1pt win Josses Hill @14/1, 15:15 Kempton, Boxing Day

That last season’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase victor Tea For Two is priced 22/1 for another Grade 1 victory on Kempton’s famous Boxing Day card speaks volumes for the betting public’s opinion that this year’s King George VI Chase is a match between the two Colin Tizzard-trained beasts at the top of the market.

It’s the kind of match that only jumps racing can serve up, with Cue Card, turning 11 on January 1st and apparently as good as ever after running away with the Betfair Chase last month, taking on his eight-year-old stablemate Thistlecrack, seeking a ninth win on the bounce in a brilliant sequence including victories in all the major long-distance hurdles.

With no Irish challenge and 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree missing the race after working poorly last week, Cue Card goes into the race with easily the best chase form.

Writing him off because of his advancing years has proven costly in the past so it’s fair to expect him to run up to something close to his lofty mark of 176, but in Thistlecrack he’s got an opponent worthy of giving him a race.

We know everything there is to know about Cue Card by now, and three defeats in his last five starts should banish any suggestion he’s untouchable in a race like this.

Thistlecrack hasn’t been off the bridle since April 2015 and looks to have endless stamina, which isn’t a comment that necessarily applies to Cue Card.

It’s reasonable to believe there’s little chance Cue Card can outstay a race-fit Thistlecrack on decent ground around a sharp three miles at Kempton, so it should be decided by their jumping and/or speed.

Cue Card has plenty of pace but hasn’t won a race through a turn of foot for years, so there has to be question marks over his ability to that way these days.

He’s a good jumper but does make mistakes – most famously when falling three out in Don Cossack’s Gold Cup.

In contrast, Thistlecrack was a phenomenal jumper over hurdles and, despite a few dodgy ones in a novice chase at Cheltenham, looks more than handy in this his first season over fences and shouldn’t be doubted in that department.

But does he have a turn of foot?

Hard to say given his jockey Tom Scudamore hasn’t had to ask him any serious questions in recent seasons, but he perhaps gave us a glimpse in the final furlong of last season’s World Hurde at the Festival when Scudamore couldn’t resist a shake of the reigns in front of the large crowd to see his mount quickly put a few extra lengths between him and the trailing Alpha Des Obeaux.

He could not have been more impressive that day, but in hindsight it wasn’t a strong renewal with Alpha Des Obeaux not exactly setting the world alight in his own novice chasing season.

I honestly doubt Colin Tizzard himself can split them, but my preference between the two is the new kid on the block, Thistlecrack.

However, horse races rarely follow the script and such is the obsession with the two at the top of the market I can’t help but think that at 14/1 JOSSES HILL has been underestimated by bookmakers and punters with likely conditions absolutely perfect.

This is his first try at three miles and he has to prove his stamina against two of the dourest stayers in training, but Kempton’s flat three miles on good ground certainly blunts the market principles’ stamina asset.

Josses Hill was second to Vautour in the Supreme Novices’ a few years back and has shown some solid form on flat tracks like Aintree, Huntington and Kempton, claiming some big scalps down the years.

This year he’s already beaten Grade 1 winners Tea For Two, Dodging Bullets and More Of That in the Peterborough Chase and has jumped unrecognisably well in his third season over fences.

Jumping was always his vice and mistakes cost him all chance in last season’s Ryanair Chase at the Festival, but if he’s finally put that right he’s definitely got the speed to make a mark in this.

I’m hopeful rather than confident, but 14/1 is a Christmas carrot I can’t ignore with the prohibitive odds of the big two in the market of little interest.

If you’re currently questioning my sanity, go have a bet on Thistlecrack!

1pt win Josses Hill @14/1, 15:15 Kempton, Boxing Day

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.