The William Hill King George VI Steeple Chase is a Grade One Steeple Chase for four-year-olds and above, run over a distance of three miles.
2016 marks the 66th running of the King George VI Steeple Chase - the feature race of the two-day William Hill Winter Festival.
The King George VI Chase is one of the most rousing horse races of the UK national hunt calendar. It takes place on 26TH December at Kempton Park Racecourse, Surrey. The race is widely regarded as the second most prestigious chase of the year, with only the Cheltenham Gold Cup thought of as more important. The race is run over 3 miles, representing a big test of stamina for the UK and Ireland’s top chasers. Among the early favourites for this year’s King George race will be Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Douvan. The 2016 King George VI Chase will take place on Boxing Day at 15.10pm (GMT).
- 18 fences to be jumped
- There have been 13 multiple winners of the race
- The oldest horse to win was 12 year old Southern Hero in 1937
- The youngest horse to win was five year old Manicou in 1950
- The biggest winning margin came courtesy of Kauto Star back in 2009, whose 36-length victory over Madison Du Berlais was given the formbook comment ‘magnificent’
- On ten occasions, horses have achieved the King George/ Cheltenham Gold Cup double in the same season: Cottage Rake (1948/49), Limber Hill (1955/56), Saffron Tartan (1960/61), Arkle (1965/66), Desert Orchid (1988/89), Best Mate (2002/03), Kicking King (2004/05), Kauto Star (2006/07, 2008/09), Long Run (2010/11)
- The largest field to contest the race was 16 runners in 1978, won by Gay Spartan
- The smallest field to contest the race was just two in 1964, won by Frenchman’s Cove
- No mare has ever won the race
- The most appearances in the race are held by Lochroe, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star with six runs
- One Man, in December 1996, won the race in a record time of five minutes and 45 seconds on good to firm ground. The slowest winner, in the very first King George VI Chase in 1937, was Southern Hero, on heavy ground
- The winning-most jockey is Ruby Walsh with five wins (all aboard Kauto Star)
- The winning-most trainer is Paul Nicholls with nine wins (See More Business – 1997,1999; Kauto Star 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011; Silviniaco Conti 2013, 2014)
- The great Arkle was the shortest priced winner of the King George VI, starting at 1/7 in 1965
- Nupsala’s win at 25/1 in 1987 (by 15 lengths from Desert Orchid) was the biggest upset in the race’s history.
A brief history
- The race was first run on 26th February 1937 and was named in honour of the new monarch, King George VI
- The race had originally been intended to celebrate King Edward VIII’s ascension to the throne. Due to his abdication the race became named the King George VI Steeple Chase and took the place of the Manor Optional Selling Chase
- Entry fee for the race was three sovereigns and five sovereigns extra for starters
- Prize money for the winner of the first running was 500 sovereigns, second received 75 sovereigns and third received 50 sovereigns and the winning trainer received a piece of plate worth 50 sovereigns
- Only four runners started in the King George VI in the inaugural running. Southern Hero was the winner and is still the oldest horse to win the race at age 12. He won the race in a time of 6m 52.6sec
- One of the three horses Southern Hero beat in the first running was Golden Miller, who had won a Grand National in 1934 and five consecutive Gold Cups between 1932 and 1936
- There were only two runnings of the King George before it was cancelled due to WW2, with no renewals between 1939 and 1946.
- The return of the King George in 1947 saw it move to Boxing Day, a position it has held in the calendar since then. It was won by Rowland Roy, the first of 5 winners in the race to be trained by Fulke Walwyn
- Vincent O’Brien who trained the winner of the race in 1948, Cottage Rake, also trained six Derby winners. As well as this, O’Brien trained the winner of three Champion Hurdles and three Grand Nationals
- 1949 saw the first televised running of The King George, and it produced one of the greatest finishes – Finnure, ridden by Dick Francis, beating Brabazon and Cottage Rake by less than a length
- The trainer of Manicou, the youngest horse to win the race (a five-year old, in 1950) was the late Peter Cazalet who trained a total of four King George VI winners; Statecraft, Rose Park and Lochroe being the others
- Manicou was owned by the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, King George VI’s wife.
- Peter Scudamore failed to win the race but his father Michael won the race aboard Rose Park in 1956
- The race was abandoned because of the weather in 1961, 1962, 1967, 1970 and 1981; because of the war from 1939 to 1946, and because of the foot and mouth disease epidemic in 1968. The 2010 running was rescheduled to January 15th 2011 due to inclement weather.
- Sadly, the great Arkle ran his last race in the 1966 contest, breaking a pedal bone but still managing to finish second
- Fred Winter is the only person to have ridden and trained the winner of the race. He was successful aboard Halloween in 1952 and 1954 and on Saffron Tartan in 1960. He then went on to train Pendil to win the race in 1972 & 1973
- Prior to his defeat by Captain Christy in the 1974 King George, Pendil had an unblemished record at Kempton of seven victories from seven starts. When he retired in 1977 his record was an impressive nine wins from thirteen starts and was proclaimed, “The King of Kempton” by The Sporting Life
- The Dickinson Family dominance of the King George began in 1978 with Gay Spartan and between father Tony, son Michael and mother Monica, they also won with Silver Buck in 1979 and 1980 and Wayward Lad, who became the first horse to win three King George’s with wins in 1982, 1983 and 1985
- Desert Orchid was a whopping 16/1 when he won the KG for the first time in 1986, beating three-time winner Wayward Lad and Gold Cup winner Forgive ‘n’ Forget in the process
- Francois Doumen trained four different horses to win the King George. Nupsala won in 1987, The Fellow won in 1991 and 1992, Algan took advantage of Barton’s Bank last-fence fall three years later and First Gold won the race in 2000
- Desert Orchid returned for a second win in 1988, followed by a third in 1989 and a legendary fourth win in 1990. He ran in six King George’s, with figures of 13111F
- One Man holds the exception of winning two King George’s in the same year, winning the 1995 renewal on 6 January 1996 and the 1996 renewal back at Kempton Park on Boxing Day
- In 2002, Best Mate was seventh time lucky for Champion jockey Tony McCoy, providing him with a King George victory from seven attempts, the only time he won the race in his illustrious career
- Kicking King became the second horse to win two King George’s at different venues, having won the 2004 race at Kempton Park and the 2005 renewal at Sandown Park
- Sam Waley-Cohen became the first amateur jockey to win the race in its history aboard Long Run in the 2010 running
- Desert Orchid’s four win record was broken in 2011 by the legendary Kauto Star who took his winning tally in the race to a remarkable five (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2011)
- Paul Nicholls has won the race nine times in total, most recently with Silviniaco Conti in 2013 & 2014, Kauto Star in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, and with See More Business in 1997 and 1999. He is the most successful trainer in King George history