For Gordon Richards and confident punters, bad weather is starting to seem the greatest threat to One Man winning the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. Paradoxically, if the race does escape the worst of the elements, the weather could simplify the task for Richards's grey as the drying winds may remove Rough Quest from calculations.
The forecast for Kempton is chilly. "At present the course is raceable but there's a piercing wind which is making it seem very cold," Peter McNeile, the clerk of the course, said. "Temperatures will be below zero every night and frost is expected on Christmas Day. If the frost does get into the ground we could have a bit of a problem."
The wind has resulted in the turf drying out and, if racing does take place, the ground is expected to be good. That prospect has increased punter-confidence in One Man, who is now 4-7 from 8-13 with William Hill, but raised doubts about Rough Quest, who is out to 4-1, from 100-30, with the same firm.
"One Man is the punters' Boxing Day banker and Strong Promise [6-1 from 12-1] is the each-way certainty to pay for the Christmas turkey," David Hood, William Hill's spokesman, said. "The problem is that fast ground could result in several absentees but particularly Rough Quest."
The burden of expectation is starting to affect Richards. "I have to say I'm shaking with worry because One Man is very, very well and I wish the race was today," he said. "He's popping and bouncing and might be the best I've ever had him. He had to miss the race at Haydock last week because of the weather and he's dying for a run.
"But I know the forecast isn't good and I hope the weather doesn't spoil things again. If it does, we'll definitely be on our way to Sandown again as happened last season."
Should the frost stay away, at exactly the same time as One Man is in action at Kempton, The Grey Monk will be attempting to record an extraordinary across-the-card double for Richards in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby, while the stable also has a leading player for the following day's Welsh National in Parsons Boy.
Richards is considering a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Unguided Missile after his gallant second to Go Ballistic under a hefty burden in the Betterware Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
"He will certainly be entered for the Gold Cup now," Richards said. "He ran his heart out yesterday and put up a lovely performance. Look at the third horse [Major Bell] who was almost a distance behind. If I put him in handicaps he will be giving away a lot of weight so he may go for a Gold Cup trial."
Unguided Missile is quoted at 40-1 for the Gold Cup by Ladbrokes and could form part of a four-strong tilt at the Cheltenham highlight along with One Man (offered at 7-1 by Ladbrokes), Addington Boy (14-1) and The Grey Monk (20-1).
KING GEORGE VI CHASE (Kempton, Boxing Day). William Hill: 4-7 One Man (from 8-13), 4-1 Rough Quest (from 100-30), 6-1 Strong Promise (from 12- 1), 10-1 Barton Bank, 14-1 Mr Mulligan (from 12-1), 16-1 Trying Again (from 14-1), 20-1 Nahthen Lad (from 16-1), 33-1 Algan (from 20-1), 33- 1 Couldnt Be Better, 66-1 Oatis Regrets (from 100-1). (Doubtful: 4-1 Sound Man).Reuse content