Last year’s winner Might Bite is one of 11 horses to stand their ground for the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Nicky Henderson’s charge is the favourite to successfully defend his crown in the Boxing Day showpiece, despite having something to prove after a disappointing reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
However, the Seven Barrows trainer has taken out his brilliant Champion Chase hero Altior.
Henderson tweeted: “As expected, we have taken Altior out of the King George @kemptonparkrace on Boxing Day but will give him an entry for the @UnibetRacing Desert Orchid Chase the day after, however it is more than likely that he will wait for the Clarence House @Ascot on 19th January.”
The nine-year-old Might Bite is set to renew rivalry with the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained dual Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai, as well as Colin Tizzard’s Native River, who finished runner-up at Haydock last month having rounded off last season with a thrilling victory over Might Bite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Tizzard will also saddle Betfair Chase third and 2016 King George hero Thistlecrack.
Paul Nicholls has sent out a record nine previous winners of the King George – including the brilliant five-times victor Kauto Star – and is set to fire a twin assault at this year’s renewal with Politologue – who would be trying three miles for the first time – and Clan Des Obeaux both in the mix.
Mark Bradstock’s 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree, last year’s runner-up Double Shuffle, trained by Tom George, the Jane Williams-trained Tea For Two and Ruth Jefferson’s stable star Waiting Patiently complete the home team.
The last Irish-trained winner was Kicking King in 2005 and the only potential raider this year is Gordon Elliott’s mare Shattered Love.