With Coneygree in limbo at the moment in regard to his prep and target for a Christmas race and with Vautour not quite shining on his seasonal debut, the door is swung open for DON COSSACK to finally come of age and land a race that will properly fulfill his destiny – the William Hill King George VI Chase.
There are very few race with the same allure as the Kempton showpiece on Boxing Day and it looks as though Gigginstown will be sending him over, no doubt to the delight of Gordon Elliott, who is enjoying a stellar start to the season.
Don Cossack took this sweet time to find his true level and show us the potential his trainer always told us he had, but it was last season he began to display a level of professionalism we hadn’t seen from him before. He won four races on the bounce before being unlucky in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March, and it was those four runs that really helped him develop a level of consistency in his jumping and a very important aptitude for using himself at the right time when racing against top class opposition.
Leaving the Cheltenham Festival run firmly behind, he simply destroyed a good field in the Melling Chase at the Aintree Festival, putting 26 lengths between himself and Cue Card. Cue Card is 9/2 for this having returned to something like the peak of his powers of late, but surely he has had his chances at Kempton Park and is distinctly vulnerable to younger, fresher protagonists? In any case, that Aintree form leaves Don Cossack looking a pretty good price of 3/1 with the sponsors, against at least that rival, who is holding current King George champ Silviniaco Conti on that line of form too.
But what of Vautour? He could really sparkle here, but he certainly didn’t sparkle when getting 5lb from P’tit Zig at Ascot on his seasonal return and only just doing enough to fend him off from a sterner challenge. The jumping was as zingy as it can be and indeed it isn’t the first time Vautour has left the impression that he saves his absolute best for Cheltenham. There is also the question mark over his stamina and when you take that into account, he quickly becomes a risky proposition at 3/1 or shorter.
So no, Don Cossack is the box-ticker here and looks the ideal type to capitalise on the opportunity to gun down the old guard and come out on top of the new who turn up. With Gigginstown in flying form this season so far, he can provide an ideal Christmas tonic for the owners and a welcome Irish winner of the King George.
At a massive price, perhaps one could have a little each way saver on Alan King’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner ANNACOTTY, who won a Grade 1 here as a novice and put in a career-best for his new trainer at Cheltenham.
He is due to run in the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham on the 12th, a task he’s been installed as favourite for and given his record at Kempton, connections would be mightily tempted to take up this engagement 16 days later if he happened to win again from his revised handicap mark. It is a big ask, but it is easy to forget he is still only seven years old.
King George VI Chase, Kempton Park (Saturday, 26th December 2015