It was the news that Henry de Bromhead was dreading: the ban preventing travel between Ireland and the UK will mean that Monalee will be forced to miss the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. The former Flogas Novice Chase and Red Mills Chase champion will be prohibited from travelling to Kempton as part of the COVID restrictions, and that will be a bitter blow for the trainer, his connections and punters eyeing a potential 8/1 bargain.
Monalee has looked in decent enough shape so far in 2020, losing out to quality competition in Presenting Percy and Kemboy in a decent chase at Thurles – that after finishing fourth and barely two lengths back from Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup back in March.
On heavier ground – which looks a distinct possibility for Kempton given the weather forecast – Monalee could well have been a factor in the King George, and that is why De Bromhead was so disappointed. “It’s sad news, but we have to comply with the regulations and protocols so that’s it really,” he said. The nine-year-old will instead be run in the Savills Chase on home soil.
Punters will also be disappointed to note that Put the Kettle On, so impressive in winning the Arkle back in March, has also been withdrawn from the Desert Orchid Chase for the same reasons.
All ante post bets on the pair will be refunded, and Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh commented: “Based on the government’s policy, HRI has instructed that there will be no Irish runners in the UK or UK runners in Ireland between now and December 31. “The concern from government is very clear: these are exceptional times and a travel ban with the UK is a once-in-a-generation occurrence.”
Can the Clan Turn Back the Clock in the King George?
The 2019 edition of the King George Chase was a very noteworthy affair. Back then, Clan Des Obeaux trounced even money favourite Cyrname by some 21 lengths, and so it’s easy to see why the betting market is handing favouritism to the former over the latter this time around.
The eight-year-old is looking to make it a hat-trick of wins in the King George, and this soft ground lover should be in his element come Boxing Day – he even gave that old trier Bristol de Mai a good run for his money in the Betfair Chase in heavy conditions back in November.
Cyrname, who won the Charlie Hall Chase on his seasonal return, would prefer quicker ground you fancy, but Paul Nicholls – who trains both – refuses to rule out the chances of the former Christy Chase champion. “Clan maybe has the advantage because he has the track record and has won the last two runnings, but Cyrname loves Kempton and we’re in a completely different place to where we were last year,” Nicholls said. “He’ll be very dangerous.”
Elsewhere, the likes of Santini and Lostintranslation have shortened in price – likely to do with Monalee’s withdrawal as much as anything else, while money has come in for Saint Calvados (20/1 from 30/1) as the rain begins to fall.