Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has his team in flying form going into Christmas and likely favourite Might Bite looks the one they all have to beat in the big race on Boxing Day.
Henderson has twice before won the King George VI Chase with Long Run, and the sometimes quirky Might Bite is fancied to oblige at odds of 11/8 for a third Seven Barrows success in the Grade One three-miler.
Might Bite landed top-level novice wins last season at the Cheltenham and Aintree spring festivals, his RSA Chase win at the former set to live long in the memory after he idled on the run-in and seemingly threw away the race before grabbing the lead back from stablemate Whisper in the final stride.
It was his performance in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day last year that perhaps best advertises his credential for this contest however. Then, he was set to win by a wide margin and in a very fast time only to crash out when asked up for a big leap at the last by Daryl Jacob.
The rider would surely have played his cards differently given a second chance but it will be in-form Nico de Boinville in the saddle now.
Might Bite’s reappearance win at Sandown took a boost on Saturday when the runner-up Frodon ran well at Sandown and this track should suit his style perfect so he’s strongly fancied to make amends for last year’s Boxing Day mishap by accounting for the likes of Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai and last year’s winner Thistlecrack, who has questions to answer on his second start back from injury.
The Racing Post Novice Chase (14:20) at Leopardstown offers up a fascinating clash between Footpad and Death Duty, with the latter fancied at 7/4 to come out on top.
Footpad, fourth in the Champion Hurdle in the spring, made a fine start over fences for Willie Mullins at Navan but Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten chaser Death Duty will ask a serious question now.
He’s a classy sort and his trainer appears to have regrets about going over three-miles last season with the Gigginstown runner. Death Duty is not slow and he can lower the colours of the likely favourite by showing his class in this intriguing Grade One novice event.
Back at Kempton, Harry Fry can land the opening Novices’ Hurdle with If The Cap Fits, who beat a subsequent wide-margin winner in good style at Bangor on his debut over timber last month.
Noel Fehily’s mount looks an improved performer jumping hurdles and can improve again to justify odds of 2/1 and fend off Nicky Henderson’s Diese Des Bieffes.