Florida Pearl, First Gold, Best Mate and Bacchanal are looking good for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day

Florida Pearl has the chance to convince his critics at Kempton on Boxing Day, when he attempts to regain his crown in the King George VI Chase.

Surely defeat of First Gold, Best Mate and Bacchanal would silence the pundits who continue to find fault with Willie Mullins’s star Irish chaser?

Twelve months ago, Florida Pearl chased home First Gold in the King George, although the French winner did annihilate the field. But Florida Pearl’s owner Archie O’Leary believes he is back to what he was three years ago when he won the SunAlliance Chase.

“Florida Pearl is in marvellous condition at the moment and I think he is probably in the same form he was three years ago,” he said. “Things didn’t work out for him in the King George last year and we will have First Gold in our sights again this time.”

It goes without saying that the one Florida Pearl, and the rest, has to beat is First Gold, who is attempting to give Fran‡ois Doumen a record sixth King George.

Doumen’s jockey-son Thierry reported: “We have been very pleased with First Gold since his defeat over hurdles at Newbury. He is very well.”

Henrietta Knight thinks that Best Mate is crying out for the Kempton trip of three miles. If the injured Jim Culloty manages to recoverin time to ride at Ascot on Saturday, he will be on board Best Mate again on Wednesday.

Ms Knight also saddles the 12-year-old Go Ballistic, who was second to See More Business in the race in 1999.

“He is a lovely old boy, just like a hunter. He works all the time with Best Mate; they love each other’s company,” says the Wantage trainer.

The King George is one of the few big races to have eluded Nicky Henderson, who reckons he could have his best chance yet with Bacchanal, so impressive on his recent reappearance at Sandown.

“I am thrilled with Bacchanal because he looks as if he has grown out of his novice days. He has been in the indoor school with Yogi Breisner as well as doing plenty of schooling.”

Visit our site to read our online King George VI Chase report on Boxing Day.