Taking place on Boxing Day, 26th December at Kempton Racecourse, the King George VI Stakes is a National Hunt race with eighteen fences to jump, over a distance of three miles, and is open to horses four years and over. First taking place in 1937, it was named after the then monarch, King George VI.
With Kempton Park being used as a prisoner of war camp during the war years, only two races took place before the war. The winner of the first race in 1937 was a horse called Southern Hero, ridden by J.Fawcus.
The race is the most illustrious race in the National Hunt calendar after the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The King George VI is currently sponsored by bookmaker Ladbrokes, with a prize fund in 2019 of £250,000.
Most Successful Horse
With five wins in six years between 2006 and 2011 Kauto Star heads the list of most successful horses in the race. Ruby Walsh was on board for the first win in 2006, Kauto Star destroyed his opposition in the closing stages and ran clear, eventually winning by six lengths from fellow French horse Exotic Dancer.
The Paul Nichols and Ruby Walsh team were at it again the following year with another success. This time Kauto Star won by an even wider margin, with eleven lengths between himself and Irish horse Our Vic.
Different year, the same result, as 2008 saw Kauto Star chalked up his hat-trick of wins in the race. Going off at the 10/11 favorite, the double winner justified the bookies’ odds with an impressive eight-length defeat of Irish challenger, Albertas Run.
The four-timer was completed in 2009, with Ruby Walsh once again in the saddle, and at a very short price of 8/13, Kauto Star pretty much had the race to himself towards the end, passing the winning post over thirty lengths clear of Madison Du Berlais.
The strange scenario of Kauto Star coming in third behind winner Long Run, in 2010, was avenged in 2o11. Long Run went off the even-money favorite. Kauto Star though had other ideas, and narrowly defeated Long Run buy one and a quarter lengths, putting the previous years’ defeat to bed.
The five wins on Kauto Star in six years makes Ruby Walsh the King George VI leading jockey. Besides the impressive five victories, Ruby managed a ten length second behind First Gold in 2000.
Next came a seventeen length fourth behind the 11/8 favorite, Best Mate on Willie Mullins horse, Florida Pearl, Ruby Wash failed to finish the race in 2003, when falling at the last on French horse, Le Roi Miguel.
A third-placed finish in 2004 on Azertyuiop and a last-place finish on Royal Auclairin 2005, when the race was relocated to Sandown, due to redevelopment at Kempton Park. The following six years, as they say, are history.
With an impressive eleven winners in the King George VI stakes, Paul Nichols is the boss when it comes to top trainers of this prestigious race. His five winners on Kauto Star with jockey Ruby Walsh on board certainly stand out, but Paul Nichols won two King George VI Stakes prior to Kauto Star, and four thereafter.
His first winner came in 1997 with See More Business. A mistake three fences out didn’t deter jockey Andrew Thornton, and the Irish horse went on to win by three lengths from Challenger Du Luc. See More Business repeated his win two years later in 1999, this time with Mick Fitzgerald in the saddle. The horse led from four furlongs out and pulled clear of the field, eventually crossing the line seventeen lengths clear of runner up Go Balistic.
Kauto Stars five wins between 2006 and 2011, saw Paul Nichols push his tally of winners in the race to seven. Two years after Kauto Stars’ final victory, the trainer was back in the winners’ enclosure again, in 2013, with Silviniaco Conti. The seven-year-old gelding, ridden by Noel Fehily, stayed on strongly after leading approaching the last, winning by three and a half lengths from Cue Card.
Silviniaco Conti attempted to repeat his win the following year and duly obliged, beating Dynaste by five lengths, with Noel Fehily once again in the saddle. Two consecutive wins in 2018 and 2019 with Clan des Obeaux, bought Paul Nichols overall total of winners to eleven.