Few National Hunt horses have caught the public’s imagination quite like the 2017 King George winner in the last few seasons, whether it be his spectacular last fence fall in the 2016 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, his wayward antics up the Cheltenham Hill on the Run-in in the 2017 RSA Chase, or his stunning seven-lengths victory in Aintree’s 2018 Betway Bowl.
He’s also caught the imagination of the bookies, many of whom have installed him as favourite to make it back-to-back victories in the 2018 King George, whilst he’s also favourite with many bookies to go one place better than last year in the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup. So, we thought we’d take a look at where it all began for Might Bite, as well as his chances of enjoying another successful season.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Jockeys: Nico de Boinville, Daryl Jacob, Barry Geraghty
Owners: The Knot Again Partnership
Breeder: John O’Brien
Scorpion (IRE) – Knotted Midge (IRE) (Presenting)
Might Bite did not make his racecourse debut until he was six, when connections ran him in a two-mile bumper at Newbury. He already has a decent reputation though as he was sent-off the 6/5 favourite. However, held up off the pace, he finished around four-length third, without ever challenging the winner.
Connections quickly turned his attentions to hurdling for his next start, which was again at Newbury over 2 miles five furlongs. He was only second favourite that day, but sauntered to a stunning 15-lengths success.
Connections they chose not to run him at the big spring Aintree or Punchestown Festivals, instead picking up just over £10,000 for winning a novice hurdle at Cheltenham in April, after which he was put away for the following season, with a view to going chasing.
Nicky Henderson’s patience was not instantly rewarded the following season, as Might Bite could finish only fifth in a hot novice’s chase at Cheltenham that was won by former Stayer’s Hurdle winner More Of That. He made a mistake that day which caused jockey Nico de Boinville to lose an iron and he never recovered.
Connections then decided to revert to hurdling and, despite being sent off at 8/1 for a handicap at Kempton, he made a mockery of those odds by winning off a mark of 138 by eight lengths.
Despite being raised 10lb for that success, he was then made favourite for another handicap at Cheltenham, but he trailed home in seventh before being put away for the following season.
Connections were eager to send this embryonic chaser back over fences and he looked to have an easy task on paper on his seasonal debut at Ffos Las, but he made a mistake at the last when leading and could only finish second.
He then made amends at Doncaster, after which he was targeted at the 2016 Kauto Star Novice’s Chase at Kempton. Well-backed from 8/1 to 11/2, he set off in front and was leading by 10-lengths when jockey Daryl Jacob asked him for too big a jump at the last and the pair parted company with the race at their mercy.
Might Bite was reunited with Nico de Boinville by the time he won a pre-Cheltenham confidence booster at Doncaster, after which he was installed as favourite for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He was slightly uneasy in the market beforehand, as the money came for stablemate Whisper, but he managed to win by a nose, despite trying to run out after the last. The fact he managed to get back up on the line, after throwing away so much ground, made it one of the most remarkable wins at Cheltenham ever.
He then went to Aintree for the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, where many pundits questioned whether he would cope with the vocal Aintree crowd. However, he again beat Whisper into second.
Nicky Henderson was very bullish about how much Might Bite had grown-up before his 2017/18 seasonal debut and Might Bite duly toyed with Frodon off level-weight before coming home hard held by eight-lengths in a graduation chase at Sandown. He was made favourite for the King George after that but, with the ground riding soft on the day, connections where worried. They needn’t have been though, as Nico de Boinville nursed him home, with some useful horses behind.
The 2018 Cheltenham Cup was next on the agenda, but connections were left cursing the weather as the ground came up unusually soft. That played into the hands of main market rival Native River, whose proven stamina won him the day after a ding-dong battle with Might Bite in which the first two home were never headed by another horse.
Despite that gruelling battle, Might Bite turned out again at Aintree in the Betway Bowl to record a facile seven-lengths success, to again lend credence to the argument that Might Bite is an exceptional horse on flat tracks like Aintree, Doncaster, and Kempton, though still a brilliant one even on undulating courses like Cheltenham.
Possible Future Targets
The £1 Million Bonus for winning the 2018 Betfair Chase, the 2018 King George, and the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup is reportedly firmly on the agenda for Might Bite. However, connections may still be inclined to miss the first of those three races if the ground comes up heavy. The King George looks his best chance of victory this season, and he’ll be especially hard to beat if the ground is good at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The case for him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup is less convincing though, as he’ll be 10 by then, and no 10-year-old has won since 1998. Meantime, most first-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winners are running in the race for the first time. But, one thing is for sure, after last year’s valiant effort Might Bite deserves another bite at the big one.