Luccia boost for Nicky Henderson on opening day of Cheltenham Festival

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Luccia ran a blinder to finish third in the Champion Hurdle for Nicky Henderson – but there remain concerns about the trainer’s overall form after all five of his other runners were pulled up.
Since Constitution Hill was pulled out of the Champion Hurdle last month, the stable’s form has been under increased scrutiny and, leading into Cheltenham, eight runners in March had comprised a winner, a second, three fifths and three pulled-up runners.
There were five more runners pulled up at Cheltenham on Tuesday (Jeriko Du Reponet, Excello, Iberico Lord, Marie’s Rock and Theatre Glory), but Luccia did at least provide a bright spark as she posted a career-best to finish a three-and-a-half-length third behind State Man, having been sent off a 33-1 shot and the lowest-rated horse in the field.
Henderson said afterwards: “If I’d had any say in the matter at all, she’d have run in the County – but I’m not the boss! Actually, from two months ago we said we’d give it a go, and she’s a mare, and she’s been great all the way through.
“She might be going to stud – I’ll try to persuade Paul [Sandy, owner] to have another go, in a handicap, which is where she normally lives, but she’s grown up today.”
Asked whether there is a chance that Constitution Hill might be ready to take on State Man before the end of the season, Henderson replied: “I don’t know. At least he was ridden out with the others this morning, which was nice to see. He came out with the other horses for the first time, but we’ve got a long, long way to go.”
In Constitution Hill’s absence, Henderson had also supplemented Iberico Lord into the race, but he failed to build on his impressive form in handicaps and fell away tamely, as did the quietly fancied Jeriko Du Reponet – reportedly not suited by the ground – in the Supreme.
While the market didn’t expect much from Excello or Theatre Glory, Marie’s Rock was another bitter disappointment, although the ground could also have been a legitimate excuse for her given she had been kept away from heavy ground on all but one of her previous 17 starts.
Henderson still has the likes of Jonbon, Chantry House, Sir Gino, Shishkin and No Ordinary Joe to come this week and it remains a conundrum for punters on how to approach his runners.

Courtesy of Racing Post