For any racing fan, Christmas has that extra bit of magic with the promise and expectation of the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
This is a race with remarkably few winning names on the trophy down the years. But then it is a race dominated by the cream of jumps racing, in a sport where, health permitting, the best come back year after year to defend the crown.
It was on King George Day in 1993, that the young up and coming trainer Paul Nicholls first made a really significant mark with his first Grade 1 winner, as See More Indians, a son of Seymour Hicks, won the Feltham Novices’ Chase by 2 ½ lengths from Crystal Spirit.
Little did the racing world then realise the impact that Paul Nicholls would have on many Christmases to come.
Very sadly, See More Indians’ career was cut tragically short following an accident in a field, but not very long afterwards, a small gelding by the same sire, started to make an impression in the point to point field. He would go on to become the first Paul Nicholls superstar and would become the brightest illumination at Kempton Park over Christmas.
His name was See More Business and he helped take the master of Ditcheat to new levels of success and was the trail blazer for future superstars such as Big Buck’s, Denman, Kauto Star, Master Minded and Silviniaco Conti.
However, it took time for See More Business to find his way to Ditcheat, as his trainer recalls:
“He was originally trained by Richard Barber and owned by Richard Williams. Paul (Barber) had seen him at the sales and thought he wasn’t big enough but Richard did a deal with him that if he turned out to be good, Paul could have first option on him.
“I remember Richard saying to me in the autumn that he was one of the nicest horses that he had ever seen.”
It did not take long for those good looks to transform into a good prospect, as See More Business won his first two point to points, before falling on his third start. Even so, he had capably demonstrated his raw ability and it was not too long before he transferred to Nicholls.
Whilst looks and winning form were attractive attributes, being by Seymour Hicks too, might have helped to sway the deal, although completely coincidental; “I think we just got lucky!” Nicholls smiles.
“He was quite lazy at home and bad tempered and boisterous and very difficult to clip. He had a real temper about him but I suppose that is not a bad thing in a racehorse,” Nicholls reflects.
Later in his career, blinkers brought about an immediate transformation in his attitude, as he had become lazier still.
“Fitzy (Mick Fitzgerald) schooled him one day and he was lack lustre so we put the blinkers on and he was a different animal and bolted, jumping from outside the wings of the fences. I suppose the blinkers gave him a badge of courage.”
However, as a new recruit to Ditcheat, See More Business went hurdling in his first few months, winning all three starts over timber, culminating in a Grade 2 success at Sandown Park in December 1995, ridden on all three occasions by AP McCoy, in his first season as a professional jockey.
Unfortunately the horse picked up a tiny leg injury and did not race again that season, with his trainer content to give this exciting prospect plenty of time to recover and strengthen up further.
By November 1996 See More Business was ready to make his novice chase debut at Chepstow and impressed as he landed the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase by 8 lengths from the useful Wee Windy.
The following month, he made the first of two visits to Ireland, which yielded two second place efforts behind the former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Dorans Pride.
“We got beat twice by Dorans Pride and I remember he was very novicey in his jumping on both occasions,” Nicholls says. Even so, Dorans Pride was a top class horse and went on to finish third in that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup as a novice, so the form was very good.
See More Business however, had his season truncated for the second successive time, after falling in the Racing Post Chase, his first foray into handicap company against seasoned campaigners.
“We were intending to run him in the RSA Chase afterwards, but he jumped deplorably and eventually fell in a schooling session at Wincanton just before Cheltenham and we decided to finish him for the season.
“He returned to action in the Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase at Haydock Park the following November and ran third to Suny Bay, but what we had really wanted that day was a clear round and a confidence-booster.”
Suny Bay went on to frank the form by winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury shortly afterwards, but he would not get things his own way on his next encounter with See More Business.
The Paul Nicholls 7 year old came out of the Haydock Park race well and in early December had another confidence-boosting run in the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, where, carrying top weight, he beat the useful Indian Tracker by 4 lengths.
“We knew he needed the Haydock Park run and we were aware that he needed plenty of experience. It was just that he wasn’t the biggest in the world.
“We always thought that three miles at Kempton Park would suit him, despite his previous experience there,” says Nicholls, and consequently See More Business was set to line-up in a very high-class renewal of the King George VI Chase in December 1997.
“On the day, Timmy (Murphy) was banned and we felt that Andrew Thornton with his long legs, might suit him in the King George. We knew there was lots of improvement to come and I always felt he was a true stayer.”
Even by normal King George standards, this was a formidable field, with dual winner One Man seeking a hat-trick of wins in the race, Grand National winner and Gold Cup runner-up Rough Quest, Hennessy winner Suny Bay, Mackeson Gold Cup winner Challenger Du Luc, Gold Cup runner-up and former winner Barton Bank and Senor El Betrutti, who had won two major handicap chases at Cheltenham that autumn.
The greys Senor El Betrutti and Suny Bay cut out the early running from Barton Bank, with the latter two taking command as the field entered the home straight on the first circuit.
Rough Quest and See More Business in the meantime, were patiently ridden towards the back of the field in testing conditions.
Barton Bank took the fence in front of the stands to a great roar from the Festival crowd, with Suny Bay and See More Business taking closer order and then the grey One Man, with a circuit to race and all still to play for.
Racing down the back, the field became bunched and at the water jump on the far side, See More Business was close to the lead as four horses took off almost in unison, with Barton Bank, Suny Bay and the French horse Djeddah just ahead of the young pretender.
With seven to jump, the pace appeared to quicken a little, with Barton Bank and Suny Bay still to the fore and Andrew Thornton poised in behind on See More Business, although one or two of his jumps had still seemed a little novicey. One Man also still travelled well and Challenger Du Luc was starting to close on the leaders.
Five out and the pace and testing ground began to take their toll, as One Man belted the fence and lost valuable ground and momentum, with a jolting mistake. At the next fence it was Barton Bank’s turn to part the birch, which left Suny Bay in front and See More Business almost upsides and travelling well.
See More Business stuck his head in front on the home bend with Suny Bay to his inside, while Challenger Du Luc and AP McCoy continued to stalk the leaders and One Man fought his way back into contention.
Suny Bay was soon under pressure and One Man emerged as a major threat three fences from home, jumping alongside See More Business, as Challenger Du Luc crept ever closer and the long-time leader faded.
See More Business landed narrowly in front at the second last, with One Man to his inner and Challenger Du Luc almost upsides now on the outside, while further back, Rough Quest was staying on.
One Man’s resolve finally cracked heading to the final fence, but See More Business looked to have plenty on his plate as McCoy and Challenger Du Luc loomed large and apparently full of running, whilst Andrew Thornton was considerably more animated.
However, as racing fans would learn over the years, See More Business was lion-like when faced with a fight and he battled hard on the flat, finding extra reserves of energy and resolve to win a famous King George as his rival floundered and found very little.
At the line See More Business won his first King George by two lengths from Challenger Du Luc, with a plethora of jumping stars well in arrears. The young protégé had now arrived into the big time.
“He was held up and outstayed them and we got it right. Although See More Indians had won the Feltham, this was our first really big one. I am sure we ended up at Paul Barber’s that evening and had a party,” Nicholls recalls.
As is always the case each Christmas, victory in the King George projected See More Business into the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture and just a month later he rubber-stamped his credentials with an impressive turn of foot as he won the Pillar Property Investments Chase over the Gold Cup course.
“The Pillar got him right and we knew then that he got the Gold Cup trip. However, he then got carried out in the Gold Cup,” says Nicholls.
That bitter disappointment was keenly felt by trainer, jockey and an expectant crowd, for the freak nature of what happened as Cyborgo was pulled up and carried See More Business and Indian Tracker out of the race, denied the race one of its leading lights.
He once again returned to action at Haydock Park in November – and again met Suny Bay at the peak of his powers, finishing fourth on his comeback. Then in early December he encountered good ground and got back to winning ways with his second victory in the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, beating Dom Samourai by 1 ¼ lengths.
From there he headed back to Kempton Park, bidding to win back to back King Georges. However, it was not to be, as the progressive and distinctive grey Teeton Mill galloped his rivals into the ground.
See More Business was out of sorts on the day and eventually pulled up in atrocious stormy conditions and soft ground.
“I think it was a combination of the ground and getting lazy that contributed to his performance that day,” Nicholls says.
After running third to the young chaser Cyphor Malta in the Pillar Property Chase, the ground came right for See More Business at Cheltenham in March and furthermore, he was to don the blinkers that would make all the difference.
To many, See More Business had become something of a forgotten horse as a new cast of fashionable chasers had captured the imagination that winter, led of course by Teeton Mill and the Irish superstar Florida Pearl. Suny Bay and Dorans Pride were there again, along with another promising Paul Nicholls contender in Double Thriller.
Senor El Betrutti and Dorans Pride took the field along through the first circuit, but racing down hill for the first time, the grey had faded and the Irish raider was joined by Double Thriller, while See More Business and Mick FitzGerald were handily placed to the outside in third.
There was drama as further back, Teeton Mill sadly suffered a tendon injury and was pulled up and never raced again.
Racing down the back for the final time, Dorans Pride and Double Thriller led from Simply Dashing to the outside, while See More Business was hunted along behind these.
At the top of the hill for the final time, Double Thriller led and had seen off Dorans Pride, but outsider Go Ballistic now arrived on the scene, looking a big threat, while See More Business continued to race just off the pace.
Go Ballistic went into the lead racing downhill, with Double Thriller now under pressure and See More Business staying on, while further back, Florida Pearl was starting to creep closer.
Three out and Go Ballistic was clear, but rounding the home turn, FitzGerald rousted See More Business along and he began to respond, sticking his little head down gamely. Florida Pearl was still there, but his reserves were about to run to empty.
At the second last fence, Go Ballistic landed narrowly in front of See More Business, with the pair racing wide apart, but on the flat and racing to the last, the latter began to close.
Both horses were tiring and under pressure racing to the last and neither jumped the fence tidily, but they landed together and set off for an epic climb to the finish.
Both horses, honest to the end, gave their all, not an inch of concession, but it was See More Business, so unlucky twelve months earlier, who edged into the decisive lead in the final 50 yards for a famous victory by a length.
It was the meeting to end all meetings for Nicholls, who three days earlier had never trained a Cheltenham Festival winner. By the end of the week he had trained Flagship Uberalles to win the Arkle Chase, Call Equiname to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase and then See More Business to land the Blue Riband Cheltenham Gold Cup.
See More Business had confounded his critics and Nicholls had retained his faith in the horse and been fully vindicated, as the better ground and blinkers had made the world of difference.
The blinkers would stay on the following season and See More Business put up a sparkling performance to win first time out in October in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, beating Simply Dashing by five lengths.
He then headed back to Kempton Park for the King George and a run that Paul Nicholls describes as probably his very best.
He pulverised Go Ballistic by 17 lengths on that occasion to regain his King George title, before the racecourse was evacuated thanks to a bomb scare.
“He was very good at Kempton Park in the 1999 King George,” Nicholls reflects. “He achieved a rating of 177 and that was his highest-ever rating, although he ran between 177 and 174 for the next 18 months.”
See More Business was never forgotten again by the racing public. He transcended the sport to become one of those racehorses taken to the public’s heart, remembered for his big triumphs and longevity.
He never won another King George or Gold Cup, but as a veteran, ran a truly remarkable race in the 2002 Cheltenham feature, finishing 9 ¾ lengths third of 18 to racing’s newest jumping superstar, Best Mate.
See More Business won another seven races after that 1999 King George, raising the roof with his final victory in the Listed Country Gentlemen’s Association Chase at Wincanton in February 2003. By that time, See More Business was two months short of his thirteenth birthday and retirement beckoned.
His final start came in the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, in December 2003, when he ran fourth to Sir Rembrandt.
In all, See More Business won 18 of his 36 races and over £700,000 in win and place prize money. He passed away peacefully in his field at the age of 24 in 2014.
Paul Nicholls has enjoyed unprecedented levels of success in the sport since See More Business. Horses like Azertyiuop, Kauto Star, Denman, Big Buck’s, Twist Magic, Master Minded, Neptune Collonges and Silviniaco Conti turned Ditcheat into the most successful stable in the country.
And at the heart of that success has been a remarkable run of victories in the King George VI Chase.
“It is an awesome race, one of my favourites and the mid-winter Gold Cup. I have won nine now and need to get that magical tenth!
“See More Business got things rolling in the race, with Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti following on, but you treat them all as individuals. Looking back on See More Business’s preparations for the race, there wasn’t the Betfair Chase back then at Haydock Park, while the Rehearsal Chase was run at Chepstow but isn’t any more. There were a different set of races back then.
“See More Business played a massive part in my early career,” he affirms.
You can find out more about Paul Nicholls’ career and the latest news from Ditcheat by visiting www.paulnichollsracing.com