Nicky Henderson Stable Tour – Key quotes on Cheltenham team

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Questions

Trainer Nicky Henderson answers questions from the press at Cheltenham.

We bring you this Nicky Henderson Stable Tour ahead of the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, which starts on Tuesday 10th March.


Nicky Henderson celebrated his maiden Cheltenham Festival success back in 1985, as See You Then brought the Champion Hurdle trophy back to Seven Barrows. Henderson has gone on to collect 63 further Cheltenham titles and sits just one win behind Willie Mullins on the list of most successful trainers at the Festival.

The countdown to this year’s Cheltenham Festival is now well-and-truly on. Take a look at the trainer’s thoughts about his top chances in this Nicky Henderson Stable Tour and how this affects the Cheltenham Festival tips.

*All Nicky Henderson Stable Tour quotes attributed to AtTheRaces*

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour – Day One

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Shishkin

Shishkin you would like to think was one of our best chances and he has looked very good so far and is a genuine two-miler. The Supreme Novices is a nice race to win if you can and it gets the ball rolling and the pressures off a bit. I think he is very good, and he has looked good in his bumper and in two novice hurdles he looked very efficient. He has been visually impressive in all he does, and he doesn’t seem to lack experience and races very professionally. You can press a button on him, and it works. The track should be fine for him – with those sort of horses they are great movers and they have great balance and it shouldn’t bother him, as evident in our Cheltenham tips.”

Chantry House

“He is in the Supreme Novices and the Ballymore day 2 race and we will have to see. Joe Donnelly has Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge and Willie thought he was a three-miler but was running him over two and Joe would be delighted to finish first and second and then JP (McManus) has Chantry House and Sporting John and the decisions will be made nearer the time but it would be no surprise if we had two runners in the Supreme and the Ballymore. He is a very solid horse and both he and Shishkin are chasers and that is what they could be doing next year. He was very green at Cheltenham and when he went to Newbury the other day, he was foot perfect all the way and looked like a good horse and jumped like a good horse and went away like a good horse. He hasn’t run in a top race but those are the races that have fallen into his timing and we haven’t tried to avoid anything. Races are races and this is where they have had to face the test.”

Allart

“I would like to run him this week and I think he is quite good, and he is a possible for the Supreme.”

Allart went on to secure a 14-length triumph as the 1/5 favorite up at Doncaster and could feature in some expert’s each-way Cheltenham Festival tips when he takes his chance in the Supreme.

Champion Hurdle

Epatante

“She is in very good form and she does quite a lot of work together with Verdana Blue. Epatante started off at Newbury and then won the Christmas Hurdle and then after Christmas, I didn’t think there was a need to do very much. Last year at Cheltenham there were four or five who didn’t perform like they should have done and I would have said with all of them it was flu vaccination. I have seen it somewhere that she only acts on Flat tracks but just because she was beaten at Cheltenham the only time she has been there could well have been as a result of the flu vaccination. At the moment I have no worries and last year I thought she was one of our best chances in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and it was very disappointing. We found four winners but there were one or two who definitely didn’t perform. I think all five of mine have realistic chances in the Champion Hurdle and they wouldn’t go there otherwise.”

Pentland Hills

Pentland Hills will have a racecourse gallop in preparation for the Champion Hurdle. We have actually cauterized his pallet since Haydock. That is not because he is making any noises it is just that two times, he has come to win his race. I don’t think he’s done anything wrong really, but it’s been in very bad ground both times and he hasn’t finished it off as well as it has looked he is going to do. They can be what we call silent noises and you don’t hear anything and that he is not just getting enough at the end. It might help him or make no difference whatever but it’s just an effort to make sure everything is in place. At Cheltenham, I can excuse him at it was bad ground and he has come to win his race and he didn’t quite get up the hill first time up. You would have to say at Haydock you thought he was going to do it – he came there so easily that it was disappointing that he just got caught but he still ran a very good race and it was horrible ground. He needs to switch off a little bit more and we may drop him in a bit more than we have done. He is such a good jumper that he is taking you there all the time. He worked very well on Saturday and appears in great form.”

Fusil Raffles

“We weren’t going to go to Wincanton in that ground last weekend and maybe they might move it to Kempton. That was an idea and Fusil Raffles would only run if it was very good ground. Otherwise, I am very happy to go down the racecourse gallop route with him ahead of the Champion Hurdle. He was very disappointing at Kempton which is why I would have liked to run him again. He is not the flashiest of workhorses and when I ran him in the Adonis last year, I didn’t fancy him a lot and then I got him back for Punchestown and didn’t fancy him and didn’t think he was working well then but he still came out and did it. He could certainly come back into it, as the Cheltenham Festival offer suggests.”

Verdana Blue

Verdana Blue, as you know, the ground is crucial to her and it has got to be good for her to show her best. If it was soft/heavy you would have to think again but she is in very good form, reflected in the Cheltenham tips.”

Call Me Lord

“I just thought that Call Me Lord was a little bit flat at Sandown the other day and I am just freshening him up for the Champion Hurdle. As he won the International, he proved he goes around Cheltenham and is not totally right-handed biased.”

To see how Daryl Carter thinks Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle contenders will get on, check out his Cheltenham Festival tips video preview of day one’s Championship race here…

Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase

Champagne Mystery

“I had to give Champagne Mystery a third run over the wrong trip and everything as we only have until Sunday to give them their third runs. He would be another who could go for the two and a half mile novices’ chase on the first day.”

Champagne Platinum

Champagne Platinum could creep into the two and a half miles Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase and we don’t know if he will. It helped him going up half a mile the other day and if not, he could go Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.”

Precious Cargo

“If it came up very soft, Precious Cargo could go for the Arkle but he comes into the Novices’ Handicap Chase on the Tuesday quite well”

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour – Day Two

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Glynn

Glynn would certainly want two and a half and he is a possible for the Ballymore. He looked good when winning but obviously has only run once.”

RSA Novices’ Chase

Champ

Champ is in very good form and he will have a racecourse gallop. We have been doing lots of schooling and he is in cracking form. I would have run him again if I could and he was going to go to Kelso but that was off. There was one race left at Chepstow but that was hardly the place for him over three miles on bottomless ground. That is the way to bottom one, not get them ready for Cheltenham, and I just ran out of races. You would hardly want to run in the Pendil at Kempton this weekend so we will give him an away day amidst the Cheltenham free bet offers.”

Pym

“He is not the most robust horse unlike Champ or Santini and you have to write off Saturday’s performance. There is no reason why Pym shouldn’t go for the RSA as up until Saturday he had done nothing wrong.”

Nicky Henderson Altior Stable Tour

Nicky Henderson poses with Altior during his stable tour.

Champion Chase

Altior

“All is going well at the moment and Altior is in good form. He has just been ticking over since Newbury and he had a couple of schools. I seldom often school him, but he just enjoys it. If you take Newbury as his first run of the year which you have too virtually it was perfect. The disaster was the first run of the year which was in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the wrong ground and over the wrong trip. I couldn’t have made such a wrong job of it if I had tried. If there hadn’t been so much hype about the race, I could have been a spoilsport and taken him out on the morning of the race but we couldn’t do it. I shouldn’t have run him, and I paid the penalty and it took him until Newbury to get over it. It’s a very good Champion Chase and if you go back to Sprinter Sacre’s year when he started 3-1 on, there won’t be any odds-on jobs here it is going to be a seriously good race. He is in good shape and fresh and well – better the ground the better he will be, and the other horses probably handle softer ground better than we do but he has won on soft ground. You can see how he can still change gear when you want it and give you the answer. As soon as Nico asked him, he got the answer quickly at Newbury. There was just a moment three out when he wasn’t traveling but he had taken a blow and he came and did it well.”

As you can tell from our Cheltenham Festival tips, we think the battle between Altior, Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi will be the race of the whole meeting!

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour – Day Three

Marsh Novices’ Chase

Mister Fisher

“I would have thought Mister Fisher would go over two and a half miles in the Marsh Novices’ Chase on Thursday. He is quick and we will have a look at the Arkle as there doesn’t seem to be anything blatantly obvious. Again, you might find the two and a half-mile is the stronger race and I wouldn’t be frightened to drop him back to two miles. He wants the best ground you can get, and we will keep an eye on that.”

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Floressa

Floressa will definitely go for the Mares Novices’ Hurdle. She ran a very good race at Doncaster and I think she has a great chance.”

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour – Day Four

Albert Bartlett

The Cashel Man

“He didn’t like that ground much at Bangor the other day and will be a much better horse on decent ground in Albert Bartlett. The Cashel Man will enjoy that and he ran a very good race behind Thyme Hill in the Challow.”

Gold Cup

Santini

“All is good with Santini – last year he couldn’t run in the Reynoldstown as he has a flu vaccination and has no preparation for the RSA race or racecourse experience. He hadn’t had anything and he ran a remarkable race. I have to admit he was not very impressive first time out at Sandown and nothing very obvious came to light. We cauterized him after that and there was no point going to Kempton for the King George it’s not his track and we had to wait. The Cotswold Chase was always where we were going to go from way back. He was very good in the Cotswold and I think it was a good race. I know that Nigel (Twiston-Davies) and Daryl thought Bristol De Mai was as good as he could be, and the ground was more in his favor than Santini’s but he still did it well and there would be a lot of improvement in him. He is fresh and he is well, and he did a bit on Saturday, putting him in a good place amongst the Cheltenham tips. He is not an Altior at home, but he is a very enthusiastic horse at home. He needs a lot of work and the more you get into him the better he is, and he loves his schooling. He stays and he jumps and the better the ground the better he will be. He should be a better horse this year as he is a great big old-fashioned chaser and he is hardy too. Like them all, we need a good run over the next three weeks. He’s a good pick in the Cheltenham Festival tips and goes for the Gold Cup.”