Since 2000, which was the lowest rated horse to win the King George VI Chase?
The King George VI Chase is one of seven Grade 1 staying steeplechases run in Britain – three of which are restricted to novices – but, in terms of prestige, is second only to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Unsurprisingly, the roll of honour reads like a Who’s Who of steeplechasing talent since World War II and features legendary names such as Arkle, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.
Equally unsurprisingly, according to Timeform, all of the winners since the turn of the twenty-first century, so far, have been awarded a rating of 160 or more, placing them in the ‘high class’ category. In fact, all bar two of those winners were awarded a rating of 165 or more, placing them in the foremost ‘top class’ category. The two exceptions were, in fact, Thistlecrack and Might Bite, who won consecutive renewals of the King George VI Chase in 2016 and 2017 and were both rated 163 by Timeform analysts.
The 2016 renewal was run on going described as good, good to soft in places, but featured just five runners. Thistlecrack, trained by Colin Tizzard, arrived at the top of his game, having effortlessly won his first three starts over fences and, although still a novice, was sent off 11/10 favourite. He jumped well and easily drew away from the fourth-last fence to win, impressively, by 3¾ lengths, eased down. His winning time was 5 minutes and 53.50 seconds, or 0.50 seconds faster than the standard time.
The 2017 renewal was a slightly more competitive affair, featuring nine runners, although the RSA Novices’ Chase winner, Might Bite, trained by Nicky Henderson, was a strong favourite at 6/4. Might Bite had come a cropper at the final fence, when 18 lengths clear, in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, run over the same course and distance as the King George VI Chase, the previous Boxing Day, but made amends in workmanlike style. Understandably, given the prevailing soft going, his winning time was 6 minutes and 6.60 seconds, or 12.60 seconds slower than the standard time.