Past winners Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon spearhead Paul Nicholls’ bid for a 13th success in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase after nine horses were declared for the Kempton showpiece on Boxing Day.
Clan Des Obeaux goes for a third triumph after taking the honours in 2018 and 2019, but he was only third 12 months ago behind stablemate Frodon. Saint Calvados, who was fourth that day when with trainer Harry Whittington, completes Nicholls’ trio.
Clan Des Obeaux has not run since winning the Punchestown Gold Cup in April but Frodon has been in wining form of late, lifting Down Royal’s Champion Chase eight weeks ago. Saint Calvados is making his debut for the Nicholls team having been absent since February.
The last Irish-trained winner was in 2005 through Kicking King, following his victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier that year.
Minella Indo aims to complete the same double for trainer Henry de Bromhead on the back of finishing third behind Frodon at Down Royal on his reappearance.
Willie Mullins supplies the two other Irish contenders in Asterion Forlonge and Tornado Flyer as the Closutton handler attempts to win the the three-mile feature for a second time after Florida Pearl in 2001.
Nicky Henderson has three King Georges to his credit and is two-handed this time with Chantry House and Mister Fisher. However, the Seven Barrows handler is very wary of the opposition and Minella Indo in particular.
“I’ve got serious respect for all of them, but I still think the Gold Cup is rather like they say the Guineas is nearly always the best guide to the Derby. I think last year’s Gold Cup winner is the horse we have to watch. We all know Frodon is a tough old devil, he’s very hard to beat. It’s a great race on paper,” he said.
“As we all learnt at Cheltenham in March, the Irish squad is incredibly strong and so are those yards. Henry has got all those horses so he’s got to spread them around, it’s no surprise one was going to come over and Willie is bringing a couple.
“His grey horse (Asterion Forlonge) is pretty smart, too. I know he tipped up the other day, but he’d run a pretty good race. He belongs to Joe Donnelly who owns Shishkin, so I know the horse quite well.”
Lostintranslation has been pulled up in the last two runnings of this race, but Colin Tizzard’s charge showed he was back in good form when landing the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot last month.
Jeremy Scott’s Dashel Drasher was the only withdrawal at the final declaration stage.