Smad Place gets green light for King George showpiece
An exciting line-up for Saturday's King George VI Chase at Kempton became even more so yesterday when Alan King confirmed his Hennessy winner Smad Place a runner.
The grey is available at 9/1 following his flamboyant victory at Newbury, making him fifth favourite of 10 possible starters in a market which has the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour, Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack and Cue Card closely tied at the top.
King wanted to see how Smad Place jumped a few practice fences yesterday before deciding if he should wait for an alternative at Cheltenham and reported that he had "schooled grand", adding: "At this stage, everything is going according to plan."
Coneygree, ruled out of the King George a week ago owing to a hock injury, will not defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup title. "He's still being assessed in Newmarket, but we've decided it's prudent not to try to get him ready this season," said assistant trainer Sara Bradstock. "He has a carefully planned rehabilitation and everyone believes he'll make a full recovery."
The Christmas Hurdle, in which Old Guard is expected to emerge as a challenger to Mullins' reigning champion Faugheen, and Sunday's Desert Orchid Chase were both re-opened after attracting insufficient entries.
Elliott's No More Heroes features among 12 entries for Saturday's Kauto Star Novices' Chase. The six-year-old was smart as a novice hurdler and has created a strong impression in two starts since switching to fences, winning the Drinmore Chase last time out. Elliott has also entered Lord Scoundrel and Captain Von Trappe.
Leading the home defence is Colin Tizzard's Native River, winner of a Grade Two at Newbury last month, beating Un Temps Pour Tout, which is set to reoppose for David Pipe.
Elsewhere, two past winners, Emperor's Choice and Mountainous, feature among 33 horses confirmed at the five-day stage for Sunday's Coral Welsh Nationa.
Emperor's Choice, trained by Venetia Williams, made a timely return to action for the first time since his success 12 months ago when scoring at Haydock five weeks ago. Mountainous, triumphant in 2013, will bid to win for rookie trainer Kerry Lee. She is also represented by Russe Blanc.
Three of the ante-post market leaders - Jonjo O'Neill's Upswing, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Cogry and King's Midnight Prayer - have stood their ground. Topping the weights on 11st 112lb are the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Thunder and O'Faolains Boy, the 2014 RSA Chase victor which returned to winning form at Newbury this month.
The latter's trainer Rebecca Curtis has three other possibles, including Bob Ford, while the sole Irish-trained horse left in is Folsom Blue, from the Mouse Morris yard.