Are there standout King George VI Chase Winners?
The roll of honour for the King George VI Chase, which was inaugurated in 1937, reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of steeplechasing talent from Britain, Ireland and France since World War II. Consequently, unless you’re made of stone, rational, impartial comparison of winners from different generations is nigh on impossible. However, Timeform ratings are designed to allow exactly that, so – notwithstanding the fact that they’ve only been available since the early Sixties – they may be the best we can hope for.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘best’ King George VI Chase ever, according to Timeform, was Arkle, whose rating of 121 remains the highest awarded to any steeplechaser. Back in the days when the conditions of the King George VI Chase dictated that he conceded weight all ’round, Arkle won in 1965, trouncing Dormant by a distance and would have probably won again in 1966, but for fracturing the pedal bone in his off-fore during the race.
A direct contemporary of Arkle, by whom he was ultimately overshadowed, Mill House was hailed as the best steeplechaser since Golden Miller when running away with the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as a six-year-old, in 1963. He subsequently beat Arkle, who was receiving 5lb, in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury the following November and followed up in the King George VI Chase. His Timeform Annual Rating of 191 ranks him joint-second of winners of the Boxing Day spectacular during the Timeform era.
Mill House shares his position in the all-time list with the most successful horse in the history of the King George VI Chase, Kauto Star, who won five times between 2006 and 2011. The winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009, Kauto Star was, in the words of trainer Paul Nicholls, ‘once in a lifetime’. With apologies to Cottage Rake, who won the King George VI Chase in 1948, not to mention the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1948, 1949 and 1950, other contenders for the ‘best’ winners include Desert Orchid, Burrough Hill Lad and Long Run.