Nicholls keen to add to King George tally

Trainer Paul Nicholls knows better than anyone what is needed as he bids to add to his tally of 10 King George VI Chases with Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname in the Kempton showpiece.

The 11-time champion jumps trainer first enjoyed success in the Grade One contest in 1997, when Andrew Thornton steered See More Business to a two-length victory.

The gelding was pulled up when trying to defend his title the following year, but bounced back in 1999 for a runaway 17-length victory under Mick Fitzgerald.

“He was the first good horse I ever had, and he probably put me on the map,” Nicholls said.

“He was a fantastic horse who won a Gold Cup and two King Georges.”

Nicholls’ dominance in the race was established during the era of Kauto Star, who posted a record five King George victories across six seasons.

He lifted his first title in 2006, retaining the race until the 2010/11 season when he finished third behind Long Run and was later found to be battling an infection.

Nicholls and Kauto Star returned to Kempton to light up Christmas again in 2011 – banishing any thoughts the 11-year-old should have been retired when he beat Long Run to claim a remarkable fifth triumph, all under Ruby Walsh.

“Kauto Star was an incredible racehorse, a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Walsh said.

“He evolved over his five King Georges from being a bit keen and a very fast horse in the beginning to being an out-and-out stayer in the end.

“He attacked his fences and he had no trouble with the trip, so he was just a brilliant horse.”

Kauto Star remains the most successful horse in the history of the race.

He was retired in 2012, but it did not take long for another horse from the Nicholls yard to follow in his footsteps.

Silviniaco Conti won his trainer an eighth King George in 2013, beating Cue Card, following up the victory with another the following year.

“I sort of have to pinch myself sometimes that we’d had Kauto and then all of a sudden Conti replaced him, and he came along at the right time,” Nicholls said.

Nicholls’ most recent King George came last year, when Harry Cobden rode 12-1 shot Clan Des Obeaux to victory over Thistlecrack.

The seven-year-old looks to repeat the success this year, but is challenged by another star from the Nicholls yard, Cyrname.

The highest-rated jumps horse in training, Cyrname travels to Kempton having taken the scalp of Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.

“I’m very lucky to have won 10 King Georges, especially with the horses I have,” said Nicholls.

“It’s a fantastic race – and I look forward to the next 10!”