Racing: Tradition means Business as usual

King George VI Chase: The history of Boxing Day's showpiece suggests that last year's winner will triumph again
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The Independent Online
THE FIRST 500 children to desert their presents on Boxing Day morning and go to Kempton Park will receive a cracker. All the spectators who attend the King George VI Chase card at Sunbury this Saturday will expect an athletic version in the afternoon. The portents suggest they will not be disappointed.

History shows us that the King George fully deserves its reputation as the most prestigious conditions chase apart from the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In one sense though it is dramatically different from the Blue Riband.

When a horse wins Cheltenham's championship the chances of it doing so again seem to be minimal. Once a King George has been collected, however, you have to try monstrously hard to prevent another attaching itself to you. If See More Business, the victor 12 months ago, wins on Saturday, he will become the fourth dual winner of the contest in the last 10 years.

"See More", as they call him in his Somerset stable, is a nasty piece of work when he first comes in from a summer at grass. "He's not so bad once he's fit, but to start with when he comes back he's a real Jack the Lad," Paul Nicholls, the eight-year-old's trainer, said yesterday. "You have to be very careful and when you clip him he could literally kill you. His mood can change very quickly because he's got the aggressive streak which helps makes him such a good racehorse."

They have attempted to replicate See More Business' winning preparation at Ditcheat this season and the challenge looks remarkably similar both in terms of figures in the form book and the horse's figure itself. "He's exactly the same as he was last year," Nicholls added. "He did a nice piece of work this morning and his weight is just right.

"I watched the King George last night and when you look at it afterwards you could say that the race did not turn out as strong as it looked going into it. On paper, it looks as though it could be even hotter this year, with the likes of Teeton Mill and Imperial Call in there, and it's obvious that any King George takes a lot of winning."

The favourite will be partnered by young Joe Tizzard, formerly a big name in the West country point-to-point division but a 19-year-old rather less trumpeted in the professional ranks. Tizzard does have ability, though, and at 6ft tall he can very nearly tie his legs under See More Business's belly and negate his mount's leaping deficiencies.

"The horse flew round last year and didn't make a mistake," Nicholls said. "He's clever more than anything else and he has to be because he's not a big, scopey horse and will never be an extravagant jumper.

"We've had to live with his jumping and mistakes from day one, but he does seem to get round these big tracks. Joe suits him because he's such a good horseman."

Nevertheless, if there is a part of See More Business's armoury that was not plunged into the Styx at birth, it is his jumping. The occasional lapses are a lifebelt for those in opposition.

"See More Business is very tough and very game, a horse I admire a lot, but if he is put under pressure, his jumping lets him down slightly," Lorcan Wyer, Simply Dashing's jockey, says. "I think he got all the breaks going in the race last year and whether that will happen again is open to question."

Wyer's mount has not won for some time now, largely because of defective bellows, but now all appears to be right. "Simply Dashing came out of his latest race pretty good and ate up well and his training has gone really well since," the Irishman said. "We are very hopeful he will run a big race.

"Some people have said that it doesn't have the look of a vintage King George but I can assure you it's still going to take some winning. Mine will not look out of place and we are going down with a good chance.

"I don't know if it will be soft enough for the Irish horse [Imperial Call], and Teeton Mill has a little to find on the official ratings, although he could be a Jodami and go from running well in the Hennessy off a low weight to the very top. Who is to say he has stopped improving? All round, it's a fascinating race."

It is difficult to assess what Imperial Call, the former Gold Cup winner, has achieved in victory in Ireland this winter. More certain is the fact that he will make the running.

Teeton Mill is the grey attempting to continue the dynasty of Desert Orchid and One Man. He is almost 10 and has been hiding in point-to-point fields almost all his life. If he takes this after just two efforts in handicaps, Elizabeth Taylor had better prepare herself for a reworking of an old role.

Escartefigue, one of David Nicholson's two runners, exhibits flashes of form but you would not want his company in the trenches, especially not if he was behind you. Adrian Maguire deserts him to ride the accident- prone Mulligan. Challenger Du Luc, last year's runner-up, is hardly one you could trust to go to pay the paper bill either but he does, at least, have form in the race and that counts on turkey-remains day.

Dessie, the four-time winner, will be there to advertise further that fact and it should pay to back the tradition being upheld at what is a traditional time of the year. Go for SEE MORE BUSINESS (nap 2.20).