I really did want Bristol Dai Mai to win the King George yesterday. It was partly to silence the critics who were a bit sniffy about his distance win at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, but also to keep the million pound bonus alive. As it turned out he was well beaten and if the truth were told, even without his jumping error at the 10th, would still not have got the better of Might Bite. Nico de Boinville gave as an assured a ride as you will see on Might Bite, who displayed none of the eccentricities so evident last season and now looks like a genuine Gold Cup contender.
The meeting began with a win for If The Cap Fits in the Novices’ Hurdle. Arguably the high expectations many have of Harry Fry this season, have not been met so far, particularly with Unowhatimeanharry no longer bossing the Stayers’ Hurdle division. However, If The Cap Fits looks to be going from strength to strength, with three straight wins since October and offers another name to throw into the mix for the Supreme Novices’ in March.
Part of me hoped that Nicky Henderson would send Buveur D’air back over fences this season, to see what he was capable of following his domination of two mile hurdles. But over the hurdles he has remained and victory in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle marked an eighth consecutive win. His triumph in the Fighting Fifth earlier in the month was the definition of routine and yesterday didn’t look much harder. There was one slight mistake, but when Barry Geraghty asked the question he cruised past The New One without ever having to engage top gear. All that remains is to see how he will fare against the revered but elusive Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle.
I had perhaps been a little unjust about Black Corton’s win at Cheltenham in October, taking the view that it was Sizing Tennessee’s fall that allowed him victory. I was wrong. Black Corton and his jockey Bryony Frost have been a revelation this season. The win in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase was a masterclass in riding from Frost who had to skilfully avoid fallers to bring her ride home first. She can now add a Grade 1 to her growing list of successes and has proved she doesn’t need to rely on her claim.
The RSA would seem to be the obvious destination for Black Corton and whilst likely to face formidable Irish competition, both he and Frost love Cheltenham. The 20/1 currently on offer is certainly tempting. Frost’s radiant smile after finishing the race was exuberant even by her standards and enough to clear the most dense of Christmas hangovers. Long may it last.