Paul Nicholls fields three runners in Monday’s King George VI Chase as he seeks a record-extending 13th success in Kempton’s Boxing Day showpiece.
The pick of the trio appears to be Bravemansgame, a course and distance winner at the meeting last year, who underlined his prospects with a winning comeback at Wetherby in October.
The chosen mount of stable jockey Harry Cobden, Bravemansgame has headed the ante-post betting in the run up to the Grade 1 feature with Nicholls reporting: “We’ve kept him for this race, He won at this track last year and seems progressive. I’m very happy with him.”
The younger and improving Hitman and Frodon, who struck two years ago ridden by Bryony Frost, the first woman jockey to win the King George, complete Nicholls’ 2022 team.
“They are three exciting horses,” said the trainer, whose love affair with the race began 25 years ago with See More Business.
The forecast soft ground after heavy rain this week is music to the ears of Venetia Williams, trainer of L’Homme Presse, who has displaced Bravemansgame as favourite.
The seven-year-old revelled in similar conditions when scoring at the Cheltenham Festival last season, and tuned up with a classy win under top weight in his prep at Newcastle last month.
“The King George will be far and away his biggest test in Grade One open company,” Williams told The Daily Telegraph.
“He didn’t do anything wrong but he has to step up again.”
Charlie Deutsch is in the hot seat with Tom Scudamore on board stablemate Royale Pagaille.
Last year’s King George produced a surprise winner in the shape of outsider Tornado Flyer and if there is to be a similar upset then it ould come from Envoi Allen, the only Irish contender who advertised his credentials over three miles on his comeback at Down Royal and will have the assured presence of Rachael Blackmore in the saddle.