Friday 20 September 2019

Native River can see off an unreliable Might Bite again

Betting ring

A Rivalry Renewed: Native River and Richard Johnson negotiate the last ahead of Might Bite (Nico de Boinville) on their way to landing last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup – the pair are set to clash once more at Kempton this afternoon. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
A Rivalry Renewed: Native River and Richard Johnson negotiate the last ahead of Might Bite (Nico de Boinville) on their way to landing last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup – the pair are set to clash once more at Kempton this afternoon. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

Known as the father of philosophy, the ancient Greek Aristotle once said: "There is no genius without some touch of madness".

Of course you can't really describe a horse as a genius, but brilliant might be a good word as a substitute, and today's King George VI favourite at Kempton (3.05), Might Bite, certainly has a touch of brilliance about him.

Unfortunately, I also think he might have a touch of madness too, which is all very well in philosophy but not so good when you have a lot of money at stake, and he decides he's not quite going to give it his best.

Might Bite is often described as a quirky character, and he famously pulled himself up in the 2017 RSA Chase, before getting going again, and winning the damn race.

In fairness, trainer Nicky Henderson seems to have straightened him out since then and when I backed the gelding, and lost my money, in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham won by Native River, it was nothing to do with Might Bite's character.

He went on to win the Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree after that - but subsequently flopped when last of five in the Betfair Chase at Aintree recently, letting a lot of favourite backers down at even-money.

In short, I simply don't trust him, although I do recognise he can be absolutely brilliant on a good day.

Second to Bristol De Mai on good ground in that Betfair Chase, I'm siding with Colin Tizzard's Native River instead, which should find today's softer ground far more appealing.

He's a bold, tough jumper and although he's only raced at Kempton once in a novice chase, in 2015, I've a strong feeling he'll feel at home here this afternoon and give me a good run for my money around 6/1.

Again, there's a lot of guesswork involved, but Bristol De Mai may be better suited to tracks like Haydock and he just didn't fire in the King George last year which was, of course, won by Might Bite, making this one hell of a puzzle - but fascinating too.

Throw Betfair Ascot Chase winner Waiting Patiently and Christy 1965 Chase winner Politologue into the mix, and we have a cracker of a race in store. It's hard to rule out any of those named, but at the prices, Native River offers a bit of value this afternoon.

Back home at Leopardstown, consider backing Chief Justice in the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (1.10), priced around 5/2.

Formerly trained by Richard Fahey, the three-year-old has won three of his four races for Gordon Elliott, and was most impressive when conceding 7lbs to his rivals to win a Grade Three at Fairyhouse earlier this month.

Stat attack

King George VI Chase (3.05 Kempton)

Since 1997, the King George has featured joint-favourites on two occasions - but in all other renewals there was a clear market leader. And punters have had the upper hand over the old enemy in that period with 12 of those 19 clear favourites going on to win (63pc).

A €10 stake on each would have achieved a profit of €104. The most successful horse in the race was, of course, Kauto Star which won five times, although he wasn't actually favourite in the last of those wins, going off at 3/1 in 2011 to beat the even-money favourite Long Run.

Lay of the day

Novice Chase (2.20 Leopardstown)

There's no doubt that Mengli Khan deserves to be at the top of the market for the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase, but early odds of 8/11 suggest he’s got a 58pc chance of winning the race, which looks a bit off to me.

Fair enough, he made the perfect start to his chasing career with a victory at Punchestown in November, but he wasn’t really challenged.

Today he faces a much sterner test against Voix Du Reve, and I’m also keen on Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg, which was second in a Grade One at Fairyhouse.

Race-by-race at Kempton

12.50

Trained by Richard Johnson, Thomas Darby hit 1/2 in-running before being beaten by a head at Ascot last month, but it was a messy race which could have gone either way. He's still quite green, but I've put him in the notebook as a promising sort and I reckon he's got the measure of likely favourite The Big Bite.

1.20

Get the pin out for this one. Glen Forsa has a chance based on his handicap debut success at Chepstow, but is up 11lbs to 125, making early odds of 9/2 seem short. Instead, the each-way vote goes to Carlos Du Fruitier around 14/1, which was a good third in a decent handicap at Ascot off 1lb higher than today's 125.

1.55

A competitive race in which a good case could be made for five of the seven runners. As such, the Tom George-trained The Worlds End, whose jumping improved greatly to help win a novice chase at Cheltenham recently, gets a tentative nod around 6/1,

2.30

With 20lbs in hand on official ratings, it's impossible to oppose Buveur D'Air from the Nicky Henderson camp - but with his odds expected to be as short as 1/4, this is a race best watched without a bet. His Fighting Fifth win was spectacular, and he's already odds-on for the Champion Hurdle in March. He's a rare talent, so simply sit back and enjoy.

3.05

Bristol De Mai beat Might Bite and Native River in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last time, but he loves that course and he may find life difficult at Kempton where he flopped in this race last year. Might Bite has a lot of talent but can't be trusted and was beaten at even-money in the Betfair Chase. So I'm siding with Native River around 6/1, a tough-as-teak gelding which can bring his stamina into play here.

3.40

A wide-open handicap in which the market could provide clues, but this is not a race to get out of jail with should the King George go awry. Erick Le Rouge, Ballyandy, Montalbano and Colonial Dreams have claims, but I'm keeping my money in my wallet.

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