Ground key to Might Bite repelling Bristol De Mai challenge

    Nicky Henderson would like to see a sound surface at Kempton to boost Might Bite's bid for glory in the 32Red King George VI Chase.
  • Tuesday 12 December 2017
  • News

Nicky Henderson would like to see a sound surface at Kempton to boost Might Bite's bid for glory in the 32Red King George VI Chase.

The eight-year-old has looked a likely candidate for the prestigious contest ever since falling at the final fence when on his way to what would have been a dominant victory in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase over the course and distance a year ago.

He displayed both his remarkable ability and his quirkiness when somehow getting back up to beat his stablemate Whisper in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, having looked like throwing the race away when hanging violently after the final fence.

But his subsequent triumph at Aintree was more straightforward and he was as good as gold on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown last month.

Henderson, who has won the King George twice before with dual victor Long Run (2010 and 2012), opened up his Seven Barrows base to the media on Tuesday morning and Might Bite looked in fine fettle as he traversed the gallop surrounded by snow.

"He had a nice time at Sandown and this fellow, as everybody knows, is not without idiosyncrasies," admitted Henderson.

"When we finished last season, we all went to bed knowing the King George would be his first objective. I think the track essentially plays to his strengths in that he gets into a real, solid gallop. The good thing about Kempton is there is no reason for deviation.

"What we saw that day at Kempton last year was impressive (until he fell). That pointed us in the direction of going back for the King George.

"We're very much hoping for good ground as he is a very good mover."

Might Bite made much of the running at Kempton last Christmas, at Cheltenham and at Aintree, but did take a lead for at least some of the three-mile journey at Sandown on his return.

Henderson does not feel his charge is tactically one dimensional, adding: " There will be plenty of pace and it doesn't worry us if we don't have to make the running.

"If he takes Nico (de Boinville) to the front, with a horse like him you're never going to take him back. If he wants to rock and roll, we'll let him rock and roll.

"He seems a much quicker horse at home this year than he was last year."

Next in the ante-post betting for the King George is the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai, who will scoop a £1million bonus if he can add the Kempton showpiece and the Cheltenham Gold Cup to his demolition job in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Henderson has nothing but respect for the flying grey and his clear preference for testing conditions is another reason why he is hoping for good ground at his beloved Sunbury circuit.

"I've always thought Bristol De Mai is a very good horse, but his strong ability is to go in soft ground and that is where he has a big advantage," Henderson continued.

"When they go in very soft ground, it is an advantage and he can jump for fun out of it.

"If he goes to Kempton and it is good ground, he loses that advantage, but he'll still be very competitive.

"If it is very soft, it will take a mighty one to beat him."

Twiston-Davies, however, is confident drier ground will not inconvenience Bristol De Mai and reports his charge to be "in the form of his life" ahead of his King George bid.

Speaking at a 32Red Winter Festival preview in the Pheasant Pub in Lambourn, the trainer said: "We are very much looking forward to Kempton and it is where the talking ends. He will certainly run.

"Just because he has won in heavy ground, he moves like a good ground horse and he seems to cope with most things. I think he is a very good horse.

"I was looking last night and I think his birthday is the end of May. Basically all the racing he was doing (before this season) he was doing as a five-year-old. He is very young and let's hope he's improving."

On the mouthwatering clash with Might Bite, Twiston-Davies added: "There is no collateral form between the two of them and we are hoping we can sort it out.

"We are absolutely blinkered on the bonus - it's a very exciting idea.

"He won a good race on the bridle at Haydock and it didn't seem to take anything anything out of him. You would be a fool to say it hasn't, but you don't notice and he is in the form of his life."

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