The leading contenders for Kempton’s King George VI Chase (15:05) are all exuding confidence going into the Grade 1 Christmas showpiece.
A field of eight will line-up for the three-mile Boxing Day contest and for three of those near the head of the market, it seems defeat is not an option.
In spite of that fact, all three have questions of one kind or another to answer before the doubters will be silenced.
Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite is favourite at 5/4, despite the memories of a final fence fall 12 months ago in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over the course and distance.
Thistlecrack wooed the Kempton crowds with his exuberant style en route to winning the race last year. A tendon injury then cut his season short and his reappearance over hurdles at Newbury recently left him with questions to answer after he went out like a lightbulb in the home straight.
Bristol De Mai meanwhile demolished the field in a record-breaking romp when winning last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock but the grey has since been accused of being a heavy-ground bully and must also prove himself away from the Merseyside venue.
The trio aren’t certain to have things all their own way, with Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Whisper, Tingle Creek bridesmaid Fox Norton and Kempton specialist Tea For Two all bidding to spoil the party in a high-class renewal, but confidence is oozing from the various camps.
Champion trainer Henderson feels Might Bite is a better horse this year and he is willing to write off the jumping error that cost his charge 12 months ago as a once-off.
“To go back to Kempton last year, there were no quirks that day. It was a one, two, three and miss and he had never looked like doing anything like that up until then. Since then his jumping has been clean and accurate,” he said.
“Wherever he went last year, his jumping was good. He is a much sharper horse this year. I don’t know why. He looks feisty and well. He’s working much better than he did last year.”
Twiston-Davies admits to some nerves in the lead-up, but the Naunton handler feels 4/1 chance Bristol De Mai will prove himself at Kempton.
“It’s a different track (to Haydock), but I don’t see it being much of a problem,” said the Naunton handler.
“He’s got plenty of speed. He’s won over two and a half miles around Sandown and he’s won over two miles. I don’t think speed is his problem.
“This is what racing is about – to stop the gossip and prove a point. It’ll be a great day. I get very nervous and as we get closer to the time I’ll get more geed up.”
Tizzard has won the previous two renewals of the King George and while Thistlecrack trades at 7/1, fourth choice in the betting, the Dorset handler will be ‘amazed’ if he’s not in the mix.
“I am really pleased with him,” said Tizzard. “He is a different horse since Newbury and you wouldn’t recognise him. He has come right into himself now. I will be amazed if he doesn’t run a big race.”
Fox Norton has moved up to third in the betting at 13/2.
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