Might Bite claimed the narrowest of victories after an extraordinary conclusion to the RSA Chase at Cheltenham yesterday.
Nicky Henderson’s inmate was in the process of producing a scintillating performance until falling at the final fence in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas, and having since bounced back with a bloodless success at Doncaster, he was the 7-2 favourite for his Festival assignment.
For much of the three-mile contest he looked set to deliver the wondrous performance he so nearly did over the festive period, fencing well at the head of affairs under Nico de Boinville.
The eight-year-old saw off his closest pursuers Acapella Bourgeois and Alpha Des Obeaux running down the hill and rounded the home turn in a long lead - but there was a twist in the tale.
Might Bite was a little untidy when clear at the final fence and soon after hung violently to his right, virtually stopping to a walk.
He looked to have gifted his more patiently-ridden stable companion Whisper certain victory, but, with the aid of a loose horse, De Boinville somehow managed to coax a late rally out of the quirky Might Bite and the pair flashed by the post almost as one.
After a brief wait, the judge confirmed the market leader had got back up by a nose, much to the delight of the packed grandstands.
De Boinville said: “He did exactly the same in his hurdles run around here, the same thing happened. Without the loose horse I wouldn’t have won. He’s a thinker but he’s so talented, he jumped for fun - he should have won five or 10 lengths.
“It’s great for the owners and great for guv’nor, he’s having a great time of it. I kept faith with this horse, I can see why others might not!”
Henderson said: “What to make of it all? It just goes to show why you run two horses in a race. It was extraordinary. Might Bite is only a baby but he’s hugely talented. He just grinds it out and keeps going, but then he stops and has an ice cream!
“He is deceptive as to how quickly he is going as he doesn’t look like he is going very quick. He just grinds it out and keeps going.
“Davy (Russell) has done everything right on Whisper. You could always see him creeping in there.
“This place has extraordinary tricks. It looked for all the world that he (Might Bite) had thrown it away.
“A dead-heat would have been fair to everybody, but it wouldn’t have been, really, because Might Bite was the best horse.
“We must be aware of it (his wayward streak) in the future. He’s not naughty, or anything like that, but the future is obviously enormous.
“I think the King George is the obvious place for him as he can roll around Kempton at that pace. Three and a quarter miles round here (in the Gold Cup) is a different ball game.
“In all honesty the King George is the most likely thing to go and do.”
Owner Simon Phillip admitted: “I died a thousand times. I turned away, then he started getting up.
“I thought it was easy street. We had been there at Kempton. We know he is a hell of a horse, but we knew it could go wrong at the last minute.”
Willie Mullins said of third-placed Bellshill: “He jumped much better and after his recent performances I was delighted with him..”
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