Racing: One Man's quest for immortality

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One Man looks set to revive the notion of a grey day at Kempton as he bids to win a second successive King George VI Chase. He has a long way to go before he can match the four-time winner Desert Orchid, who last triumphed six years ago, either in terms of achievement or public affection, but a decisive win on Boxing Day will do neither case any harm.

It would also ensure his immortality in quiz questions of the future as the only horse to win two King Georges in the same year, his previous triumph having come in the postponed running at Sandown last January. The Gordon Richards-trained eight-year-old has run only twice since, but put the disappointment of his Gold Cup flop behind him with a clinically efficient performance on his return to action at Wetherby last month.

The winners of the last two Kempton runnings are in the field, but Barton Bank seems a light of other days and the French raider Algan needs soft ground to be seen at his best. The greatest threat is likely to come from the Grand National winner Rough Quest, who had One Man well behind when he chased home Imperial Call at Cheltenham. The 10-year-old, who won over Thursday's course and distance in the Racing Post Trophy in February, has been the best-backed horse since his rather unorthodox winning reappearance in a hurdle race five days ago and will have his final wind-up on Terry Casey's gallops this morning.

The two top novices of last season, Mr Mulligan and Nahthen Lad, both disappointed on their seasonal reappearances. The race, one to savour rather than invest on, should be a match between Rough Quest and One Man. The grey, with the trip, course and going in his favour and Richard Dunwoody in the saddle, is taken to confirm his status as Britain's leading staying chaser. The pounds 100,000-added King George VI Chase is the highlight of a superb programme over the holiday period. On the same card some of the stars of the future will turn out in the Feltham Novices Chase, in which two of the best of the home contingent, Aardwolf and See More Business, take on the French hope Djeddah.

The former Champion Hurdler Alderbrook is scheduled to make his seasonal debut in the Christmas Hurdle at the Sunbury track on Friday where he will face, among others, the much-improved Bimsey, narrowly defeated by Large Action at Cheltenham earlier this month.

And on the same afternoon at Chepstow Belmont King will be aiming to strengthen his Grand National claims in the Welsh version. The Paul Nicholls- trained eight-year-old runs only in televised races as his septuagenarian owner Billie Bond cannot go racing. She had a long wait to see Belmont King, as he injured a leg shortly after she bought him two years ago, but finally rewarded her patience beating the King George candidate Trying Again in the Rehearsal Chase two weeks ago.