Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival Stable Tour

 In Lambourn News

Nicky Henderson has enjoyed more success than most at the Cheltenham Festival down the years and the Seven Barrows’ handler will be hoping for another successful visit to Prestbury Park. Henderson guides you through his squad that he will be taking to the Cheltenham Festival.

 

HURDLERS

SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE

Angels Breath
He is in the Dovecote this weekend and I would ideally have liked to take him for a normal novice with plenty of runners so he can learn more. You always get a furious pace in the Supreme and a big field and all he’s done so far is run in a six-runner race and jumped four hurdles. He will go over two miles in the Supreme.

Mister Fisher
I’m pretty sure he is a two-miler and, like Angels Breath, he will go over two miles in the Supreme.
 

CHAMPION HURDLE

Brain Power
He was very good in the International at Cheltenham and that’s the way to ride him. He was always travelling and good ground helps him. I was never intending to run him again before Champion Hurdle and he is in great form and I would like to go to a Racecourse to gallop him. He’s in very good form and is probably forgotten – I know he won an International that wasn’t a great contest but it was one of the better British ones.

Buveur D’Air
I don’t think he was at his best on the day (in the Champion Hurdle) as he lived in a box next door to We Have A Dream and on the Monday that horse was screaming and had a temperature and they lived nose to nose. We took We Have A Dream out of the barn at 6.00am and he hadn’t touched his food and he had a temperature. Buveur D’Air is as tough as teak but he didn’t get over Cheltenham at all last year and I would have come back to Aintree which he did the year before and it should have been a piece of cake for him. He wasn’t impressive in the Champion Hurdle and it took him apart. Normally you can run him the next week but he hadn’t recovered in four weeks to go anywhere near Aintree. Nor had Rather Be who was in the next box so you can take that they had something the same as We Have A Dream. Two miles on fast ground around Kempton we got caught out a little bit and Nico got a lovely run round in his slipstream and Verdana Blue does have a serious turn of foot. Buveur D’Air is in great form and Sandown was great and on we go. You have to keep on working him. He really didn’t take Cheltenham at all well last year and he won it by a certain amount of ability and quite a lot of guts as well. He has beaten them all before and was not at his best. He has to be better than last year if he is going to be a Triple Champion Hurdler and it’s a better race than last year but he had a nice run around Sandown which is good and he worked well on Saturday. I still think he is the one to beat if all goes well between now and then.

Verdana Blue
She was going to run in a Fast Track Qualifier at Kempton which would have qualifier for a £200,000 race but she had to miss that as result of the flu vaccination situation and she will go straight to Cheltenham. She is fine and has a very good turn of foot but ground is essential for her. It will be good to soft on Champion Hurdle Day and she wouldn’t want it any worse than that.
 

BALLYMORE

Birchdale
He could be one of a strong team in the Ballymore. He is good and he did well to win at Cheltenham the other day as he was very green. I hope he has learnt enough but he should have done. He could go two miles five or three.

Downtown Getaway
I want to run him in either the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett and he was due to run last Sunday but we were unable too. I am trying to find a three-mile novice hurdle which is what I want and so does Dickie Diver but there is not one this week and I did ask for one.

Champ
He will go over two miles five in the Ballymore. He has been very good and he has plenty of experience.

Champagne Platinum
He could be another for the Ballymore but he could also go three miles. You are trying to spread them around. The novice hurdlers are particularly good.
 

MARES’ NOVICE

Epatante
She really needs a run and should be out this week. The Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle would be a possibility.
 

TRIUMPH HURDLE

Adjali
He looked the same as Paul’s horse Quel Destin when they were first and second at Chepstow and that would have to give him a squeak in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
 

ALBERT BARTLETT

Dickie Diver
He could also go for the Ballymore but he’s another with an entry in the Albert Bartlett. I would have like to run him in a three-mile novice but we were unable too.
May also be followed by Birchdale and Downtown Getaway

 

CHASERS

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE

OK Corral
He will go for the four-miler but I must admit at Warwick he didn’t look like he was desperate for it but if you ask Derek O’Connor I think I know what he will tell you. I am sure he will get four miles and he will go for the National Hunt Chase. He was here for three years before I could get a run into him and he wasn’t sound for more than five minutes but he kept coming back and then he kept going lame. At least touch wood, he has got through it and for the past two seasons we have been able to keep going. He looked very good at Warwick and he had the best man at Warwick and that was why Derek rode him there as we had a plan.
 

RSA

Santini
Santini was going to run in the Reynoldstown and I thought he was very good at Kempton and if you had to take one horse out of the Feltham you would take him. They are all going to meet again in the RSA and Cheltenham will suit him better than Kempton. It doesn’t mean he is going to beat them and I really would have loved to run him last weekend. He really needed it but we will do plenty of schooling work and ideally it would be nice if we could go for a Racecourse gallop and school him over half a dozen fences but there we go.
 

CHAMPION CHASE

Altior
All is good and everything has gone good so far. He hasn’t put a foot wrong and we have adopted a different strategy this year. He was fit and well and then had a nice break and coming back fresh and hopefully we can go on after Cheltenham. He looks super and will work on Tuesday morning and then have a couple of schools as he enjoys it. We are back into the Sprinter Sacre situation and I can tell you how horrible it was then – I suppose we are getting back to the same factor where anything bar a really good performance won’t do. It will be disappointing if it goes wrong, but you are prepared for the fact that it has to go wrong one day and you can’t go on forever. Altior is a very good horse and he has been picking up his Grade 1s and 2s but he hasn’t been meeting a great deal of opposition. He has to do what you have to do and it will happen one day but I hope it’s not in the Champion Chase as that is what you build your season around. Pat Pugh and I did discuss the King George and if everything went right this year we would probably branch out and try something completely different and then would probably get him beaten! He is not quite the showman that Sprinter Sacre was, but he is a really good looking horse. Altior is a machine and just gets on with it and has tremendous pace. He has a lot of gears and if he was a Flat horse he would be a very good miler and quarter/mile and half horse and a Group horse but I can assure we are not going do that!
 

RYANAIR

Terrefort
We don’t know yet but the Ryanair would be a possibility. He had a right good blow at Ascot on Saturday and I was very impressed with Clan Des Obeaux as he didn’t half put us in our place. The Gold Cup is probably not the right race for him and he could come into the Ryanair.

Top Notch
He will go Ryanair but he’s not quite a Grade 1 horse. It was a pity he couldn’t go to Ascot as that’s where he was supposed to be but having said that Cyrname was mightily impressive and I don’t think Top Notch would have beaten him but we were going to run at Ascot. He will now go straight for the Ryanair. He is a lovely horse and everybody loves him but I am the first to admit he’s just probably 5lb short of being a Grade 1 horse. He is in good form and we ran him in the Long Walk as a prep and he got the three miles and went and did it really well at Kempton. He would have to be on the shortlist of horses we are looking forward to.
 

BROWN ADVISORY PLATE

River Wylde
He could go for the Ryanair but the Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Handicap is more likely. He tripped over the last at Haydock when he would have won and could be a forgotten horse.
 

GOLD CUP

Might Bite
We have done lot of things and he re-cauterised his palate. Two years ago, he was hobdayed and when you do that you have to re-cauterise the palate. The hobday is perfectly alright but you can’t do it again anyway, but the soft palate part very often needs to be done again. You can see if one part of the larynx isn’t working properly you can hear a noise rather like Altior did last year. We scoped him, and you can see there’s a margin that isn’t working. There was no real reason for doing it, but it just tightens things up and that has been done since Kempton. We have freshened him up and changed a few things and Nico rode him on Saturday and thought he was in terrific form. He went around there last year in soft ground in the winter and there was a fresh strip all the way round in the Gold Cup which hadn’t been used since the previous April and Native River and he went around on that the whole way together and they never came off until you jumped the last. The run-in was the wettest part of the track and when you jump the last you then come across Tuesday and Wednesday’s hurdle track, Tuesday and Wednesday’s Chase course, Thursday’s hurdle and chase course and all three hurdle races you have had on Gold Cup day. To me he jumped the last fence and they had been on remarkably good ground all the way and then you have two strides after that and you go bang. When he landed in front after the second-last you thought he was going to go away like he does. Maybe he just got tired, but he did hit that patch of ground having travelled so well all the way. I might have made the mistake of not running him since the King George, but I have done it again as I had no option but to stop and start again this time. He is entitled to be 20-1 on what he’s done this season, but he doesn’t know that and I don’t care. We have just got to get him there the best we can, and I was thrilled with what I saw on Saturday – he was very good. I have to be hopeful he can come back – it has been disappointing, but he’s been good twice round Kempton and you get some odd results in that Haydock race – the formbook doesn’t follow that race for the rest of the season. Kempton was disappointing, but he has lacked his rhythm and his jumping hasn’t been with the fluidity that it normally is. That is what we are hoping is going to come back and it definitely not a mental thing that has held him back.
Terrefort is also a possibility.
*All quotes accredited to AtTheRaces*

 

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