Nicky Henderson feels last year’s winner Might Bite will need to produce a “personal best” when he face nine rivals in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
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.
The nine-year-old renews 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 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 fires a twin assault at this year’s renewal with Politologue and Clan Des Obeaux both in the mix.
Seven Barrows trainer Henderson said of Might Bite in his Unibet blog on Sunday: “He had a nice spin on the grass this morning with the likes of Buveur D’Air and Adjali and is in great shape.
“Obviously, it didn’t all go to plan at Haydock so I’m just drawing a line through it and focusing on getting him back for this.
“He looks fantastic, but this is a mighty race and so much better than last year and I think it’s fair to say he has to produce a personal best, but I couldn’t be happier with him and he’s there to give it his best shot.
“I think Politologue will get the trip, in which case he will be very dangerous and Thistlecrack ran very well at Haydock so shouldn’t be discounted either.”
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 field.
The only withdrawal was Gordon Elliott’s mare Shattered Love.