NICKY HENDERSON reckons Might Bite will be on his best behaviour at Kempton on Boxing Day when the hot favourite runs in the 32Red King George VI Chase.
Might Bite seemingly had the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at his mercy 12 months ago, only to fall at the last and he then went on to hit the headlines for his quirks later in the season.
His victory in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March was one of the most remarkable of the season and he followed up at Aintree.
“To go back to Kempton last year, there were no quirks that day. It was a one, two, three and miss and he had never looked like doing anything like that up until then. Since then his jumping has been clean and accurate.
“Wherever he went last year, his jumping was good. Sometimes you are having to curtail it. You can’t let him have his yahoos all the way round, as he would be doing too much.
“He is a much sharper horse this year. I don’t know why. He looks feisty and well. He’s working much better than he did last year.”
Henderson also runs Whisper, second to his stablemate at Cheltenham and Aintree and also second in the Ladbrokes Trophy last time out.
“It was Dai (Walters, owners) who wanted to go for the King George and I don’t disagree with him,” said Henderson.
Templegate’s TV tips
1.20 Kempton – REIGNING SUPREME: ‘Won twice from three starts over hurdles last season and he looks well weighted’ (add to your betslip)
1.55 Kempton – ELEGANT ESCAPE: ‘I’ve a feeling he’s progressing faster than his rivals and he put in a fine round of jumping last time’ (add to your betslip)
2.10 Wetherby – BAYWING: ‘Loves testing ground and his chase win last February over today’s course and distance is good form’ (add to your betslip)
2.30 Kempton – BUVEUR D’AIR: ‘Should have little trouble rattling off his eighth straight win’ (add to your betslip)
3.05 Kempton – THISTLECRACK: ‘If he’s back to the form of 12 months ago he will be the one to beat’ (add to your betslip)
“At his age, Dai rather feels that the race is there and the prize-money is there. He feels inclined to take on Might Bite and everyone else.”
Might Bite’s main market rival is Bristol De Mai following his effortless win in the Betfair Chase.
“We’re very happy. All seems good. It’s a different track (to Haydock), but I don’t see it being much of a problem,” said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
“He’s got plenty of speed. He’s won over two and a half miles around Sandown and he’s won over two miles. I don’t think speed is his problem.
“It’ll be a great day. I get very nervous and as we get closer to the time I’ll get more geed up.”
Last year’s winner Thistlecrack is on a retrieval mission, having been well beaten on his return from injury over hurdles, but trainer Colin Tizzard is confident he has improved.
“We jumped Thistlecrack on the grass on Friday morning and he jumped lovely. I am really pleased with him,” said Tizzard.
“He is a different horse since Newbury and you wouldn’t recognise him. He has come right into himself now.
“I will be amazed if he doesn’t run a big race.”
Tizzard also runs Fox Norton, who steps up to three miles having just failed to reel in Politologue in the Tingle Creek Chase.
A long way behind Bristol De Mai at Haydock was Tea For Two, who finished fourth in the race last year and takes his chance again, with outsiders Double Shuffle and Traffic Fluide completing the field.
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