Might Bite undergoes wind operation but Henderson unsure if it is the answer
Nicky Henderson is hoping wind surgery on Might Bite will help him rediscover his magic in time for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, but on Thursday admitted he is unsure the operation will resolve whatever has triggered a dramatic loss of form.
Last season's Gold Cup runner-up will go straight to the festival on March 15 without another run after having his soft palate re-cauterised on Thursday.
The winner of the 2017 King George VI Chase has been disappointing on both starts this season, having finished last in the Betfair Chase and seventh in the King George despite being sent off favourite each time.
The form of Henderson's runners on their first start since a wind operation offers encouragement to supporters of Might Bite, who on Thursday was available at 16-1 with Ladbrokes and Betfair in a Gold Cup market headed by general 4-1 shot Presenting Percy.
Of Henderson's last 25 runners having their first start since wind surgery, ten have won, a 40 per cent strike-rate compared to an average for all trainers of 11.5 per cent during the same time period.
Henderson had pointed the finger at Haydock’s stiff fences for Might Bite’s performance in the Betfair Chase, while the classy chaser was reported to have bled after his run at Kempton.
Following his latest effort, Might Bite was given an extensive MOT with nothing major coming to light. However, connections have opted to have his breathing operated on to assist him anyway.
"We cannot find anything wrong with him,” Henderson told the Racing Post on Thursday. “When you can't find a problem, eight times out of ten, it's respiratory. He's sound and healthy. This is the only conclusion we can come to.
"We don't know that we've got to the bottom of it, as it is not something we can categorically prove, but in our opinion it's the most likely solution.”
Might Bite had his palate cauterised in 2016, along with a hobday operation which remains in place, and Henderson added: "Cauterising doesn't last forever and you have to redo it with a lot of horses. We put our heads together with a number of experts and it's the conclusion we've come to.”
The operation, which took place on Thursday, is expected to only hold Might Bite up for two weeks, according to Henderson, but is still likely to mean he goes straight for the Gold Cup.
"Last year he went straight from Kempton to the Gold Cup and he ran a good race, so it won't bother him,” the champion trainer said.
Henderson cited Might Bite's stablemate, Lomachenko, as an example of the influence the procedure can have.
Lomachenko finished a tailed off last, nearly 42 lengths behind the winner, on his first start over hurdles in a four-runner contest at Fakenham on October 19. But on his next on December 28, 70 days later, the five-year-old won by six lengths in a maiden hurdle at Leicester.
Henderson told his Unibet blog: "I had a horse that ran a stinker for me on his debut, so we cauterised his palate and he bolted up at Leicester last week on his first run after."
Henry O'Neill, equine surgeon at Donnington Grove Veterinary Group, said: "Palate cauterisation is treated as a day procedure.
"The soft palate is prone to instability and displacement, which can restrict airflow. The procedure generates fibrous tissue to increase tension and stiffness.
"It has become a more routine procedure in recent years and is done standing with local sedation, so horses return to training quickly. Over time the fibrous tissue can weaken and need re-tightening."
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