Al Ferof: third favourite for the William Hill King George VI ChasePICTURE: Getty Images
Hales likes chances of 'under the radar' Al Ferof
OWNER John Hales believes Al Ferof is coming into the William Hill King George VI Chase under the radar and is ready to prove himself a leading staying chaser who can ultimately challenge for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Al Ferof finished third, beaten nearly 15 lengths by Paul Nicholls-trained stablemate Silviniaco Conti, in the 2013 King George, but the grey's recovery from stomach ulcers and the prospect of better ground at Kempton this time is fuelling Hales's hopes he can land the prize for a third time.
Hales, who won the race twice with One Man, said: "Funnily enough, it's very much like before Al Ferof won the Paddy Power Gold Cup in that I think he's slipped under the radar a bit.
"He did have problems last year, as Paul did with some other horses in the yard. We found out his performances dropped off because he had ulcer problems."
Al Ferof is approaching the Boxing Day showpiece in the wake of a second successive win in the Amlin Chase. He is a general 6-1 third favourite behind Silviniaco Conti and Champagne Fever.
"He'd only been in training eight weeks when he won the Amlin," Hales said. "That was an excellent effort and I have high hopes, given ground conditions may be genuinely good to soft, he will produce a good performance on Boxing Day.
"If Al Ferof proves he can stay the trip really well we can starting thinking of the Gold Cup. I think he's in there with a good chance."
The forecast for Kempton is largely dry, and conditions now appear unlikely to ride as testing as a year ago when they suited Silviniaco Conti well.
Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: "If it stayed dry it would be very much good to soft and better in places for the King George. It does turn cooler into Christmas Day but the minimum temperatures would be 2C."