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Cue Card and Thistlecrack in race to be King George favourite

By Nick Robson

Never mind who is going to win the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day - bookmakers are not even sure who will go off favourite.

The Colin Tizzard-trained duo of Cue Card and Thistlecrack are set to go head-to-head in the Christmas showpiece and racing fans seem split down the middle as to their allegiances.

That is also the case in the Tizzard yard, with assistant trainer Joe Tizzard saying he is glad he is no longer riding so he does not have to choose between the pair.

The sponsors marginally have last year's winner Cue Card as favourite at 6-5, with Thistlecrack right behind at 5-4.

Tony Calvin, representing 32Red, said: "As sponsors all you can hope for is a race that captures the public's imagination and the proven chasing excellence of Cue Card versus the potential of his stablemate Thistlecrack has done just that.

"The off-course and on-course market is not what it was when it comes to laying bets of any note, so the big-hitters on Betfair in the final minutes of trading will decide (who goes off favourite)."

William Hill cannot split the pair and offer both at 6-5.

"The thought of Cue Card and Thistlecrack going head-to-head in the King George has captured the imagination of punters. The gloves are off for a festive Boxing Day treat," said William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke.

Ladbrokes are the only major firm to make Thistlecrack favourite at 6-5, with Cue Card 5-4. Coral go 5-6 the pair.

Coral spokesman Simon Clare said: "The debate over whether Cue Card or Thistlecrack will come out on top is set to rage amongst racing fans everywhere over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as we build up to one of the most anticipated clashes for many years, and even we can't split them in the betting."

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford accepts it is very much a case of quality over quantity with just five runners going to post.

While many are concentrating on the big two, Clifford likes the look of Nicky Henderson's general 14-1 chance Josses Hill, winner of the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon earlier this month.

He said: "There were 32 horses entered at the first entry stage and within a few days we lost Vautour, Avant Tout and Simonsig. More recently we got the news about Coneygree not running.

"It's very much about quality rather than quantity. Cue Card is the horse with all the experience over fences, obviously," he added.

"Thistlecrack has a phenomenal amount of experience over hurdles and hasn't done much wrong over fences so far.

"The horse I like is Josses Hill. I think if he gets the trip he could be anything."

Tea For Two is a best-priced 20-1, while despite winning the King George in both 2013 and 2014, Silviniaco Conti - second to Valseur Lido in last month's big JNWine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival - is the 40-1 outsider.

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