Disappointed but proud - Henderson salutes Might Bite after Cup second
Might Bite may have found one too good in the Gold Cup but he did not duck out, either figuratively or literally, as he delivered a swashbuckling performance that left trainer Nicky Henderson swelling with pride.
On form alone Might Bite was the class horse in the field, but circumstance had turned against him on Gold Cup day. He was returning to Cheltenham for the first time since last year's RSA, which he almost lost after veering wildly right on the run-in, and running on testing ground over the longest trip of his career.
Yet Might Bite rose to the challenge, jumping beautifully and keeping on Native River's heels throughout while all others fell away. At the penultimate fence he even jumped into a narrow lead. Only after the last, when the fresh ground reserved for the Gold Cup gave way to the chewed-up surface of the hill, did Might Bite finally get left behind by the remorseless Native River.
"He can quicken but the trouble is the worst ground is after the last," said Henderson. "But it was great, he wasn't going to turn right today, he put his head down and fought all the way. His jumping was great. It was the right thing to do to track Native River, because no other horse got into the race.
"It was a great race, to see two horses jump the last like that after a tough steeplechase, and you realise 12 others can't even get into it.
"It was great and we're proud of him, his jumping was fantastic even considering that ground. You can't say he tried to shirk it today because he had every reason to turn right halfway up that run-in and say, 'Sod this for a game of soldiers, I'm off back'. He never flinched."
Henderson continued: "I think the horse has gone up in estimation despite the fact he's been beaten. It's always a difficult place to finish [in second] but we've been lucky over the years and you have to accept it. I'm still proud of him.
"He hung on, he had his crack, he didn't go right, he didn't duck out, he didn't shirk it. It's disappointment and pride. Someone's got to finish second and we've made it a race. I'm very proud of the horse."
"We've got four weeks to Aintree, he did it last year after three weeks, and he gave himself a hard race then by trying to make it into four miles [in the RSA]," he said. "Let's see. I'd never say no, especially on good ground."
Anibale Fly stayed on late to take third at 33-1 after falling last time out in the Irish Gold Cup.
"I'm delighted with him," said trainer Tony Martin. "We're delighted he's come back to show he's not a bad horse. At Christmas we were really looking forward to this and the Irish Gold Cup, where we thought he had a real live chance.
"It's great to see him bounce back today. It's probably as deep as Cheltenham has seen the ground for some time and we coped. He handled it well and ran a blinder. There were just two good horses in front. Any day you have a third in the Gold Cup can't be bad."
He added: "We'll get him home and see how he is. I doubt we'll go to Aintree, he's only eight; we'll see what the boys think."
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