Henderson highlights his chances at the Festival

 In Lambourn News, Road to Cheltenham


Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Angels Breath is in about seven races this weekend, including the Dovecote. What I would like for him is just an ordinary novice hurdle with plenty of runners so that he can go and learn to race. It will be fast and furious in the Supreme, and all he’s done is go round in a six-runner race with only four hurdles. I’m pretty sure he’s a two-miler so he’ll go here, even though his owner Dai Walters also has Al Dancer, who was very impressive at Ascot on Saturday. Mister Fisher will go here too, and probably a couple of others.

Unibet Champion Hurdle

Buveur D’Air was not at his best on the day last year. He wasn’t impressive and I think he only won because of a certain amount of ability and quite a lot of guts. He’d beaten Melon before and Mick Jazz shouldn’t have been that close. That wasn’t Buveur D’Air at his best. We need him in the form he was in at Newcastle, because he was really good there and Barry [Geraghty] said he felt fantastic.

I’ll tell you why he wasn’t himself last year. He lives in a box next to We Have A Dream and on the Monday morning We Have A Dream had a screaming temperature. They lived absolutely nose-to-nose. He’s as tough as teak, but he didn’t get over Cheltenham. It took him apart. Races normally don’t affect him at all – you could run him again the next week – but he hadn’t recovered in four weeks and so couldn’t go anywhere near Aintree.

He’ll have to be better than last year because I’m sure it’s a better race. I won’t say he’s 10lb better, but I hope he is. I still think he’s the one to beat and I’m glad he had that run at Sandown because he does take a lot of work.

Two miles on fast ground around Kempton caught Buveur D’Air out a bit and Verdana Blue had a lovely run round in his slipstream before delivering that turn of foot. She’s had to miss her fast-track all-weather qualifier at Kempton, which was her prep for Cheltenham and would also have got her a run in the £200,000 marathon at Lingfield on Good Friday, and that was really bad luck. Ground is essential to her though, and Cheltenham has to water to get it to good to soft on the first day.

Brain Power will run too and he was very good in the International at Cheltenham. That was the way to ride him, and good ground helps.

National Hunt Chase

Ok Corral runs in the four-miler, although he didn’t look desperate for it at Warwick. I’m sure he’ll get four, and he certainly wants all of three. He’s been frustrating and was here for three years before he ever ran as I couldn’t keep him sound for five minutes, but at last he’s got through it. At nine he’s quite an age for novice chasing but he looked very good at Warwick, travelling so well, and in Derek O’Connor has the best man riding him. I don’t think Mr Whipped will make it to Cheltenham.


Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Champ runs in the Ballymore. He’s been very good and he’s got plenty of experience. Champagne Platinum was going two miles, but he could go two and a half here. It’s a matter of trying to spread them around.

RSA Novices’ Chase

I thought Santini was very good at Kempton and I like to agree with what most people concluded which was that if you had to take one horse out of the Kauto Star you might take him. Cheltenham will suit him better than Kempton, there’s no doubt about that, but I really would have loved if he ran last weekend. He does need to go to a racecourse, and maybe even jump some fences. He had a lot of experience over hurdles though.

On The Blind Side would be an RSA candidate too and I was pleased with him at Kempton, but he missed his run at the weekend and I need to get one into him. The only place to go is three and a quarter miles at Chepstow and that’s not a good idea close to Cheltenham.

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

Altior has done everything right – he hasn’t put a foot wrong – although you’ll all tell me he jumped to the left at Ascot. We’ve come in on a different strategy this year, because he was fit and well, and now he’s had a nice break so is coming in nice and fresh. Hopefully we can go on with him again after Cheltenham.

He’s been very good and looks super. He’ll work tomorrow and then have a couple of schools because he enjoys it. He just gets on with it. He’s got tremendous pace and, touch wood, his jumping is very good. He’s got a lot of gears too, and if he was a Flat horse he’d be a Group horse, although we aren’t going to do that!

We’re back in the Sprinter Sacre situation again, where anything bar a really good performance won’t do, and it’s not fair because lots of things can happen and there will be plenty of opposition. It will be disappointing if it goes wrong but you’re prepared for the fact it will go wrong one day. He can’t go on forever. I know Winx can, but she’s different. It’s got to happen somewhere and I just hope it doesn’t happen in the Champion Chase.


Ryanair Chase

Top Notch will go straight for the Ryanair. It’s a pity he couldn’t run at Ascot on Saturday as that’s where he was meant to be, but Cyrname was very good. He’s probably 5lb short of a Grade 1 horse, but he’ll turn up. He’s in good form and would have to be on the shortlist of horses we’re looking forward to. Terrefort I’m not sure about. Clan Des Obeaux didn’t half put Terrefort in his place on Saturday, but he had a right good blow afterwards. He could come into it as the Gold Cup is probably not the race for him. Janika I’m not sure about either [has topweight in 888Sport Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday].

Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

There are two or three fillies I think are very good. Epatante needs another run before the mares’, and so does Lust For Glory. I’m hoping to run them this weekend. Elusive Belle ran away with Sam Waley-Cohen at Sandown last Friday and you can ignore that.


JCB Triumph Hurdle

JP [McManus] will win it, but not with one of mine. I was very disappointed with Laskadine at Haydock on Saturday and have to admit I was disappointed with Adjali last time too, as at Chepstow there was nothing between him and Quel Destin. I haven’t run Fusil Raffles yet but he’s going to work tomorrow and then could run in the Adonis.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Birchdale and maybe even Dickie Diver will run in the Albert Bartlett. Birchdale is good. He did well to win the other day as he was very green. I hope he’s learned enough and I think he should have done. He could go two and a half or three miles. Dickie Diver runs at Chepstow on Saturday. He needs more experience.

Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup

Nico [de Boinville] rode Might Bite on Saturday and thought he was in terrific form – really great. I was thrilled with what I saw too. He really was very good.

He’s lacked rhythm and his jumping hasn’t had the fluidity there normally is, so that’s what we’re hoping comes back. I know he’s run poorly, and on this season’s form he deserves to be 20-1, but it’s definitely not been a mental problem and we’ve freshened him up and changed a few things.

Two years ago he had a hobday operation, and when you do that you do the soft palate with it. The hobday is perfectly alright and can’t be done again anyway, but the soft palate very often needs to be redone and I’ve had horses here who have had it done four or five times. It lasts about three runs and then you do it again. I had no reason to think he needed it doing again, because you don’t hear anything or see anything, but we recauterised it and tightened it up after Kempton.

He went round Cheltenham on soft ground last year, using a fantastic strip of ground on the inner with Native River. It hadn’t been used for 11 months until you jump the last fence, and then the run-in was the wettest part of the track and was already very well used from the three previous days. He landed in front over the second-last and then two strides after the last it went ‘bang’, and that was that.

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