Racing: Two years for King George at Kempton

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The management of Kempton Park racecourse was yesterday unable to guarantee the future of the King George VI Chase at the Sunbury track beyond next year. The course is engaged in a strategic review, with the main discussion point being the creation of a 10 furlong, left-handed, floodlit all-weather racetrack to replace the turf course. The result of that review is not expected before next spring.

The management of Kempton Park racecourse was yesterday unable to guarantee the future of the King George VI Chase at the Sunbury track beyond next year. The course is engaged in a strategic review, with the main discussion point being the creation of a 10 furlong, left-handed, floodlit all-weather racetrack to replace the turf course. The result of that review is not expected before next spring.

Julian Thick, the course's managing director, could not confirm that the big chase would take place at Kempton on Boxing Day in 2004. "Looking at the timing, I can see we will be racing on turf for the whole of next year," Thick said. "After that, as soon as we have got a decision, we will tell people."

The King George, first run in 1937, has been won by many outstanding chasers. Arkle won the race in 1965, while Desert Orchid's unique achievement in winning the race four times is marked by his statue which adjoins Kempton's parade ring.

The course is owned by Racecourse Holdings Trust and it is likely that the King George would be switched to one of its other tracks, probably nearby Sandown, which has been prone to waterlogging in recent years, or Cheltenham.

Best Mate is 2-1 favourite with Coral for this year's King George, the entries for which were unveiled yesterday. Florida Pearl, who beat Best Mate in the race last December, is 5-1 second favourite. Douze Douze, who is expected to take on Best Mate when the Gold Cup winner makes his return at Huntingdon on Saturday, and Bacchanal are on 12-1.

* Simon "Dodger" McCartney, the professional punter and contributor to The Independent's racing page who was killed in a car crash this year is commemorated with a race in his honour at Hereford today.

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