Preamble … and Thistlecrack out
It has been a damp start to the day in south-east London and a somewhat disappointing one too following the news that Thistlecrack, last year’s runner-up, has been scratched from the King George VI Chase due to a bruised foot, reducing the big-race field from six to just five.
Thistlecrack was a 16-1 shot and no forlorn hope to add a second King George to his memorable success during his novice season in 2016, but even in his absence, this still promises to be a fascinating renewal of the Christmas showpiece with four of the five remaining runners priced up in single figures.
It is not even possible to say with any certainty whether Cyrname or Lostintranslation will set off as the favourite, and the rain that is forecast for the Sunbury area later in the day could well see punters swinging behind Lostintranslation, currently the 2-1 second-favourite, as Cyrname (11-8) has yet to prove his stamina at today’s three-mile trip.
Clan Des Obeaux is also going to attract plenty of support, not least from those who still have warm memories of backing the 20-1 winner last year, even though Harry Cobden, his rider 12 months ago, has opted to ride Cyrname instead. And then there’s Footpad, an outstanding two-mile novice in 2017-18 but a disappointment since until a return to something like his old form in a weak race at Thurles last time.
All that remains now is to see how much of the forecast rain actually arrives at the track. All the predictions are that this year’s King George will be a wet one, with around 5mm expected between midday and six o’clock. The going is currently soft, good-to-soft in places but if the forecast is anywhere close to correct, it is unlikely to be any better than soft all over by the time of the big race. But it’s a winter sport, and a festive crowd of around 20,000 will no doubt be well insulated against the cold and rain when the five runners to go post just after 3pm.
Altior out of Friday return