Mick Fitzgerald: The others may bark but Might Bite can retain his King George VI crown

He was off the pace at Haydock but Might Bite has schooled well since and is ready to defend his King George crown at 15.05 ...

Mick Fitzgerald

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This year’s King George VI Chase at Kempton (15.05) is fascinating. Last season’s winner Might Bite is the likely favourite, but got trounced by Bristol de Mai, Native River, Thistlecrack and Clan des Obeaux in the Betfair Chase at Haydock a few weeks back and they all run again here.

They said it was the stiff fences that spooked Might Bite, but I went through the race with a stopwatch and he was on average only 3/100ths of a second slower over each fence than when winning this race last season.

It just appeared he wasn’t fully wound up for it, as connections hadn’t been able to gallop him on grass. We will see a much sharper Might Bite this time and he has looked rusty before and bounced back.

His schooling at home since has been much sharper and I think they will revert back to the more aggressive style of racing that has suited him so well in the past. Better ground will help too.

One horse that good ground won’t suit though is Gold Cup winner Native River. He loves a real test of stamina as he showed when winning at Cheltenham in March. His disappointed at this track when favourite for the novice chase a couple of seasons back also.

Bristol De Mai is a real enigma. He was so impressive at Haydock that if he can back that up, he’d be the most likely winner.  Wednesday is just his second run of the season whereas he disappointed in this contest last year on his third start. He always looks good at Haydock but has never looked as good anywhere else.

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Paul Nicholls’ Politologue is another head-scratcher who has been called a weak finisher in the past. You’d never think he wants a three-mile test but he wasn’t stopping at Ascot when he beat Charbel or Aintree last season when he beat Min.

Waiting Patiently will have to do something special to win this. He is a very good horse as we saw at Ascot last season when he beat Cue Card & Frodon. However, he is trying to win a King George on his seasonal debut and I can’t remember that happening before.

Colin Tizzard’s other runner Thistlecrack is spending too much time in the air jumping his fences. The stopwatch says he spent three seconds longer getting over them than Might Bite does. In distance term that equates to 10 lengths.

You can’t win a tough King George if you jump like that! I am going for Might Bite to bounce back to form with Bristol de Mai chasing him home.

Kempton 13.20

Lough Derg Spirit is having his first run after a wind op and if that has worked then he will take all the beating here. Nicky Henderson’s other runner Turtle Wars had a nightmare journey last time at Sandown behind eventual winner Warthog and with a clearer passage can at least get placed here.

Kempton 13.55

One of my 10 to follow horses, Topofthegame runs here after running an unbelievable race at Exeter last time to finish second to Defi Du Seuil when he lost 30 lengths to the others at the start.

He can make next season’s ante-post RSA Chase favourite, Santini, pull out all the stops here. The favourite Santini is a hell of a horse but all of his form is on soft ground and Topofthegame is well capable of causing a surprise here on this slightly quicker surface. Topofthegame may start second favourite and rates an each-way bet as I can’t see him not being in the places at least.

Wetherby 14.10 

Lake View Lad did us a favour at Newcastle in the Rehearsal Chase and even though he’s gone up a few pounds – could still be open to improvement.

Kempton 14.30

This is pretty straightforward and it’s all about the dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D Air. He is long odds on and deserves to be and Global Citizen should set up the race for him to pounce before the last flight. If The Cap Fits is better suited to a longer trip as he showed when winning at Ascot.

Kempton 15.40

The market is always a good guide to these race so keep an eye on a move for the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Montalbano. Noel Fehily is an eye-catching jockey booking who has some good form in the book and he’s a double digit price at the moment.

*Prices correct at time of publishing

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What do you think?