Friday 14 December 2018

Might Bite has Gold Cup class but needs to behave

Betting Ring

Jack Kennedy holds tight aboard Shattered Love at the final fence on their way to winning the JLT Novices’ Chase. Photo: PA
Jack Kennedy holds tight aboard Shattered Love at the final fence on their way to winning the JLT Novices’ Chase. Photo: PA
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

Having owned some small shares in a couple of horses down through the years, it's definitely true to say that they are like humans, and all have their own personality.

Some are show-offs and love the attention, some are shy and quiet, while others are quite simply stone mad. The aptly-named Mad Moose was as temperamental as they come, refusing to race five times in his career - and although he was useful, he was completely unreliable.

Labaik was another character that only raced when he felt like it but had plenty of talent deep down, winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last year.

It would be grossly unfair to put Might Bite, which at the time of writing is trading around 7/2 for the Gold Cup (3.30), in the same bracket as those - but he does have some quirks which make me worry a little about my bet on him this afternoon.

While he managed to win the RSA Chase last year by a nose, it wasn't before he veered badly on the run-in and almost handed the race to stablemate Whisper. While that sort of behaviour is obviously a worry, in another way it just goes to show how much of an engine he has - not many horses would be able to get going again from a virtual standstill, and go on to win the race.

It's quite remarkable but in fairness to Nicky Henderson's charge, results are what matters and he's since won two Grade Ones without any real problems.

That makes it six wins in a row and puts him just 1lb clear of the field here on official ratings but again, you get the feeling we haven't seen everything he's actually got in the tank - and I reckon he can just about shade this today if he stays out of trouble.

He didn't set the world alight in the King George and he idled a little on the run-in, but it was never really in doubt, and with Sizing John out of the race, he's been handed a golden opportunity here.

The one concern is the ground. While he's won on soft, Henderson said he'd probably prefer the ground a bit better and the Gold Cup is a race which can take a lot out of a horse.

Third in this last year, Colin Tizzard's Native River poses a very serious threat to the bet. He looked as good as ever when winning the Denman Chase at Newbury last time, which put to bed any questions about his ability after an 11-month lay-off.

Jessica Harrington's Our Duke is the best of the Irish. The Fairyhouse Grand National winner beat the even-money favourite Presenting Percy in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran last time, and the form has been franked with Presenting Percy tasting success in the RSA Chase here on Wednesday.

Like many punters, I backed Apple's Jade in Tuesday's Mares' Hurdle and done my dough, but she will bounce back soon no doubt, possibly at Punchestown. In the meantime, a chance is taken on her sister Apple's Shakira in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle.

She won a hurdle race in France for Emmanuel Clayeux before coming over to Nicky Henderson's yard, and she's been a real stand-out acquisition with three wins here at Cheltenham including two at Grade Two level.

She was a short price for each of those runs, and it could be argued that she hasn't yet been fully tested, but Henderson has a good record in this race and this seems to have been the plan for quite a while.

Apparently, she doesn't do a tap at home and is not much different to her sister in that respect, but she shows her stuff on the racecourse which is all that matters really.

Alan King's Redicean looks the best of the rest having won a Grade Two at Kempton.

Stat Attack: Timico Gold Cup Chase (3.30)

While the application of headgear can sometimes help concentration, it's not always a positive sign.

In the last 20 renewals, 279 horses have taken part in the Gold Cup and 19pc wore headgear. A total of 18 wore cheekpieces, 22 wore blinkers and eight had a visor. But the only one which was successful in any type of headgear was See More Business, which landed the 1999 Blue Riband event at 16/1 for Paul Nicholls under Mick Fitzgerald in blinkers.

This year, one third of the 18 runners wear headgear, the most prominent of which in the betting is Native River (cheekpieces), trained by Colin Tizzard (pictured). That horse was third last year wearing the same headgear, and trades around 4/1.

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