steeplechaser Might Bite puts his King George Chase credentials on the line at Sandown tomorrow.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has opted for the Future Stars Intermediate Chase rather than the more demanding Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock in a fortnight’s time.
The corresponding contest was won 12 months ago by 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree whose jockey, Nico de Boinville, partners Might Bite.
It may not be a smooth ride. This, after all, is the quirky horse that fell at the last under Daryl Jacob when holding an unassailable lead in Kempton’s Kauto Star Novices Chase last Boxing Day.
After a confidence-boosting win at Doncaster, the horse won Cheltenham’s RSA Chase under de Boinville, despite drifting violently on the run-in, and followed up this victory at Aintree.
With Kempton’s King George Chase next month the primary target, Henderson is simply hoping for a clear run – even though the expanse of Sandown’s run-in might not help if the horse loses its concentration.
“He’s in good form, his work has been good and he schooled well. We’re very happy with him. This is a ‘get-ready race’ rather than D-day, but it’s a nice starting point,” said Henderson.
Hurdling star Unowhatimeanharry makes an unscheduled reappearance at Aintree today.
The nine-year-old has won nine of his 10 starts for trainer Harry Fry, with his sole defeat coming when third in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
He put that behind him when turning the tables on his Cheltenham conqueror Nichols Canyon at Punchestown in April.
Although Fry had been planning to return his stable star to competitive action in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle on December 2, the horse’s wellbeing has prompted a change of heart.
“Aintree wasn’t on the radar, but he’s so well at home and this race fits in nicely,” he said. “He’s got an 8lb penalty, but it will certainly be nice to see him back in action and we’re looking forward to it.”
Unowhatimeanharry, owned by JP McManus and the mount of Barry Geraghty, concedes 8lb to just two opponents in the two-and-a-half-mile contest.
Meanwhile, Tom George is hoping the switch from Wetherby to Wincanton will pay dividends for Double Shuffle in the feature Badger Ales Trophy.
“The ground went wrong for him up at Wetherby, which is why he didn’t run there,” said George, who has booked conditional jockey Ciaran Gethings for the ride.
Project Bluebook is on course to represent owner JP McManus in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday week.
John Quinn’s classy four-year-old has yet to run this autumn and was last seen finishing second on the Flat in a two-mile handicap at Chepstow in August.
Before that, he was had finished sixth in the Galway Hurdle in Ireland.
Norton-based Quinn said: “Project Bluebook is absolutely fine. I have been very happy with him since Chepstow.”