Racing: Imperial Call can halt grey reign

King George VI Chase: The people's choice could prove to be only a pale version of Desert Orchid and One Man
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The Independent Online
GREY IS very much the colour of Kempton Park on Boxing Day, from the ashen faces of racegoers nursing industrial-strength hangovers, to the horses they love to back in the King George VI Chase. Desert Orchid and One Man became the most popular chasers in training on the back of their exploits in the King George, and between them account for six of the last 10 runnings. Now, there is a new white horse in town, and if Teeton Mill can follow their lead this afternoon, an Official Fan Club will not be far behind.

Like his trainer, Venetia Williams, Teeton Mill has climbed towards the peak of jumps racing at astonishing speed. Less than 12 months ago, he was merely a promising hunter chaser, but he could well start favourite this afternoon for what is to some minds the best renewal of the King George for years.

When Teeton Mill was a 5-2 chance for the Hennessy Gold Cup just a few days before he turned the race into a procession, his trainer commented that she found his odds "frightening". Given that he is the same sort of price for the most important weight-for-age chase outside the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, Williams should perhaps be experiencing abject terror this morning. Instead, she simply says that she is "completely numb about the whole business".

What some punters - though not his trainer - seem to overlook, though, is that the bare form of Teeton Mill's Hennessy victory does not entitle him to set off at such a short price today.

"He's a grey horse and I think people look at him a bit like an iceberg," Williams says. "They assume that there are hidden depths there, but we will only find out on Saturday. He will get there fit and well, and the ground is not a worry because he has won on fast at Stratford and soft at Newbury. Softer ground would probably suit us, but equally it would suit See More Business."

It is See More Business, last year's winner, who is the main rival to Teeton Mill at the top of the betting, even though he has yet to show a similar level of form this season. Beaten by Suny Bay on his seasonal reappearance, he then won a three-runner Rehearsal Chase, but made a couple of mistakes in the process.

This, perhaps, is the key to today's race. Greys may have a good record in the King George, but winning the race is not so much a matter of colour as of style. Bold front-runners can be very difficult to reel in around Kempton's flat three miles, and as luck would have it, there is just such a horse in today's field. Not only that, he will start at a very backable price.

IMPERIAL CALL (nap 2.20) has given every indication this season of having rediscovered the form which carried him to a Cheltenham Gold Cup less than three years ago, and if See More Business attempts to match him jump for jump at the head of the field, his fencing will be subjected to the sort of examination which it rarely promises to pass. Imperial Call is the form horse of the race, running on a track which should suit him ideally, and the only mystery is how on earth he can be available at around 4-1 this morning.

The second Grade One event on the card, the Feltham Novices' Chase, is rather less tractable, with at least six of the eight runners holding perfectly credible claims on their best form. Executive King (1.10) is perhaps the value option, but there are better bets elsewhere.

Jungli (12.40), for instance, has every chance of upsetting Lawahik and Grecian Dart in the opening novices' hurdle, while his stablemate Road Racer (next best 1.45) is another worthwhile alternative to a hot favourite - Tuitchev this time - in the handicap hurdle. Road Racer ran very well until two flights out on his reappearance in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle earlier this month, and on his previous start was second in a Grade Two race over today's course and distance.

Dines will be a short price for the remaining televised event from Kempton, but there is a bonus for viewers in the shape of the Denny Gold Medal Novices' Chase from Leopardstown. Promalee, one of Ireland best novices, will attempt to win for the fourth time in as many completed starts.