Racing: Kicking King out on his own in pursuit of £1m

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The Independent Online

True, there are 10 opponents prepared to line up against Kicking King and some have been placed in Gold Cups while others have the potential to do so. But they are not Best Mate.

Try as the sponsors might to drum up enthusiasm for a chase worth £150,000 in its own right and the first leg of a £1m treble for any horse who wins Saturday's race followed by the King George and Gold Cup, it was not the line-up Betfair had in mind before Best Mate succumbed to heart failure in his prep race at Exeter this month.

The opponents of Kicking King will have gained some encouragement from the horse's surprising defeat by War Of Attrition at Punchestown last month and the reminder in Moscow Flyer's failure on Sunday that any horse, even one of the greats, cannot remain at the pinnacle forever.

Nevertheless, there is confidence behind Kicking King and he has been cut to 4-5, from 10-11, by Coral to win on Saturday and to 5-1 from 8-1 for the £1m treble.

Ollie Magern, Kingscliff and Take The Stand, first, second and third respectively in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, are to renew rivalry at Haydock, while Michael Hourigan is leaning towards the race for Beef Or Salmon.

The in-form Jonjo O'Neill is also aiming Keen Leader at the Betfair Chase. The nine-year-old got only as far as the fourth fence in the Charlie Hall but has two wins over the stiff Haydock fences to his name.

O'Neill's Lingo also came in support yesterday for the Champion Hurdle after his decisive win at Cheltenham on Sunday and despite a warning from Tony McCoy about the massive improvement the J P McManus-owned gelding would need to win the Champion.

Totesport's Damien Walker said: "We held the 12-1 as long as we could but we were knocked over and he is 9-1, with Hardy Eustace and Harchibald our 11-2 joint-favourites."

"I'd love him to be a Champion Hurdle horse," McCoy said, "and I really hope that he is but he was rated 140 yesterday and Champion Hurdle horses are rated 165-170."

BETFAIR CHASE: Coral: 4-5 Kicking King, 9-2 Ollie Magern, 13-2 Beef Or Salmon, 9-1 Kingscliff, Celestial Gold, 10-1 Keen Leader, 16-1 Lord Transcend, Take The Stand, 25-1 Royal Auclair, 33-1 others.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Stoneacre Lad (Southwell 1.10)

NB: London Express

(Lingfield 1.50)