NICO de Boinville will partner Might Bite when he renews rivalry with Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River in tomorrow’s Betfair Chase at Haydock – the first Grade One race of the 2018-19 National Hunt season.
The jockey has been sidelined since suffering a thumb injury in a fall at Chepstow almost a month ago and champion trianer Nicky Henderson had placed Noel Fehily on standby.
De Boinville has been passed fit and will be on board when last season’s King George winner bids to turn the table on his Cheltenham Gold Cup conqueror Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson.
“I have been out injured since October 30 – though it seems a lot longer – but I am delighted to be able to announce that I was passed fit by my specialist on Wednesday and the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) have just given me the all-clear this morning,” said de Boinville.
“The plan now is to kick straight on, and immediately get back in the saddle at Ascot today, where I am on Wenyerreadyfreddie in the opener. And then I ride a certain Might Bite in the Betfair Chase at Haydock tomorrow.
“In common with all jockeys, I am not a good watcher from the stands or on TV, but at least the absence sharpens the hunger ever more, and it’s a big relief to be back in time to ride the stable’s big artillery like Might Bite and Altior in the Tingle Creek, to name just two.
“Actually, those around me on a daily basis will probably even more relieved than I am that I am back riding tomorrow!”
The Betfair Chase is one of the few big races to elude Might Bite’s trainer and Henderson will be disappointed if this record isn’t rectified.
“The ground in the Betfair Chase was heavy last year which suited Bristol De Mai. But you would have to think the ground this time around will suit Might Bite,” he said.
“The Betfair is a G1 we haven’t won yet, so it would be special to win it – we are due one!
“Might Bite is in very good form and it is all systems go.
“He has just been working extremely well and out of him, Altior and Buveur D’Air, he has been the easiest to get fit.
“Might Bite is a spectacular looking horse and he fits the Sprinter Sacre mould of just pure quality and class – he just looks that way. He looks really, really good.”
Meanwhile the aforementioned Tizzard, who won the Betfair Chase three times with the popular Cue Card, has a second string to his bow in Thistlecrack who will make his first appearance since finishing fourth behind Might Bite when defending his King George crown at Kempton on Boxing Day last year.
His jockey Tom Scudamore, stood down at Cheltenham last Saturday after a heavy fall, made a winning return to the saddle at Market Rasen yesterday.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai was a 57-length winner of the race 12 months ago – albeit in far more testing conditions than he will encounter on his return to Merseyside – and adds further strength in depth to a small but select field of just five runners.
The line-up is completed by Clan Des Obeaux, who bids to provide former champion trainer Paul Nicholls with a seventh Betfair Chase success.
The Ditcheat maestro saddled Kauto Star to win the race four times and also struck twice with Silviniaco Conti.
Clan Des Obeaux appears for the first time since finishing third behind Might Bite at Aintree in April.