12/26/2003 1:00AM

Edredon Bleu takes King George VI


Best Mate was absent, but the big prize was still won by his trainer, jockey, and owner - Henrietta Knight, Jim Culloty and Jim Lewis - when Edredon Bleu sprang a 25-1 shocker in the $256,000 Pertemps King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Friday.

Knight and Lewis decided to re-route Best Mate, their two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup hero and last year's King George winner, to the Ericsson Chase in Ireland on Sunday because the turf at Kempton was considered unsuitable.

But they still ended up winning with Edredon Bleu, who set the pace in the three-mile King George, and, having been headed five fences from home, was back in front three out. He held off Tiutchev by 1 1/4 lengths, with First Gold another length back in third. The French-trained favorite, Jair du Cochet, was pulled up.

Edredon Bleu, 11, increased his career record to 19 wins from 39 starts and over $1 million in prize money.