King George VI Chase 2019 Full Analysis

Short Read:

Lostintranslation or Cyrname will win this. Trouble is I’m not sure which.  I hope it is Lostintranslation but I’ve backed him at big antepost prices for the Gold Cup, so I’m content just to watch him here. Also, he still has a question or two to face and 7/4 is a skinny price to find out the answers.

Long read

The Runners In The Order I Think They’ll Finish

Lostintranslation

He kept just about the best of company in his 6 runs last season, winning twice. The first was arguably fortunate because Defi Du Seuil (an underrated horse in general, even now) had sailed past him going to the last at Cheltenham (the sign of a top horse in my view when it is done at the business end of a race) but then idled on the run in, letting Lostintranslation past.

In two subsequent meetings, Geraghty did not make the same mistake, holding Defi Du Seuil up at Sandown and Cheltenham to overcome Lostintranslation on the run in.

All of Lostintranslation’s races up to that point had been at 2m4f or under. When he stepped up to 3m1f at Aintree in April we got a full picture of what this fine looking horse was capable of; he cruised through this Grade 1 and trounced Topofthegame.

His first run this season at Carlisle saw him back at 2m4f but he was enthusiastic, even exuberant at times, signs of a horse who’s right in that upward curve with plenty more to come. And three weeks later in the Betfair Chase he showed much more back over what looks his ideal trip of around 3m1f. At Carlisle he’d overjumped at one or two and his jockey Robbie Power was at pains to settle him early at Haydock and continue his education from the back of the field, concentrating on his jumping.

Last season I thought Lostintranslation just about got by in the jumping dept. He’d find a way to get to the other side but regularly seemed to meet one awkwardly. Carlisle had shown him in much more confident mood, but what is needed in champions is consistency. The outside-the-wings take-offs are breathtaking, but they use energy and can interfere with rhythm.

Back to The Betfair where, turning into the straight, Bristol De Mai applied the after-burners in his attempt at a hat trick in this race. But this time one stayed with him and stayed there pretty easily given the ground he had to make up. Lostintranslation challenged on the inside at the second last which he hit pretty hard costing him a length. He’d made that up by the time they reached the last (he was awkward there too), and battled on to win by a length and a half with Frodon 25L farther back.

Lostintranslation began getting the praise he deserved although that Betfair win has perhaps been underestimated given the dominance Bristol De Mai has shown at Haydock in the past. That was his first defeat there in five runs (three Grade 1s: two Grade2s), beaten by a horse having just his second outing at that trip.

So, Lostintranslation has no worries on the likely soft ground, he’ll stay the trip, he goes right handed, he’s already at a ratings level -173 – that would see him win a King George, and, other than a late blunder it’s hard to imagine he won’t be right there with Cyrname at the finish.


Cyrname

Almost a year ago this horse came out at Ascot and came back in the talk of the town. He’d just run to a Racing Post Rating 31lbs better than his previous run and 15lbs better than his previous best. He was seven-years-old and, until then, a fair handicapper who ran consistently (his OR had remained at 150 across his last 6 races before Ascot), His 165 OR after the Ascot run showed that the oficial handicapper had him as imporving 15lbs on anything he’d done before.

I watched that Ascot run live. One of my favourite sayings is ‘It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it’. The form on paper often needs context and there is no more valuable context, in my view, than watching the individual closely in each race.

At Ascot Cyrname, looking fantastic, took it up at the second fence and ran like a kid released in a playground after a long winter. You’d say he toyed with the opposition, but they were never within toyable distance. Cyrname galloped relentlessly, jumped professionally, showed plenty of enthusiasm and won as though he belonged in a different league. Sometimes you’ll see a horse run like this after being off the track a long time (the classic bounce candidate – think Ghaiyyath on the Flat lately). But Cyrname had been off only 56 days.

His trainer offered the excuse that the horses was stepping up from 2m1f to 2m5f, and normally that would be more than acceptable. But whereas Cyrname’s previous race had been over 2m1f, most of his chasing career had been spent racing at 2m4f or thereabouts. So Nicholls was straw-clutching there or being disingenuous. His second excuse seemed tome more plausible: they’d removed the hood for the first time.

A hood is intended to calm a horse. It’s emerged that Nicholls faced his biggest challenge with Cyrname in trying to keep him calm – more at home than on the track. Now, either they knew they’d worked the oracle before taking him to Ascot, or they were just trying something different removing the hood. He was strong in the market, so the former might well have been the case.

Almost a month later the hood was left at home again as Cyrname returned to Ascot to contest an £85k Grade 1 (as against the £47k handicap he’d won in January). The official form comment for this Grade1: Jumped well; made all; drew right away from 2 out; impressive. The first Ascot win had been no fluke.

But he quickly got nailed by some observers as an Ascot specialist, which was patently not the case as he had been beaten there on three previous runs in his ‘old life’ (albeit 2 of those over hurdles). Nevertheless, on his first outing of this season Cyrname must have thought every other track in the UK had closed as his box rolled once more through the Ascot gates. He walked down the ramp toward a date with Altior who was aiming to win his 20th race in a row, his first at this 2m5f trip.

Cyrname was again relentlessly professional against Altior’s low-necked almost sulky round and the result was never in doubt. They ran a really good time in the ground with Cyrname showing no signs of stopping, which augurs well for the 3m Kempton trip.

He has an awful lot going for him on Thursday, not least his utterly professional manner of racing and ‘getting things done’. His jumping is generally sound although he has thrown in the odd strange one. He’ll see the trip out I think and I suspect Lostintranslation had a pretty hard race last time whereas Cyrname’s couldn’t have been scripted better. The right handed track holds no fears and, once again, the tactics of Cobden will be fascinating.


Clan Des Obeaux

After finishing a kind of tired looking 4th in the 2018 Betfair Chase (to Bristol De Mai) Harry Cobden was reportedly more than happy to stay with Clan Des Obeaux for the King George rather than ride Politilogue – a 5/1 chance versus the 12/1 Clan Des Obeaux. Trainer Nicholls seemed surprised by the decision although claimed that the horse had been showing considerable improvement at home.

How you measure ‘considerable’ when it comes to improvement is a question on its own given the way Clan Des Obeaux went through the 2018 King George. Shaken up to get after Thistlecrack as they turned for home, he was soon on that one’s heels, Cobden resisting the temptation to go past until they jumped the last, which Clan Des Obeaux did with ears pricked, going a length or so up before dropping to the idle position, his finishing effort taking some sheen off the victory.

After this he went to Ascot, another right handed track, where he started at 2/5 and beat Terrefort easily. From there he was Gold Cup-bound as 5/1 2nd fav.

To my eye, he failed to act at Cheltenham, never looking happy, and did very well to remain in contention until late before finding little. Despite not liking the track, I think his stamina was stretched too. Nicholls sent him to Aintree next where he was well beaten by Kemboy.

He reappeared this season at Down Royal looking happier galloping right handed once more. Given that he was covered in caveats warning how much he’d be in need of the race, he ran well enough in 2nd to Road To Respect.

Aside from the visual impressions of which way round he prefers, his two best performances, by at least 9lbs, have been at right handed tracks, so we ought to see the best of him here. Whether the ground will suit is another matter. His outing last time was on soft, but prior to that it’s almost two years since he ran on soft ground (beaten into 2nd by Guitar Pete at Cheltenham).  Only one of his top 7 Racing Post Ratings (his 4th best) has been posted on soft ground. With rain to come, the ground could also weigh the stamina scales against Clan Des Obeaux.

 


Thistlecrack

A bonny horse I’ve always loved. This side of his career could have been magnificent had he not run in The Cotswold Chase in 2017 where, after an all out battle with Many Clouds it took him an awful long time to recover his true form. I dislike that Cotswold Chase, certainly as a race for Gold Cup candidates. It can be a desperate test, invariably run on soft or heavy ground and too close to the festival meeting for most horses to fully recover. The race cost Many Clouds his life that day.

It was almost a year before we saw Thistlecrack back on track. He ran twice, quite poorly, then was put away again. A year later he returned and showed something of his old self in running well in the Betfair Chase and exceptionally in finishing 2nd to Clan Des Obeaux in this race last year. He went to the Gold Cup after that where he was pulled up.

Thistlecrack reappeared behind Paisley Park over hurdles at the end of November, running a fine race. If the going were on the goodish side at Kempton I’d fancy him to be involved in the battle for second. But I suspect he doesn’t want a true stamina test these days. He travels wonderfully well when on song which he was here last year and he was again at Newbury last time, swinging along, head low like some sort of minesweeper, holding his place easily with that tactical speed. He’s a joy to watch and I hope he runs a huge race, but I think they’ll leave him behind this time.


Footpad

This is a hell of a race to be attempting 3 miles for the first time. Footpad reappeared recently at Thurles after being off the track for 252 days and registered his best Racing Post Rating (165) since beating Petit Mouchoir over 2m1f (168).

In 2017/18 Footpad had a glory season, unbeaten in five among which was the Arkle at Cheltenham. For 2018/19 he reappeared at Naas, a 4/9 chance, and found himself with 3 lengths still to find to catch St Calvados at the last, where Footpad fell suffering an overreach in the process. Six weeks later he started 1/1 favourite in a Leopardstown Grade 1 and looked all over the winner until close home where Simply Ned battled him out of it.

He was rested then until the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival for which he went off 7/2 favourite only to finish last after breaking blood vessels. Had he run to form there, we’d have had much more information about his chances of staying this trip. That takes us to his Thurles victory last time over 2m6f in a listed race worth £15k. Even if he gets the trip at Kempton, he’s in the hottest of company given the class and potential of Lostintranslation and Cyrname.

At the top of his form Footpad had an OR of 166 (now 165). Even returning to that would leave him lowest here on official ratings. There is also the chance that he will once again burst blood vessels. There’s limited evidence – not enough to justify a definite conclusion, but sufficient for me to add a shade of doubt about his resolution in a fight. The genius of trainer Mullins can be the only reason Footpad is as low as 10/1 here.


Aso

To win this, Aso would need to run the best race of his life. Based on Racing Post Ratings, his best figure going right handed is 156  (in a Kempton handicap). He has bettered that figure six times, offering more than enough evidence I think that he’s at a disadvantage on a right handed track. He hasn’t won beyond 2m4.5f and I suspect he will be ridden to give him the best chance of prize money. Barring serious misfortune befalling his opponents, Aso cannot win this.


Jockey Tactics

I love these big races as much for seeing which horse comes out best as to which jockey executes the perfect tactics.

Everyone will expect Cyrname to lead as usual. That would give Cobden the advantage of trying to keep the racing pace fast enough to have his rivals constantly working, but steady enough to see out the 3 miles. Power, happy to sit well off the pace in The Betfair, might well take the view that, with stamina proven, he’ll hassle Cyrname from the start.  If so, I think it would be a mistake to go head to head with Cyrname as Lostintranslation seems to me the less professional of the two in jumping. Cyrname will keep his head down and maintain concentration. Power might want to sit just behind him or, perhaps more wisely, take him on early and try to have Cobden surrender the lead to him for fear of burning out his own mount.  Bear in mind how happy Lostintranslation was from the front at Carlisle. And he has plenty of tactical pace.

Sam Twiston-Davies has a lucky spare here in last year’s winner but his hands are tied tactics-wise unless someone has taught Clan Des Obeaux good at-the-front manners. He has little choice but to stay in close enough touch to challenge at or after the last. That’s a hell of a narrow window, especially in a race of this quality.

I think Geraghty must steer clear of upfront battles and switch Footpad off as best he can. The pace should help, especially as Footpad can get into a fine jumping rhythm. If he does, Geraghty won’t want to take a pull early after each fence. If he does find himself involved going to the last, Geraghty might have shades of Sam Twiston-Davies’ dilemma in trying to win it with one run rather than getting involved in a battle.

Tom Scudamore on Thistlecrack will try to grab the rail and stay prominent and hope they don’t go too fast. His tactical speed should allow Thistlecrack to be pretty much anywhere Scudamore wants through the race, but at an energy cost he’ll be unable to pay in the later stages.

Charlie Deutsch will hopefully enjoy himself on Aso, hoping to run past Thistlecrack, Footpad and maybe even Clan Des Obeaux in the straight.

Good luck, and be careful. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile, no matter the source of the tip.

Happy Christmas.
Joe

 

 

 

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