Native River vs. Might Bite Episode Six

Might Bite and Native River in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Two of Britain’s best staying chasers over the past few seasons are set to clash at Newbury in the Denman Chase this Saturday.

The Colin Tizzard-trained Native River overcame Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite in the 2018 Gold Cup. He’s confirmed that form on five occasions subsequently and is well supported in the market to do so again.

Here’s a look at those clashes. The racing from Newbury runs alongside action at Warwick on ITV this Saturday, with the Betfair Hurdle and the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase other highlights of a competitive day’s racing. Be sure to check out our tips and analysis, as well as three outsiders for the Betfair Hurdle.

2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup

The enigmatic Might Bite had landed the RSA at the Festival previous and was favourite for the Gold Cup having won the King George at Kempton in exuberant style.

This was his first venture beyond three-miles, a move that was to cost him as he faced the relentless stayer Native River. He’d finished third in a good ground edition of the Gold Cup the previous year having landed two of the best staying handicaps in 2016.

He was campaigned more sparingly the following season, running out an easy winner of the Denman Chase on his only previous run before the Gold Cup. This freshness and his stamina proved critical as he buckled down under a prominent ride from Richard Johnson to overcome the smooth travelling Might Bite.

2018 Haydock Betfair Chase

The first of the rematches in which Might Bite was a well supported even-money favourite having landed the Aintree Bowl as recompense for his Gold Cup defeat. Native River was having his first start since his moment of glory and was second favourite.

It was a similar story with the frustrating Might Bite finding little under pressure. He eventually trailed home in last of five. His adversary Native River was no match for Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai but again stayed on under pressure, finishing a creditable second.

2018 Kempton King George

Might Bite’s reputation once again preceded him. The son of Scorpion went off favourite despite struggling on his only previous run of the year and disappointed. He was fancied to improve from his recent return at Haydock, having landed the previous renewal. He wasn’t without a chance coming to the third last before weakening tamely after the penultimate fence.

The more battle hardened Native River ran his customary race. Pre-race concerns that three-miles on a flat track like Kempton would prove too speedy were confirmed. There was plenty to like about his performance though, having toiled back in sixth with four fences to go and eventually finishing third to Clan Des Obeaux and stablemate Thistlecrack.

2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Punters had finally learnt their lesson with Might Bite. A mid-season wind operation wasn’t enough to inspire confidence in the fragile nine-year-old, with 14/1 his starting price.

A defence of his crown did look a possibility for Native River. He’d performed creditably at tracks unsuited to his run style throughout the season, and was sure to appreciate the return to the extended three-miles-two trip.

Unfortunately for the pair, the testing gallop proved their undoing. Native River was too slow to get going, using up vital energy to get to the front in an attempt to gallop his rivals into submission.

Might Bite was able to lead, but after setting the early fractions found his petrol tank enter rapidly before pulled up. Willie Mullins ended his hoodoo in the Festival showpiece with Al Boum Photo. The 2018 winner eventually finishing fourth.

2019 Aintree Many Clouds Chase

The fifth and most recent clash came in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December. The race ended before it really began for Might Bite, who shipped Nico de Boinville at the fourth fence. He already looked in trouble behind the rejuvenated Native River though, sporting first time blinkers.

Richard Johnson’s mount went on to record an impressive thirty-three length success from Black Corton and Outlander, his first win since the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Henderson sent Might Bite over hurdles for a confidence booster on New Year’s Day. That similarly didn’t go to plan, with the formerly high-class chaser failing to finish.

2020 Newbury Denman Chase

Native River will bid to confirm his superiority over Might Bite once more in the Denman, a race he won back in 2017 and 2018. He boasts an impressive record of four-from-four over fences at the Berkshire course, two victories in this combining with success in the Hennessy in 2016 and a novice Grade Two back in 2015.

Might Bite is on yet another retrieval mission. It’s testament to his reputation that he’s second favourite for a Grade Two despite his alarming run of form in which he hasn’t beaten a rival home in his last three starts. Whilst the rest of the field are rated less than 150, there’s far more reliable options including Secret Investor who could chase home Native River.

The rest of the field are all playing for second best behind Native River, who looked as good as ever when winning at Aintree. For me, he’s the forgotten horse in the Gold Cup, and should confirm that when recording a third success in the Denman.

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