Matt Chapman talks all things Might Bite, Native River, Betfair Chase and Enable in his latest column
Category : Horse Racing
RARELY do the Gold Cup 1-2 clash first time out in the season following their Cheltenham smash up.
But that’s what happens this afternoon when Native River and Might Bite – involved in a stirring duel at the Festival in March – head the cast for a corking Betfair Chase at Haydock.
And it’s all live on ITV at 3pm.
Might Bite (left) and Native River (right) are set to clashPA:Press Association
Most would agree those two Grade 1 heroes take up the lead roles, but supporting them are a trio of talented performers, including Thistlecrack, once seen as an extraordinarily exciting prospect and possibly still capable of mixing it with the best.
And while conditions massively flattered him, let’s not forget after his 57-length romp in this event twelve months ago another challenger, Bristol de Mai, had the highest rating of any chaser for much of last term.
Clan Des Obeaux, himself a classy individual, makes up the field.
Nicky Henderson has never won a Betfair Chase, first run in 2005, with Paul Nicholls having dominated the prize thanks to Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti.
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HAYDOCK HEAVYWEIGHTS Johnson and De Boinville go head-to-head in classic Betfair Chase
In Might Bite, though, he has the perfect contender. There’s no doubt in my mind the nine-year-old is the classiest three-mile chaser in the country, and for that reason I would think he will take all the beating.
Over three miles and a furlong last season Might Bite landed the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Bowl at Aintree. He’s class.
That said, I will always be concerned about his stamina for a Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he is generally the 5-1 ante-post market leader. This is much more his cup of tea.
The opposite can be said of Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard, who banged in three renewals of this contest via Cue Card.
Many of the Flat jockeys are out and about at the moment enjoying some sun. They include Luke Morris and Andrea Atzeni (pictured).
The revelation from Morris will, I think, surprise one or two ladies!
Native River is a Welsh National hero, and while he’s not slow – let’s not forget he had the speed to make virtually all in his Gold Cup victory – it’s his stamina that is his strong suit.
Cheltenham will be more his ‘thing’ than Haydock. Thistlecrack, also trained by Tizzard, could be the joker in the pack.
The World Hurdle winner of 2016 always promised much over fences, and he did well to land that’s year’s King George.
However, he was outstayed by Many Clouds in a stirring Cotswold Chase and only ran twice in 2017, looking poor over hurdles at Newbury and when well beaten by Might Bite in the King George. It’s hard to know what to expect right now.
Thistlecrack is an intriguing contender in the racePA:Press Association
Bristol de Mai is much maligned, but he seemed to benefit from a wind operation when chasing home Might Bite in the Bowl.
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who took his first Betfair Chase with Imperial Commander in 2010, there’s just a chance Bristol de Mai will prove a tougher nut to crack for the big guns than the betting suggests. It promises to be a great renewal.
Hot jumps action is not just restricted to Haydock on ITV, with a Grade 2 hurdle contest at Ascot numbering If the Cap Fits and We have a Dream, who fared very differently behind Verdana Blue at Wincanton last time.
If the Cap Fits showed much more that day, keeping on well in the closing stages, and one would think is the more likely victor this afternoon.
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The reason jumps racing is so popular is the horses – we all get to know them, and some feel like personal friends.
That’s not always the case on the Flat, so it was great news this week when it was announced dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable will stay in training next term in a bid to make history and become the first horse to land France’s great race three times.
There’s no doubt Enable is one of the greatest fillies we have seen, and it’s easy to forget her fabulous Oaks and King George successes on the back of landing this year’s Arc and Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Only one mare has ever won the Arc, and that was a horse called Corrida in 1937. More recently, Treve tried to achieve the feat by failed.
Enable will be hard to stop for Prince Khalid Abdullah, who will go down as one of the greatest owners in the history of the Sport of Kings.