Kempton Park’s King George V1 Chase on Boxing Day produced an unexpected twist on Thursday when trainer Nicky Henderson announced that long-time favourite Simonsig would not be ready in time to compete in his intended prep race for the Christmas showpiece, Huntingdon’s Peterborough Chase early next month, and can be regarded as a doubtful starter at the Surrey track with his handler loath to pitch the grey in at the deep end on his first run back from injury.
While non-committal regarding the possible participation of the son of Fair Mix in a month’s time Henderson seemed resigned to the gelding not being ready in time, saying: “It would be a tall order for Simonsig to go to the King George, wouldn’t it? But I can’t say ‘ no he won’t’. It would be a lot to ask him to miss the season then come into a three mile chase having never been three miles before.
“He had been in really good order, and it has been frustrating. He’s missed 10 day’s and he’s perfectly fine now. He had a splint on a near-fore before and his problem is nothing to do with that. He was a bit lame behind. He’s always a horse who you have to be careful with, with his constitution. He wouldn’t be the most robust and if you bully him, you can push him the wrong way very quickly.”
After the news broke bookmakers were quick to adjust their King George odds with Silviniaco Conti now a top price 3-1 to follow up last year’s victory with potential Irish challenger Champagne Fever a standout 9-2 with sponsor William Hill. Our 12-1 ante-post selection Al Ferof is next best at a general 8-1, one point shorter than the 9-1 offered by 888sport about the now far from certain starter Simonsig. As well as the former favourite Henderson is responsible for another two of the 37 horses still entered for the race and while 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth is a most unlikely starter the trainer is likely to have at least one runner in the shape of 25-1 chance Ma Filleule.