London (AFP) - Defending champion Might Bite heads the betting to take revenge on his Gold Cup conqueror Native River in a potentially vintage King George VI Chase at Kempton on Wednesday.
Nicky Henderson's chaser justified strong favouritism in the Boxing Day showpiece 12 months ago, before coming off second best in a thrilling clash with Native River at Cheltenham.
He clearly needed the run on his seasonal return at Haydock when finishing a tired fifth of five behind Bristol De Mai and Native River last month.
Even so it was an uninspiring showing which left Henderson searching for answers.
"He wasn't jumping as he usually does, normally he's just deadly but he was spending too much time in the air," said the trainer.
"That's not the whole story to it, maybe he wasn't as straight as I thought he was."
His supporters will have to take it on trust that Might Bite has put that flop behind him, with Henderson subsequently reporting his nine-year-old "fine".
"It was a bit of a bombshell, but he's perfectly sound and bright â- and there are no injuries anyway, no reason for it behind that."
Henderson is also wary of the threats posed to Might Bite from Politologue and Thistlecrack in particular, saying his charge will have to be better than ever before to win.
"He looks fantastic, but this is a mighty race and so much better than last year and I think it's fair to say he has to produce a personal best, but I couldn't be happier with him and he's there to give it his best shot," he said in his UniBet blog.
"I think Politologue will get the trip, in which case he will be very dangerous and Thistlecrack ran very well at Haydock so shouldn't be discounted either."
- Native River unfancied -
Despite Native River finishing ahead of Might Bite on the two occasions they have met, Colin Tizzard's Gold Cup hero is a 7-1 chance to confirm that superiority.
Owner Garth Broom believes his star's front-running style will suit, but he is liable to be caught out for a turn of foot on this flat track.
"Whether one or two might be that bit quicker on that track, where we haven't got the nice uphill finish (as at Cheltenham) to help us, we'll see. I think he'll run his usual solid race and be thereabouts."
Tizzard also saddles lightly-raced Thistlecrack, his 2016 winner.
Bristol De Mai is a dual Betfair Chase winner but struggled in sixth behind Might Bite last year, and more of a threat to this trio could be Politologue.
Tackling this three-mile trip for the first time should not pose a problem for one of last season's top two milers.
"It's got to be a very good horse who'll beat him," predicted owner John Hales, seeking a third victory in the Kempton highlight after One Man landed back-to-back wins in the 1990s.
Success for Politologue would provide trainer Paul Nicholls with a 10th King George after See More Business (1997, 1999), Kauto Star 2006-2009, 2011) and Silviniaco Conti (2013-2014).