Stars align at Kempton for King George Christmas cracker
Irish challengers Don Cossack and Vautour are among the star names among the 10 horses left in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott, has been the star performer over fences so far this season with impressive victories at Punchestown and in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
He is owned by Gigginstown House Stud, who have two other possibles in Noel Meade's Road To Riches and Valseur Lido, trained by Willie Mullins.
The latter is also responsible for Vautour, emphatic winner of the JLT Novices' Chase at last season's Cheltenham Festival and successful on his reappearance in the Stella Artois 1965 Chase at Ascot last month.
Leading the home team is Colin Tizzard's Cue Card, who has returned to his best this term with wins in Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase and the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Silviniaco Conti was beaten seven lengths by Cue Card on the latter occasion but cannot be discounted as he has won this race for the last two years.
Al Ferof, a former Nicholls inmate, has finished third in the last two renewals of the King George and showed his well-being with a facile victory in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon earlier this month - his first outing for Dan Skelton.
Another strong contender is Smad Place, who was given the go-ahead to run after the devastating Hennessy Gold Cup winner satisfied trainer Alan King in a workout on Monday morning.
"He schooled grand and Wayne (Hutchinson, jockey) was very happy with him," said the Barbury Castle handler.
"He's been confirmed for the King George and, at this stage, everything is going according to plan."
Completing the 10 are David Pipe's Ballynagour and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Irish Cavalier.