Paul Nicholls was proved spot-on in his assertion that Bravemansgame is tailor-made for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase as he provided him with a record 13th victory in the Boxing Day showpiece.
The seven-year-old was a brilliant winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on this day 12 months ago, since when a return to Kempton for the big one has been top of his agenda.
Bravemansgame had been at the top of ante-post lists for the King George for some time – but despite his comeback victory in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, he was not favourite come the off, with that honour going to Venetia Williams’ L’Homme Presse (9/4), who was out to supplement a fine weight-carrying victory in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase last month.
Bravemansgame’s stablemate Frodon, the King George hero of 2020, gave his usual bold sight in front for much of the three-mile journey, but began to give way turning for home and at the top of the home straight it became clear it was going to develop into a straight shootout between the big two.
L’Homme Presse held a narrow advantage approaching the third fence from the finish, but Bravemansgame (11/4) and Harry Cobden mastered him between the last two and was in command when L’Homme Presse unseated Charlie Deutsch at the final obstacle.
In the end it was L’Homme Presse’s stablemate Royale Pagaille who finished best of the rest, some 14 lengths adrift of the brilliant winner. Frodon was third, another four-and-quarter lengths back.
Cobden said: “It means a lot. The last one I won was in 2018 (Clan Des Obeaux) 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 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 off 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 off 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.”
Nicholls confirmed Bravemansgame would now head straight to the Gold Cup.
He 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. On better ground he travels better 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.
“I’m thrilled. Who knows [what would have happened if L’Homme Presse had not 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.”
Latest Gold Cup odds (Sky Bet)
Galopin Des Champs – 6/4
Bravemansgame – 6/1
L’Homme Presse – 8/1
Protektorat – 8/1
A Plus Tard – 9/1
Noble Yeats – 9/1
BAR – 14/1
Williams said of Royale Pagaille and L’Homme Presse: “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 said of Frodon: “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.”