Best Mate to prove he is number one


Best Mate can rubber stamp his position as the best staying chaser in Europe with victory in what looks a vintage renewal of the £150,000 Pertemps King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on St Stephen's Day.

The seven-year-old earned top spot thanks to his success in the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup in March and has shown his well-being this term by winning his only start so far at Huntingdon.

But Henrietta Knight's stable star needs to win racing's Christmas cracker of a race to confirm his status as number one.

He went close last year and can be the punters' pal this time around.

Tony McCoy, standing in for the injured Jim Culloty, was convinced he would have won had there not been a doubt over Best Mate's stamina to last out the three miles.

The champion would have made more use of him but as it was Florida Pearl had got away and was just three-quarters of a length too good at the line.

Best Mate was put away for the Gold Cup and he justified the high opinion held of him by holding Commanche Court by a length and three-quarters at Cheltenham in March.

And he looked as good as ever when making all the running over an extended two and a half miles at Huntingdon last month when giving Douze Douze 10lb and an eight-length beating.

With his campaign being geared round just the two races - the King George and the Gold Cup - the preparation for his Christmas target has been perfect and he can come out on top against the cream of chasers from Britain, France and Ireland.

The Pertemps Christmas Hurdle can also shed some light on the picture for the Cheltenham Festival next spring with several Smurfit Champion Hurdle contenders putting their title credentials on the line.

And an intriguing contest for this £75,000-added prize can go to the much-improved Intersky Falcon.

The five-year-old, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, has come on in leaps and bounds this year.

Winner of the Merewood Homes Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in early May, he continued his rise up the ladder with an impressive six lengths win over The French Furze in the Pertemps Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month.

Undoubtedly still on the upgrade, Intersky Falcon can further enhance his Champion Hurdle claims.

Jair Du Cochet can boost his prospects for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Festival by winning the third Grade One race on the card, the Pertemps Aviation Resources Feltham Novices' Chase.

The five-year-old, trained in France by Guillaume Macaire, has been a regular visitor to these shores, scoring at Folkestone and Newbury on his last two starts.

He defeated Scots Grey cleverly by six lengths at the Berkshire track and will be hard to beat here.

Edredon Bleu can complete an across-the-card double for trainer Henrietta Knight and Jim Lewis by taking the feature £40,000 Castleford Chase at Wetherby - 25 minutes after Best Mate's King George run.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase winner in 2000 is still no back number as he proved when trouncing Seebald by 10 lengths at Exeter last month.

He was not disgraced when runner-up to Cenkos in the Mitsubishi Shogun Tingle Creek Trophy Chase at Sandown on unsuitable ground.

Hopefully, conditions will suit the 10-year-old at the West Yorkshire track.

Florida Pearl, ridden by Adrian Maguire, on his way to victory in last year's King George V1 Chase, takes on Best Mate again at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.