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 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 14:30 GMT
Best Mate wins King George
Best Mate (left) holds off Marlborough to win the King George VI chase at Kempton
Best Mate (left) holds off Marlborough to win
Pertemps King George VI Chase
Grade One, 3m

1 Best Mate (AP McCoy) 11-8f
2 Marlborough (T Murphy) 14-1
3 Bacchanal (M Fitzgerald) 10-3

Gold Cup winner Best Mate held off a stern challenge from Marlborough to land the spoils at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Champion jockey Tony McCoy, who earlier broke his own record as the fastest rider to 200 winners in a season, clinched the prize for the first time after the pair finished second last year.

McCoy, standing in for the suspended Jim Culloty, sent the 11-8 favourite to the front with fives fences left.

But the Henrietta Knight-trained chaser was threatened by Marlborough (14-1) from two out before resisting the attack to win by one and a half lengths.

He (Best Mate) is the best horse in the country and I nearly got him beat

Tony McCoy

Jockey Mick Fitzgerald's Bacchanal, stable mate to the Nicky Henderson-trained Marlborough, tired on the run in to finish third.

Last year's winner Florida Pearl, ridden by Ruby Walsh, was fourth.

A relieved McCoy said: "It was a very funny run sort of race.

"They went very slow early and when Florida Pearl and Ruby were there, I knew if they were handy then I should be too.

"He is the best horse in the country and I nearly got him beat."

Best Mate is set to return to Cheltenham next March to attempt back-to-back wins in the Tote Gold Cup, for which he is a best-priced 5-2 with Coral.

Earlier, evens favourite Intersky Falcon romped home in the Pertemps Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Pertemps Christmas Hurdle
1 Intersky Falcon (C Swan) evens fav
2 Santenay (T Murphy) 20-1
3 Davenport Millenium (R Walsh) 11-2

Winning Jockey Charlie Swan spurred his Jonjo O'Neill-trained mount to victory by three lengths over Santenay (20-1).

Meanwhile, in the Pertemps Aviation Resources Feltham Novices Chase, Jaques Ricou partnered Jair du Cochet (5-2) to victory from Le Sauvignon, ridden by Walsh.

But the 2-1 favourite tragically suffered a heart attack after the finish and died.

McCoy was third on Bold Investor.

Elsewhere, Geos won the Castleford Chase at Wetherby and Edredon Bleu triumphed in the Dick Reynolds Mid Season Chase at Wincanton.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Five Live's Cornelius Lysaght
"Best Mate was as brave as he is talented"
 Winning jockey Tony McCoy
"He is a brilliant horse"
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