Can Native River win the King George following an impressive second comeback?

Native River will be looking to go one better at the King George VI Chase later this month after finishing runner-up in the Betfair Chase in November.

The 5/2 starter that day finished second by four lengths to Bristol De Mai and the French horse will be at the Kempton event on Boxing Day too.

Both horses finished ahead of odds-on favourite Might Bite in the Betfair Chase. Nicky Henderson said after the race that his horse lost all its confidence on the big and solid fences that he hadn’t been expecting, as he saw his 2017 winner finish in last place.

The arch-rivals competed in a thrilling Cheltenham Gold Cup back in March and will go head-to-head for a third consecutive time on Boxing Day at the much-anticipated event.

The King George dates back to 1937 and is the second most prestigious chase in England, behind only the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself. It has been held on Boxing Day since 1947.

Might Bite was the winner here 12 months ago, ridden by Nico de Boinville, whom is expected to take the saddle once again on December 26th. The nine-year-old is currently the King George horse race favourite with odds of 7/2.

At last year’s event Might Bite had started as the 6/4 favourite and lead the pack around the home turn before having to dig deep to hold off the challenge of Double Shuffle by a length, and Tea For Two by a further two lengths.

This year’s race is expected to be another close encounter, with Colin Tizzard’s Native River currently the second favourite with a price of 7/1. Tizzard has experienced success here over the past couple of years – first winning with Cue Card in 2015 and then Thistlecrack, ridden by Tom Scudamore, the following year.

Nicky Henderson has been a winner here on three occasions – first in 2010 when Sam Waley-Cohen rode Long Run to victory before repeating the same success two years later. The Berkshire-based trainer heads into the King George VI as the defending champion, with the same horse that won last year’s event looking to follow in the footsteps of 14 others who have won this race on more than one occasion over the years.

What’s more, each of the past four winning horses of this event have been eight or nine years old.  The successful Native River heads into Boxing Day as an eight-year-old that has won eight of its 14 lifetime steeplechases and finished in the top three on each occasion. Native River had won both of
its races in 2018 prior to the Betfair Chase, which included the 5/1 win at Cheltenham back in March, seated by Richard Johnson. Might Bite is now nine years old itself.

Bristol De Mai is one horse not to be overlooked heading into the King George. Despite the Betfair Chase winners’ odds currently being back at 13/2, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse wasn’t greatly fancied when it upset the odds at Haydock last month either.

Twiston-Davies is the only trainer capable of taking home the £1 million bonus that comes with winning the Triple Crown – the Betfair Chase, King George VI and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.