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Tony McCoy to miss out on festive Boxing Day showpiece

By Frank Brownlow

Tony McCoy may have yet again been named Jump Jockey of the Year at the Lesters awards ceremony in Birmingham - but that doesn't guarantee a ride in the King George on Boxing Day.

McCoy - unless he picks up a spare - will be forced to look on as the likes of Silviniaco Conti, Champagne Fever and Cue Card go for glory in the £200,000 Kempton showpiece.

The Ulsterman's only consolation is that he has chances either side of the big race, on Purple Bay in the Christmas Hurdle and Aalim in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle, as well as good bookings in the other races as he closes in on an incredible 20th successive champion jockey title.

Silvinaco Conti looks nailed on to run a huge race in his bid for back-to-back wins.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has won this Christmas highlight eight times, with five titles belonging to the great Kauto Star, also twice winner of Down Royal's big JNwine.com Champion Chase.

While Silviniaco Conti still has an awful long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as his former stablemate, he is building an impressive record.

Alongside the King George sit two Betfair Chase crowns, the only other Grade One three-mile chase run this side of Christmas.

It all looked so different after his seasonal debut at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall, when he faded to finish a lacklustre fifth behind Menorah.

But he managed to turn the tables on Philip Hobbs' rejuvenated nine-year-old at Haydock when he appeared to simply outstay his rivals.

That was the case 12 months ago when Cue Card fell into a hole before the last and it is unlikely Noel Fehily will be happy with anything other than a very strong gallop again.

Cue Card himself appears to have lost the zip he was showing 12 months ago, but sole Irish challenger Champagne Fever is likely to be a very tough nut to crack, although this has not been his time of year in the past.

The biggest threat may come from his stablemate Al Ferof who looked a different proposition on his return to action at Ascot having undergone treatment for ulcers that were bothering him.

Another thrilling renewal is on the cards. But it looks like it will be one McCoy must watch from the sidelines.

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