Silviniaco Conti followed the examples of two multiple King George VI Chase winners, Kauto Star and See More Business, in outlasting the long-time leader Cue Card to land Boxing Day’s biggest prize for former champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

The French-bred Dom Alco gelding is now as short as 4-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March – also won by his two illustrious predecessors – and has been made joint-favourite with last year’s winner Bobs Worth.

Silviniaco Conti had made just one previous appearance this season when third to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock but his superior staying power shone through at Kempton where sodden ground made the King George a proper test of stamina. Jockey Noel Fehily started to rouse the eventual winner on the home turn with Cue Card still travelling apparently easily but when his partner Joe Tizzard asked for a final effort after jumping the second last his mount could find no more, with Silviniaco Conti gaining the upper hand to finish three and a half lengths to the good.

A delighted Noel Fehily, who also tasted victory on the card aboard the Charlie Longsdon-trained Loose Chips, said: “I was slow over the third last and I thought Joe [Tizzard] had got away from me a bit but he toughed it out and he’s been a very good horse to me. I’ve never ridden a Gold Cup winner but I hope he is one – it’s unbelievable to win a King George.”

The winner’s stable-mate Al Ferof took third with Mount Belbulben and Dynaste the only two other finishers following a last-fence blunder by former dual King George winner Long Run saw him part company with Sam Waley-Cohen. Riverside Theatre departed early at the fifth fence when a jumping error unseated Barry Geraghty and brought down Champion Court.