Might Bite has star appeal in King George
Nicky Henderson's Might Bite, a dramatic last-fence faller at Kempton 12 months ago, is favourite to make amends in the King George VI Chase on Tuesday.
Blessed with Hollywood star looks, Might Bite was cruising ten lengths clear only to come a cropper in the Grade One novices' chase at this meeting in 2016.
That 'F' on his form figures has been followed by four '1's featuring top grade wins at both Cheltenham and Aintree.
Ridden by Nico de Boinville, the 11-8 market leader faces seven rivals as he seeks to add his name to the Boxing Day showpiece's illustrious roll of honour numbering the likes of Desert Orchid, five-time winner Kauto Star and the mighty Arkle.
Henderson, who has won the King George twice with Long Run, describes Might Bite as "one of the best-looking horses" he's ever set eyes upon.
"But just because you're good-looking doesn't mean you're brilliant," he told The Guardian.
Reflecting on Might Bite's mishap at Kempton last season, Britain's champion trainer told the newspaper it was "a horrible fall. It was probably unnecessary but there you go ? these things happen".
"He's incredibly talented, jumps for fun and has such a high cruising speed that no one else can go the gallop and maintain it," de Boinville told Ireland's Sunday Independent.
The opposition is headed by Bristol de Mai, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey who won Haydock's Betfair Chase in a procession and who will pick up a £1 million ($1.36m) bonus if he adds this and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.
- 'Almighty clobbering' -
Also out to deny Might Bite are last year's stylish winner Thistlecrack who disappointed on his warm-up, in-form Fox Norton, and Henderson's second runner, Whisper.
Might Bite's stablemate entered King George calculations on the strength of his eye-catching second, beaten by only a neck, in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase, formerly the Hennessy, at Newbury at the start of the month.
With his regular jockey Davy Russell unable to take the ride due to commitments in Ireland it is Aidan Coleman who will be in the saddle.
Whisper is a best-priced 9-1 to get the better of Might Bite at the third attempt.
The pair first met at Cheltenham, where in one of the finishes of the season Whisper went down by just a nose in the RSA Novices Chase with Might Bite throwing away a 12-length advantage when veering sharply to the right and slowing to a trot after the last fence.
Their paths crossed again at Aintree, with Might Bite making all to beat his stablemate by two lengths.
Whisper's presence is in part due to the 12lb rise in the weights for his fine Newbury run last time out.
"He's (the handicapper) given him the most almighty clobbering. It was brutal enough getting a bruised eye being beaten in the race, but then he got a left hook from the handicapper as well," said his trainer.
With Whisper meeting Might Bite on level terms on Tuesday, Henderson feels his hand was forced.
"We know what Might Bite does to him. He's done it comprehensively twice. The poor horse has been second to Might Bite in two Grade 1s and so nearly wins a Ladbrokes Trophy, which were three fantastic runs, but we want to go and win a race."
Bristol de Mai will appreciate the heavens opening to produce his preferred soft ground -- his supporters will be encouraged by the forecast for rain.
The 2017 King George field is completed by Tea for Two, ridden by Lizzie Kelly and fourth last year, Double Shuffle, pulled up in the Grand National, and 50-1 outsider Traffic Fluide.
© 2017 AFP