion that anyone would have hoped for, of course, as Sunbury’s recent move into Tier 4 has meant that spectators will be barred from today’s race. King George day normally has a unique and traditional buzz that it all its own as more than 10,000 folk extend the Christmas festivities into a second day and even the 2,000 racegoers that were anticipated as recently as eight days ago would have been a start. Sadly, it was not to be.
But with three Grade Ones on the card, including the Champion Hurdler Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at 2.25, there’s still plenty to keep everyone entertained at home. You can follow all the action here as the day unfolds, Chris Cook’s tips for the TV races are here, and it all gets underway at 12.40.