Racing: Bacchanal in line for King George

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Bacchanal will attempt to fill a rare gap in Nicky Henderson's training achievements in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. The seven-year-old booked his place for Kempton when making a winning return in the Future Stars Chase at Sandown yesterday.

"He's not fit, you saw him in the paddock, he looked like a bull," Henderson said. "But we'll have him fit by Boxing Day. He takes a serious amount of work to get ready. He's had a lot of schooling and it's done the job. He was brilliant and he's getting better all the time."

Coral make Bacchanal a 5-1 chance (from 7-1) for the King George and 10-1 from 16-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Henderson added that Marlborough was making rapid progress after an operation to help his breathing and could still be a King George contender. "He will start cantering next week. That would make it tight for the King George but everything is still a possibility." Coral offer Marlborough at 10-1.

J P McManus was at Sandown to watch his Rith Dubh finish third in the novices' handicap chase, and reported that Istabraq, though an entry in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle, was still more likely to run at Leopardstown. "The plan is for him to run at Kempton only if Leopardstown is off. There's only one race that Istabraq has been entered for before which he hasn't run in. Aidan [O'Brien] tries to save my money."