Bravemansgame started the 2023 King George VI Chase as the reigning champion, and many were prepared to see him win the race again, even though recent form had been disappointing. However, an outstanding run by Hewick saw Bravemansgame have to settle for second, and now attention must turn to Cheltenham.
Heading into the race this year, the had Bravemansgame and one other horse, Willie Mullins charge Allaho, as the two expected to be the ones to beat. And in the former’s case, that very nearly came true, with the Paul Nicholls-trained horse capitalising on the mayhem caused by Shishkin unseating Nico de Boinville. But Gavin Sheehan produced Hewick late from last to steal the show. Bravemansgame is now without a win since the 2022 King George, and the disappointment of the previous year must be canned ahead of the .
Since winning the 2022 King George, Bravemansgame has finished second on four occasions, including to Galopin Des Champs in the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup and in two races with a field of just four runners. He was also third from five when beaten in the Punchestown Gold Cup in 2023 too. But many expected Nicholls, a trainer who holds the record for the most wins in the King George, to be primed for the race and to go on and defend his crown, but it just wasn’t to be.
There’s no doubt that the incident with Shishkin unseating De Boinville had an impact on Bravemansgame, with many feeling he would have gone on to win the race. But, then, you could make the same argument for Allaho, and would Shishkin have stayed if the race had passed without incident? However, there are also question marks over Bravemansgame’s ability to see the race out, too.
The plan for Nicholls with Bravemansgame was to race in and win the King George before making another attempt at winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March after finishing second last year. But he will be up against the likes of Galopin Des Champs, last year’s Gold Cup victor, Fastorslow, who has had success against Bravemansgame, Gentlemansgame, who has also beaten him and now Hewick, to name just a few.
The plan will remain Cheltenham, there’s no doubt, and eyes will more than likely still be on the Gold Cup. But could attention turn to running in the Ryanair Chase instead? Some would suggest that there’d be more chance of success in the race, one that could include Allaho, who went off as favourite in the King George for with Paul Townend on board.
Whatever happens, the last year since the 2022 King George will have to be shelved as Bravemansgame starts 2024. He didn’t look out of place in the King George renewal, and the continued hope will be that everything is gearing towards a big run in a big race at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, which could very well be the case.