Henderson Insists Might Bite is Ready for Boxing Day Showdown
Nicky Henderson has insisted that his staying chaser Might Bite will be ready to bounce back in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. The Gold Cup second was a big disappointment on his seasonal reappearance, fading tamely in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, with no apparant problems after the race. While the other four horses in that contest all performed with credit and ran as well as was expected or better, the story after the race was all about how disappointing Might Bite was.
The Betfair Chase was supposed to be one of the races that really suited him this season, with the flat nature of the track playing into his strengths with his speed. The same applies to Kempton for the King George, and if Might Bite cannot beat horses like Native River on those tracks, then it looks highly unlikely he will be able to beat them in the tougher test that is the Gold Cup. The Cheltenham hill favours Native River, just as we saw in the race last season, so this may be the one chance that Might Bite gets this season to gain revenge for the defeat last season.
In some ways, Nicky Henderson would have wanted an issue to arise after the Betfair Chase, at least then he would be able to explain why his horse ran poorly, and what he needed to do to bring him back. However, there was nothing to show other than a question mark over the stiffness of the fences that day, and the possibility that they could have made Might Bite think and be extra careful over them. The fences came under a lot of criticism that day, and Might Bite is usually a very good jumper but after hitting a couple of fences early in the race, he was very careful after and he really struggled to get into the race on the bridle.
Something that could explain the poor performance from Might Bite, and something that Henderson will really be hoping isn’t true is that the horse has been affected by the Gold Cup. There is no doubt that the feature race at Cheltenham takes it out of horses, and the race last season was a proper test. Has Might Bite been affected by that? Some of the very best have struggled to recover from the war wounds of big races, could we be seeing him struggle because of what happened to him last season? He stayed up the hill well, but never looked in danger of overturning Native River, and that must have felt like a cruel blow.
The feeling is that the King George is going to be a hugely important race in the career of Might Bite. Can he fight back and show us that he is a brilliant three mile chaser, suited to flat tracks and put up the performance that makes us believe that? Or will he show further battle scars from the Gold Cup of last season, leaving us wondering if we have already seen the best from this star chaser?
One of the greatest aspects of national hunt racing is that we see the biggest stars come back year after year and take each other on. For the good of the game, we need Might Bite back to his best, and hopefully that is exactly what we see from him on Boxing Day. Bigger and better horses than him have been knocked by big defeats in the past, let’s hope he doesn’t go the same was as those and he bounces back to show us just how good he is.