Bravemansgame (11-4) justified the pre-race confidence of trainer Paul Nicholls to hand the 13-times champion Jumpb trainer a record-extending 13th victory in Kempton Park’s Boxing Day highlight – the Grade One Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
Always travelling supremely well under Harry Cobden, the seven year old looked to have the measure of 9-4 Favourite L’Homme Presse, who unseated Charlie Deutsch as the final fence. At the finish he had 14 lengths to spare over Royale Pagaille with his stablemate and 2020 winner Frodon another four and a quarter lengths back in third.
Nicholls’ dozen previous King George wins were provided by See More Business (1997, 1999), Kauto Star (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), Silviniaco Conti (2013, 2014), Clan Des Obeaux (2018, 2019) and Frodon (2020).
Paul Nicholls said: “It was a hell of a race. They went a good gallop and old Frodon gave them a good lead. He stayed on strong then and showed his strengths. He is just a maturing horse and we have trained him for today.
“We will go straight to Cheltenham now and we won’t run him before the Gold Cup. Better ground he travels better on than he did today but he dug deep and stayed on. The other horse was a little unfortunate to lose his pilot but he was beaten by then.
“We were very confident. Some of those bad runs in the spring you couldn’t judge him on as ours weren’t right. When he is right he is a very good horse. We knew him at his best today. I loved the way he stayed on as all the way down the back he didn’t have a great passage as L’Homme Presse kept jumping across him and I would have liked to have seen it go a bit more fluent but he came hard on the bridle and stayed on well. It is just fantastic.
“You set out to try and win these races and it is just brilliant but you have got to have the right horse. He is a good horse he has not been the easiest to train but we learnt a few lessons about him last season but we have got him right now. He needs to be fresh. We have nothing to lose running him at Cheltenham but he won’t run before. Nice ground will suit him well. It was great to see him stay on strong today.
“He was drifting over the last few days but I kept telling all my mates to lump on. I was confident as I thought the track would suit him well. L’Homme Presse was obviously going to be a danger and he is obviously going to be a very good horse and he won’t be far away in the Gold Cup where going left handed will probably suit him better. But we got on top of him when he departed at the last and Bravemansgame galloped on to win so it is good form.
“I’m thrilled. Who knows (what would have happened if L’Homme Presse) hadn’t come to grief at the last but he wasn’t stopping. He just jumped to the front and he would have been hard to go by. You can never be certain but it looked that way to me watching. I’m lucky enough to have the horses good enough to do it and the capability of a team that is good enough to get them right on the day.
“Horses like this find you rather than the other way. We have been lucky and we have some other lovely young horses at home. It is fantastic and I feel very lucky.
“You never dream of days like this and once you have a taste of it you never want it to go away. Last season he would never be able to do that (go three times up the hill on the gallops) now he cruises up it. Horses like that just reach that maturity. When he was five when he went to Cheltenham he was nowhere near the best physically but he is getting there.”
Harry Cobden, riding his second King George winner after Clan Des Obeaux in 2018, said: “It means a lot. The last one I won was in 2018 and I definitely didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have done. It sounds a bit silly but now I’m 23 I appreciate these big days as they don’t come around that often.
“He had been trained for the race, and I’m not disputing how good Hitman is, and we didn’t see his true running today, but that horse there is a young horse and he is still improving and is probably the best in our yard for the time being anyway. He was a bit behind the bridle and L’Homme Presse kept jumping across us which wasn’t ideal and we were getting carried out. I didn’t want to get him amongst it.
“Although we went the furthest route and we were getting a bit of hassle of the other one sometimes it is best to keep it simple. I knew he was going to be the one to beat turning in so I thought we would get a lead of him as long as possible. I then tried to pin him down the inside a bit so he couldn’t take us right across the track. He is a fantastic horse and it is a great day. I was just hoping we would get over the last. He got over it and stayed on very well. Yeah (he will get the Gold Cup trip), it looks like he wants it.”
Bryan Drew, who owns Bravemansgame in partnership with John Dance, said: “This has been a long term plan. He jumps and travels like a dream. He loves a flat track and has got plenty of speed. He probably could win at a high standard over two and a half. I think he has been a bit underestimated as a horse.
“He has absolutely delivered today. To me this is like the fifth Classic of jump racing. You have the four big races at The Festival and this is the fifth Classic and to win it is an absolute dream come true. I’m absolutely delighted. I think the difference between the Kauto Star last year and this was that he had to keep up near the pace and he couldn’t let them get ahead of him so he has had to stay in touch. I thought turning in right we are in territory we have never been in before and are we going to win this scrap and by God he has delivered.
“The other horse has come down at the last which is a shame but the race was won then. He is a wonderful horse. I’ve had three Festival winners but this is as good as anything I’ve done. I’ve not really thought about that yet (Gold Cup) he will certainly have an entry.”
Venetia Williams, trainer of runner-up Royal Pagaille & L’Homme Presse (unseated rider last) said: “It’s a shame as it looked as though they were going to be second and third, but they’ve both run very well; I’m proud of both of them today. Paul’s horse has won today but there'll be more races in which they meet and hopefully we’ll come out on top when they do.”
Bryony Frost, rider of the third Frodon, said: “He never lets me down and if we’re going to go down, we go down fighting. He’s unbelievable, his stamina is much better after his wind op which really helped him. The way he’s jumped there is fantastic and he’s really served it up to them and he loses nothing in defeat. He’s absolutely phenomenal, we were able to get out in front and do what we do best and the younger legs have just gone by him. But he’s awesome and I can’t fault him.”
Joe Tizzard, trainer of fourth-placed Eldorado Allen, said: “It was another solid run and we thought if we came here and got placed we’d be chuffed to bits. We got a bit lucky with the unseat at the last, but I thought he had a bit more pace than he’s perhaps got.
“All he seems to do now is stay, so whether he needs a set of cheekpieces to help the jockey mid race we’ll see. We’re not disappointed with the run, it was a solid performance.
“We’ll probably look at the Denman now as he won that last year and then we’ll make our mind up about Cheltenham and Aintree. Terry Warner (part-owner) is 90 and he loves Cheltenham so he deserves to have a runner. He’s been placed in a Gold Cup before so that should be ideal.”