- Allaho has produced some spectacular performances during his career
- Frodon has biggest heart in line-up but his levels have dropped in recent runs
- Bravemansgame has plenty going for him but not matched his levels last season
The formbook has delivered a Christmas certainty with a screening of the Festive staple – an Agatha Christie mystery – on Wednesday evening.
Equine actors take to the Kempton stage once graced by racing immortals headed by Arkle, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star but the convoluted plot make this a puzzle any writer would be proud of.
What we have is not a Whodunnit but a Whocandoit. The one thing every runner has in common is that the pros to their theoretical chance are counter- balanced by niggling cons.
Weighing them up is tricky but it looks like the biggest prize of the British Christmas programme will be going the same way as plenty of other big races, to the stable of Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins courtesy of ALLAHO (Kempton, 2.30).
Willie Mullins’ Allaho has produced some spectacular performances during his career
The Paul Townend nine-year-old has produced some spectacular performances during his career, notably when twice destroying his opponents in the two-and-a-half mile Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
But the run which is considered his career best came when he beat dual King George winner Clan Des Obeaux 14 lengths in the three-mile 2022 Punchestown Gold Cup.
Injury ruled Allaho out of last year’s King George and one of the concerns with him is if he still retains all his ability. But victory in the three-horse Clonmel Oil Chase last month went some way to confirming he is not far off his best with a useful horse in Janadil comfortably seen off.
That run should have put an edge on the selection and the drying ground holds no fears for Allaho, who is an awesome, galloping machine when in full flow.
His tendency to jump left-handed at some fences is not ideal but his record on right-handed tracks is solid and the sum of the positives in the Allaho, who is owned by the British-based Cheveley Park Stud, arguments outweigh the negatives.
Patrick Mullins, son and assistant trainer to his father, said: ‘He has always looked like a type that would suit the race and once he won over three miles in the Punchestown Gold Cup it made the race an option.
‘He is nine rising 10 and has missed year with injury which is not an ideal profile. It is hard to think he is still at his very best but we are hoping he is still good enough to win. I think he was good at Clonmel, Janadil sets a fair standard.
‘He jumps a little bit left but he ticks most of the boxes.’
Last year’s winner Bravemansgame clearly has plenty going for him. He has won both his races over course and distance and his trainer Paul Nicholls, who has won the King George a remarkable 13 times, says the spark that has been missing in his two runs this season appears to have returned on the evidence of his homework.
But what he has shown so far in this campaign have not matched the exacted levels he managed last season.
Stablemate Frodon, the 2020 winner, arguably has the biggest heart in the line-up but his levels have dropped in recent runs and even Nicholls concedes simply hitting the frame would be a massive achievement for Bryony Frost’s mount.
The Real Whacker can probably be forgiven his comeback run when pulled up in the two and a half mile under top weight in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. But he still needs to step up on his excellent novice chase form which saw him win the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Hewick fell two fences from the finish in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup when he looked to be coming to the end of his tether. This race is two furlongs shorter and he will like the drying going. He could hit the frame but most of the value in his price has been squeezed out.
Which brings us to the biggest conundrum of the race. Not even the combined guile of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple could work out what Shishkin might do.
On a going day Nicky Henderson’s chaser could win easily. He has talent to spare and the demands of this race should suit him down to the ground.
But we can’t even be guaranteed he will start after he refused to race at Ascot last month and there is plenty of evidence to suggest Shishkin has become a real thinker about when and how he wants to race.
Frodon has the biggest heart in the line-up but his levels have dropped in recent runs
Only mind-readers can truly say they know what will happen with Nico De Boinville’s mount and trainer Nicky Henderson is worried he has not been able to get a prep-race into his runner.
Paul Townend has had to hand today’s Leopardstown ride on exciting novice chaser Facile Vega to Patrick Mullins to take up his first mount in the King George.
In his Ladbrokes blog, the jockey said: ‘Obviously, I am disappointed to be missing some very big rides at Leopardstown, but having a crack on Allaho in the King George makes up for it.’
Facile Vega is one for the future but the clues point to today being Allaho’s day.