The King George VI Chase is one of the most prestigious and eagerly-anticipated horse racing events of the UK’s national hunt calendar. The race was inaugurated in 1937 and named after the newly crowned King, this Grade 1 race takes place each year on Boxing Day at Kempton Park, near London.
The best horses from England and Ireland compete to take home the crown and the chance to feature in the record books.
In this blog post, we’ll provide insight into the rich history of King George VI Chase and why it is so special.
History of King George VI Chase
The race was first held in 1937 with the intention of creating a race that would rival the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Grand National in terms of importance.
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The King himself, George VI, was a keen racegoer and presented the inaugural trophy to Southern Hero, ridden by Dick Rees. Since then, the race has gone from strength to strength, with famous names such as Desert Orchid, Kauto Star, and Long Run all making their mark.
The event remains a must-watch for racing fans and is an iconic part of British Boxing Day traditions.
What Makes the Race So Exciting?
King George VI Chase is also one of the most fiercely competitive races on the calendar. The prize money on offer assures a high-quality field, with the winner pocketing over £142,000.
The race also presents an opportunity for horses to prove themselves against some of the best chasers in Europe. From jump jockeys to trainers and owners, this is one event where all eyes are on the winning horse and its rider.
The race is part of the Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown, which rewards a £1m bonus to any horse that wins the Betfair Chase, Ladbrokes King George VI Chase, and Magners Gold Cup. The Kauto Star Trophy, named after the legendary chaser who accomplished this in 2006/7, will accompany the cash prize.
Kempton Park Racecourse has a rich history and is an integral part of British horse racing. The racecourse was established in 1878 by a 19th-century businessman and entrepreneur named S.H. Hyde.
The land on which the racecourse is situated was initially used for grazing and farming before Hyde transformed it into a racecourse. His vision was to create a leisure facility for Londoners that would rival the likes of Epsom and Sandown Park.
Although initially developed for flat racing, Kempton Park eventually added jump racing to its schedule. The introduction of the King George VI Chase in 1937 was a significant moment in Kempton Park’s history.
In early 2017, the Jockey Club, which owns Kempton Park Racecourse, announced plans to sell the venue for housing development. The proposal included possibly moving the King George VI Chase to Sandown Park. However, this proposal faced significant opposition from various quarters and the racing community.
The Record Holders
Kauto Star remains the most successful horse in the history of the King George VI Chase, having won five titles between 2006-2011.
Desert Orchid, fondly known as “Dessie,” was an iconic grey racehorse who achieved remarkable success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park, England. He won the race four times, establishing himself as one of the all-time greats in National Hunt racing.
- 1986 Win: Desert Orchid claimed his first King George VI Chase victory on December 26, 1986, at the age of seven. Ridden by Simon Sherwood and trained by David Elsworth, his bold front-running and impressive jumping were on full display as he outperformed the field.
- 1988 Win: After skipping the 1987 edition, Dessie returned to win the King George VI Chase for the second time on December 26, 1988. With Simon Sherwood in the saddle again, he showcased his dominance and established himself as a Kempton Park specialist.
- 1989 Win: Desert Orchid achieved a hat-trick of King George VI Chase victories by winning the race again on December 26, 1989. This time ridden by Richard Dunwoody, his performance further cemented his legendary status in the steeplechasing world.
- 1990 Win: In an emotional and highly celebrated victory, Desert Orchid won the King George VI Chase for the fourth time on December 26, 1990, at the age of 11. With Richard Dunwoody as his jockey once again, Dessie defied his age to outclass his rivals.
Odds on the 2023 King George Chase
Betfred is already offering odds on the 2023 King George VI Chase. The current favourite is Bravemansgame, the horse is trained by Paul Nicholls and looking to repeat his success of 2022. He is currently the 13/8 favourite, with Shishkin, trained by Nico De Bonville, close behind at 4/1.
Nearer to the time of the race, we will provide a full list of runners and odds for the 2023 King George VI Chase.
If you enjoy watching horse racing, whether you are an experienced gambler or a casual fan, the King George VI Chase is a race that you cannot afford to miss. The race will be shown live on ITV and RTV at 2.30pm.
Past Winners & Notable Horses
The King George VI Chase has seen some of the most famous horses in jump racing compete for victory. From Kauto Star to Desert Orchid, Long Run and One Man, the race has a long list of champions – all worthy of their place in history.
- Earliest Winner: The first winner of the King George VI Chase was Southern Hero in 1937.
- Most Wins by a Horse: Kauto Star holds the record for the most victories in this race, with five wins (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011).
- Most Successful Trainer: Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in the history of the King George VI Chase, with multiple wins including Kauto Star, See More Business, Silviniaco Conti, Clan des Obeaux, and others.
- Oldest Winning Horse: Southern Hero (1937) holds the record at 12 years old. Meanwhile, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star both achieved victory at the age of 11 in 1990 and 2011, respectively.
- Youngest Winning Horse: Manicou, who won in 1950, was the youngest winner at the age of 5.
- Most Wins by a Jockey: Ruby Walsh holds the record for the most victories as a jockey in this race, with five wins on Kauto Star.
- Successful Female Jockey: Bryony Frost became the first female jockey to win the King George VI Chase, riding Frodon to victory in 2020.
- French Connection: François Doumen, a French trainer, achieved notable success in the race, training four winners: Nupsala (1987), The Fellow (1991 and 1992), and First Gold (2000).
- Years Without Races: The King George VI Chase was not held in 1939-1946 due to World War II, 1961-1962 due to a harsh winter, 1967-1968 due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, 1970 due to abandonment, and 1981 due to snow.
- Dominant Decades: The 2000s and 2010s have been particularly dominated by certain horses, such as Kauto Star, and trainers like Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, who have produced multiple winners in those decades.
In conclusion, the King George VI Chase is a race with a rich history and has seen many legendary horses, jockeys, and trainers making their mark.
The race remains one of the most exciting and unpredictable events on the National Hunt racing calendar.