Wednesday 23 January 2019

Henderson might send 'Bite' straight to Gold Cup

Trainer Nicky Henderson. Photo: Steven Parsons/PA Wire
Trainer Nicky Henderson. Photo: Steven Parsons/PA Wire

Thomas Kelly

Nicky Henderson is not ruling out the possibility of King George VI Chase hero Might Bite heading to the Cheltenham Gold Cup without another run.

The brilliant but sometimes wayward chaser was on his best behaviour in the Kempton showpiece as he jumped and travelled with elan to hold off the late charge of 50-1 shot Double Shuffle.

Henderson will consider running his charge again between now and the blue riband in March, but ruled out an appearance in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in late January.

He said: "I think the one place you won't see him is in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day.

"There's one unknown thing and that is three miles two (furlongs) and a bit round Cheltenham. He's not been that far and you could say stamina is a question, but I don't see why it should worry him. I certainly don't want to find out on Trials day - I want to find out on Gold Cup day.

"The Denman Chase at Newbury (February 10) would be a possibility. You'd be careful with the ground again.

"To be honest, you wouldn't have to run him again before the Gold Cup. It's not vital that he does in our book.

"Lots of people are kind and let us take them to racecourses (for gallops) and if necessary we'd do that."

Might Bite completed a big-race St Stephen's Day double for Henderson following the Christmas Hurdle success of Buveur D'Air, who is likely to appear again before defending his Champion Hurdle crown.

Henderson said: "We had a good night. I think the horses pulled out slightly better than us!"

Of Buveur D'Air, he added: "That was as slick as I've ever seen him yesterday.

"He leaves literally centimetres, but he does bend his knees and pick them up. He's in really good shape this morning and he would want to run again. I haven't spoken to JP (McManus, owner) yet."

One of the big disappointments of the race was Bristol De Mai and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies plans to stick to testing conditions in the future.

Following a remorseless display in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, the six-year-old was in line for a potential £1million (€1.13m) bonus if he could land the St Stephen's Day showpiece and go on to claim Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in March.

However, after cutting out much of the running, the grey weakened quickly to finish sixth of seven finishers.

Twiston-Davies said: "He was very disappointing as I was really happy with him beforehand. Maybe people are right and he just needs that really soft ground.

"He was 100pc this morning, but I don't know what we will do next. We will get him out as soon as it rains.

"The options are pretty limited. There is Newbury (Denman Chase, February 10) or Cheltenham at the end of next month (Cotswold Chase, January 27), but I've got to sit down with the owners and discuss it.

"We are still thinking about the Gold Cup and who knows, we might have a soft Cheltenham Gold Cup."

The Naunton-based trainer was far happier with the performance of The New One in the Christmas Hurdle.

Turning out just 10 days after finishing second when bidding for a fourth victory in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, the nine-year-old found only Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D'Air too strong.

Twiston-Davies added: "He was really good and he was not far behind the reigning Champion Hurdle winner. He seems to be as good as ever.

"The race was an afterthought. As soon as we saw Faugheen was not coming over, we thought we would have a go. It turned out to be a valuable £25,000 (€28,150) afterthought!

"He will go to Haydock now for the Champion Hurdle Trial (January 20) then he will probably go for the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

"We've had a crack against Buveur D'Air and I can't see us beating Faugheen.

"The staying division looks much more open this year."

Irish Independent

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