Might Bite pulled off a fine run at Kempton Park last season to claim the King George VI Chase crown.

The Irish horse was the leading contender to win the event, but he was pushed all the way down the stretch. Double Shuffle was an outsider for the contest, although he proved more than a match for Nicky Henderson’s charge in the clutch moments.

However, Might Bite had the edge of pace at the decisive stage, kicking away from his rival to take the title by a length.

It was the second major honour of 2017 for the Irish horse, although, like other horses that went on from the King George VI Chase, he was unable to secure the Cheltenham Gold Cup later in the season.

The race remained a thrilling contest and Might Bite will have the opportunity to defend his crown when he returns to Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

Henderson’s charge will face a challenge to retain his crown and the race has proven down the years to have thrown up fascinating duels and moments to remember.

We’ll now break down the best of those races at Kempton Park...

Kauto Star

The most talented horse in the history of the King George VI Chase. No competitor has enjoyed greater success at the event than Kauto Star.

He made his bow at the event in 2006 and quickly emerged as a dominant force in the National Hunt. Paul Nicholls’ charge had previously won the Tingle Creek Chase and the Betfair Chase before entering Kempton Park in 2006.

He was the leading contender for the contest and duly delivered with a brilliant performance to take the first of his titles by eight lengths.

Kauto Star used the momentum of the event with his jockey Ruby Walsh to then claim the Cheltenham Gold Cup later in the campaign.

He would add another Gold Cup in 2009, but his true brilliance lay at Kempton Park and the King George VI Chase. Nicholls’ charge matched the accomplishment of Desert Orchid to win four races on the bounce between 2006 and 2009.

However, his run was ended in January 2011 by Long Run, although Walsh was absent from the saddle as Tony McCoy in relief could not guide the horse to victory, placing off the pace in third.

Kauto Star would not bow out on a low note and returned for a final race at Kempton Park in December 2011 at the age of 11. Long Run was given the edge over the veteran in the odds before the race.

However, with Walsh restored to the saddle, the old stager produced one last great effort to create history, beating out the French horse by one-and-a-quarter lengths to claim the win.

As a result of his win, Kauto Star became the first horse to win the King George VI Chase five times – a record that could stand for a long time indeed.


Desert Orchid

Before the legend of Kauto Star, there was Desert Orchid, who enjoyed a run of dominance at the event during the late 1980s. He made his first appearance with Simon Sherwood in the saddle and secured his first triumph at Kempton Park as a seven-year-old.

However, a repeat performance was not in the offing the following year as he was forced to settle for second place as Francois Doumen-trained Nupsala snatched away the crown with an emphatic performance.

David Elsworth’s charge was to bounce back in his best season, beginning with his second victory at the King George VI Chase.

He was the leading contender for the crown, and was on the spot with a four-length triumph over Kidimo. Desert Orchid maintained his form into 1989 when he with Sherwood in the saddle were able to triumph at Cheltenham to take the only Gold Cup of his career.

At the start of the new National Hunt season, Elsworth’s charge joined elite company with Wayward Lad to win the King George VI Chase three times.

On this occasion, it was Richard Dunwoody in the saddle, but the performance of the horse was unaffected over the three miles of the race.

Desert Orchid secured his third title, cantering to an eight-length victory ahead of his stablemate Barnbrook Again. A second Cheltenham crown evaded Desert Orchid, although he was able to make history in 1990.

He became the first horse in the history of the King George VI Chase to win three consecutive races.

At the age of 11, Elsworth’s charge became the second-oldest competitor to win the meet, delivering his best performance and finishing well ahead of the rest of the field. His record stood for a time before Kauto Star came along 16 years later.


Kicking King

Kicking King is among a small group of horses at the other end of the spectrum from Desert Orchid. Manicou was the youngest competitor in the history of the King George VI Chase to win the event in 1950 at the age of only five.

There have been eight horses to have claimed the crown at the age of six, including five in the modern era of racing. Kicking King had been a winner at Leopardstown in the Arkle Novice Chase before his first appearance at Kempton Park in the meet.

He made his bow in 2004 and was considered the leading runner among the bookies. The six-year-old did not disappoint, as he put forward an accomplished performance.

Tom Taaffe’s charge almost allowed his compatriot Kingscliff to snatch the crown away from him, but he managed to recover from a mistake over the final fence and used his speed to canter to a two-and-a-half length triumph.

Like many other winners, he used the momentum to capture the Cheltenham Gold Cup and then returned for his crack at the King George VI Chase, albeit at Sandown Park rather than Kempton.

With Barry Geraghty once again in the saddle, Kicking King was forced to dig deep to retain his crown. Monkerhostin provided pressure late on after the Irish horse had made his surge into the lead.

His rival almost had the pace to beat him out on the line, but Taaffe’s charge claimed the title by a neck in a thrilling battle.


Long Run

Long Run was the horse to break Kauto Star’s dominance of the King George VI Chase in 2011. Nicky Henderson’s charge was a slight outsider for the race given the imperious run of Kauto Star.

However, with Sam Waley-Cohen in the saddle, he put forward a dominant display to take the crown away from the legendary horse. The French competitor strengthened as the meet progressed as Naracat fell by the wayside after a decent outing.

Waley-Cohen urged his charge on to claim the crown by 12 lengths ahead of his stablemate Riverside Theatre, handing Henderson the one-two finish. The theme of results continued as Long Run notched the Cheltenham Gold Cup with another accomplished outing.

However, Kauto Star hit back with a vengeance in the 2011/12 campaign, as, for the first time, the French horse lacked the pace compared to his rival in the crucial moments of the contest.

It proved to be an unsuccessful season as he also fell short at the Gold Cup. Redemption was on hand at Cheltenham as he managed to regain his form.

Henderson’s charge was considered the favourite for the race, but had a tough challenge as he made a couple of mistakes that allowed Captain Chris to close.

Long Run had the stamina to hold off his challenger by the finest of margins to claim his second victory at the event. A truly memorable outing from the French horse.


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

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