It’s just two weeks to the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, and another trainer who seems to have been somewhat forgotten in the light of a quieter than normal season, and the spotlight falling on a certain Willie Mullins – is Nicky Henderson.
However, Henderson is the leading most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival of all time with 53 winners, and he has been the leading trainer on no fewer than 9 occasions, with a personal best of 7 winners in 2012.
A quieter than normal season may well be music to the ears of Nicky Henderson though, as he may well have a few horses who have yet to reveal their full potential coming into this year’s festival, and it’s definitely time to take a look at some of his horses.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle has always been the target for Altior and, though he’ll have to take on Min, there’s a quiet confidence in the Henderson camp that he’ll at least bustle the favourite up if the ground is good. He was certainly impressive when sprinting away from subsequent winner Open Eagle at Kempton, and Henderson took the festival’s opening contest in both 1986 and 1992. An each-way option to the favourite.
Henderson has 5 Arkle wins on his CV, so he certainly knows the type of horse it takes to win one, though not all Arkles have a horse of Douvan’s potential in them. Vaniteaux’s form has a rock solid look to it having just got pipped by Ar Mad, and he’s also beaten the well-touted Shaneshill. Looks a solid each-way shot against the favourite.
Lough Kent 20/1
Henderson seldom goes single-handed into the handicaps chases, but nominated this one as his only runner in the Grand Annual. He was noted travelling ominously well here earlier in the season, and good ground would be a massive plus. Definitely one at a working man’s price.
My Tent Or Yours 8/1
Will need to overcome a 23-month absence to win, and is another who’s crying out for good ground. His overall form didn’t look strong enough to beat Faugheen but, now that one’s out, he must have a shout. Owned by JP McManus – and the money will surely come for him if he’s fancied. Maybe one to wait for until the big day, just in case he doesn’t make it.
Peace And Co 20/1
Won Henderson his sixth Triumph Hurdle last year, and you could see his eyes light-up every time someone mentioned this horse. However, he’s not looked the same horse this year, and the form of last year’s Triumph looks decidedly average now. Having said that, a fast pace on good ground would be ideal for him, though he’ always looked better on a flat track to my eyes. Yet to convince, but wouldn’t be the biggest surprise, though he is twice the price he was at the beginning of the season when Faugheen was a runner.
Protek Des Flos 20/1
Caused a 25/1 surprise when winning the Triumph Trial at the last Cheltenham meeting, but he was receiving lots of weight that day from the fancied horse. Henderson has won the triumph six times though, and interesting to see how he fares in the market against some of the stable’s other Triumph entries. Tough to gauge but, if connections didn’t back him on his first run, Henderson may have stronger candidates.
Sprinter Sacre 9/2
The race between Un De Sceaux and Sprinter Sacre is the one everyone is waiting for and, though the statistics and the form book suggest this is Un De Sceaux’s time, I for one will be betting with the heart and backing Sprinter Sacre to beat him, especially as he’s an each-way price. I don’t think any chaser can run too fast for Sprinter Sacre – and the pulse is already a few beats quicker than normal.
Vyta Du Roc 14/1
Finished one place behind Nicholls Canyon last year in the Neptune Hurdle, and may well have won that race if he hadn’t blundered at the last. Came good over fences on his first try at 3-miles last time at Ascot, and must have at least an each-way chance in the RSA, though there’s a couple of potential stars in the line-up.
A proper spring horse and, after a couple of disappointing runs, there’s a chance he’s a big price at around 20/1. Won the 2014 Coral Cup, and twice won at Aintree, but it might just be he comes good at Aintree again.