Confidence in Jair Du Cochet for Kempton’s King George VI Chase is sky-high following the news that Best Mate (pictured) misses the Boxing Day showpiece in favour of a trip to Ireland on Sunday.

Guillaume Macaire has not been alone in wondering which Christmas route Henrietta Knight would pick for Best Mate on his way to try for a third Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The thousands of racefans, who follow Britain’s most popular jumper, had been hoping Best Mate would stay at home and try to follow up last year’s King George success.

But the top female trainer, who now relies on that wonderful servant Edredon Bleu, has Best Mate’s long term interests at heart by sending him for the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown where he will meet Beef Or Salmon and Keen Leader.

“I think the ground might be too quick for him at Kempton,” she says. “Don’t forget, we are preparing him for a third Gold Cup.”

Meanwhile, Jair Du Cochet, the horse money can’t buy, has given his French trainer every satisfaction since lowering Best Mate’s colours at Huntingdon last month.

Kempton’s easy, flat right-handed course is tailor made for Jair Du Cochet, who has such an impressive high cruising speed. “This race is his D-day,” added his trainer.

Another Frenchman, Francois Doumen, who has five King George’s to his credit, saddles his 2000 hero First Gold, who will be all the better for a recent pipe-opener over hurdles at Auteuil.

Nicky Henderson’s flamboyant Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Fondmort, who jumps for fun, should be ideally suited by the prevailing conditions. Henderson also saddles Marlborough, runner-up to Best Mate last year.

Welsh trainer Peter Bowen believes his rapidly improving Swansea Bay can, at least, hold his own against the crème de la crème of steeplechasers.

Big-spending computer tycoon Graham Wylie, who bid £850,000 for Jair Du Cochet after he had beaten Best Mate, now attempts to lower Jair Du Cochet’s colours with Valley Henry, whom he recently bought for £300,000.

But Jair Du Cochet should have the last laugh.

  • Visit www.horseandhound.co.uk on Boxing Day for a full report on the race.