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Now that’s all over it’s time for the proper stuff. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to attend the King George VI Chase since See More Business beat Challenger Du Luc, mainly due to work commitments previewing the next day’s racing and, of course, that’s the case again this year as I work through Kempton and Leopardstown’s cards for tomorrow and will upload them in the early part of this evening.
The Welsh Grand National Meeting (and Wetherby today and tomorrow) have both been abandoned as has Limerick today (they are looking to reschedule the Grade 2 novice chase for later in the week) with the plan being to run the Welsh National on January 9th like when Synchronised and Monbeg Dude won it. That’s usually a quiet Saturday anyway so expect more journalists to be writing copy along the lines that is where the race should stay, not taking any account that the crowd size would be diminished of course.
Going back to the King George, I was lucky enough to attend Kempton on Boxing Day during the Desert Orchid years or, as I knew them, the wait for two hours to get out of the car park years. I’ve never experienced an atmosphere quite like it at a racecourse as when Dessie was in his pomp winning every year with the exception of when Denman beat Kauto Star in the Gold Cup which was very special. But I also enjoyed the Algan year!
I mention Algan as it brings back happy (and lucky) memories. About a week before the 1994 King George, when I was working at Weatherbys I took a call from Ian Williams who was then assistant trainer to Francois Doumen who wanted to order the next edition of the quarterly Programme Book listing all the races in Britain between January-March. Feeling a little cheeky, I then asked him how The Fellow was going ahead of the King George for which he was favourite at the time being the reigning Gold Cup winner and he was happy to extend our conversation (though that didn’t go so well one time when I did likewise with Jenny Pitman!). Naturally, he was very positive but he also left me in no doubt whatsoever that the unheralded six-year-old, Algan, who was 50/1 at the time, had been very much overlooked and suggested I back it each-way.
A 16/1 shot come the day, he was never seriously in the hunt held up in rear with still plenty to do turning for home by which time Barton Bank had kicked clear of his rivals. I started to get more hopeful as one by one they dropped away including The Fellow, Bradbury Star, Young Hustler and the fancied Travado who had fallen at half-way and suddenly there he was fighting it out for a place with Monsieur Le Cure and Second Schedual as Barton Bank approached the final fence 15 lengths clear. The rest is history as they say.
So, for all the brilliance of Desert Orchid and Kauto Star in this race plus Burrough Hill Lad overcoming Combs Ditch and more than honourable mentions for multiple winners like Wayward Lad, Kicking King, The Fellow, One Man and Silviniaco Conti, when people think of the King George, I reckon I must be the only person who first thinks of dear old Algan and my joint Christmas present from Ian Williams and Adrian Maguire.
Enjoy the feast of racing action over the next week or so and, most importantly, be lucky!