Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Al Ferof Is Fancied to Get the Better of Stablemate

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Al Ferof Is Fancied to Get the Better of Stablemate

Article excerpt

PAUL Nicholls could prove key to proceedings at Kempton on Boxing Day, with Al Ferof taken to improve upon last year's third and snatch William Hill King George VI Chase gold.

The nine-year-old was beaten over 14 lengths by stablemate Silviniaco Conti in 2013 and, while that rival lines up again, Al Ferof is fancied to reverse that form under very different conditions.

Al Ferof has had the same prep as last term, winning the Amlin Chase at Ascot, although this year's renewal was a much more competitive affair than the two-runner heat he contested the previous term.

He beat subsequent Peterborough Chase hero Wishfull Thinking as well as Tingle Creek second Somersby this term, giving the form a really strong look and suggesting that Al Ferof could be better than ever.

Owner John Hales reports his grey over the stomach ulcer and back issues that dogged him towards the latter half of the last campaign and he is back firing on all cylinders going into the Kempton.

Last year's testing conditions hardly played to his strengths in the King George and his stamina was clearly stretched by Silviniaco Conti, who is a thorough stayer and relishes a real test.

The ground looks like being a shade quicker this time around, which is a definite plus for Al Ferof, and while he has yet to strike over three miles under rules, he did score over the trip in point-to-point company.

Kempton is not a particularly searching track so if Al Ferof is to claim one of these top level events, this looks a golden opportunity with plenty in his favour.

Nicholls can also claim Grade One glory with Saphir Du Rheu in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase.

A classy hurdler last term, big things were expected on his chasing bow but he fluffed his lines when blundered through a fence and shedding his jockey at Newbury.

Turned out at Exeter a week later, he showed his true colours when seeing off Horizontal Speed by a comfortable 11 lengths, with this step up to three miles appearing a next logical step for a really promising individual.

Faugheen is hardly an original selection in the Christmas Hurdle, but it would be a brave punter who opposes Willie Mullins' new star. …

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