Top British Trainer Nicky Henderson’s Best Chances At 2021 Cheltenham Festival
2021 Cheltenham Festival Tips – Nicky Henderson Best Chances
Nicky Henderson is second only to Willie Mullins in the all-time list for most successful trainers at the Cheltenham Festival. The Lambourn trainer enjoyed his best-ever festival in 2012 when saddling a record seven winners. That total has since been beaten by both Mullins and Gordon Elliott who have won the top trainer award for the last eight seasons between them.
Epatante (Champion Hurdle, Tuesday)
Henderson is the leading trainer in history in the Champion Hurdle with eight winners. Epatante is the reigning champion in the feature race on day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival. She has not raced since being surprisingly beaten by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. Henderson has since pinpointed a back problem as the most likely cause and the mare seems to be back firing on all cylinders again now.
She won’t have things all her own way with the brilliant Irish Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle replacing her as market leader. Goshen emerged as another serious threat when outclassing his rivals in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
Shiskin (Arkle, Tuesday)
Henderson’s best chance of a winner at the Cheltenham Festival this year must be Shishkin in the Arkle Trophy now that his chie rival Energumene has been ruled out of making the trip across the Irish Sea.
Shishkin overcame trouble in running to win the Supreme Hurdle last year and is unbeaten in three starts over fences this season. Henderson’s six previous Arkle winners include Sprinter Sacre (2012) and Altior (2017) and he believes this son of Sholokhov is in the same class.
Champ & Santini (Gold Cup, Friday)
Henderson is set to be double-handed in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup with Champ and Santini. Champ produced a stunning display to win last season’s RSA Chase after looking well beaten with two to jump. He made up 8 lengths on the run-in to beat Minella Indo and Allaho. The Gold Cup has been on the agenda ever since but he did not return to action until the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February. A fine run in second over a trip well short of his best resulted in his odds being cut from 12-1 to 6-1.
Santini has struggled to recapture the form which saw him finish a close second to Al Boum Photo 12 months’ ago. He has looked laboured in defeat at Kempton and Sandown, although Cheltenham’s undulations will provide a more suitable stamina test.
Best Of The Rest
Henderson has won the Triumph Hurdle seven times, his most recent success coming with Pentland Hills in 2019. If he has a Triumph horse this season it is most likely to be Heross Du Seuil, a fortunate winner at Kempton in December. Honneur D’Ajonc look to have taken his measure when falling at the last.
Dame De Compagnie landed a massive gamble in last season’s Coral Cup and a late decision will be made on her festival target. She won a match race on her chasing debut at Ayr before unseating her rider in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
Chantry House was third in the Supreme last season and has won two of his three starts over fences. He is entered in the Marsh Novices’ Chase but could sidestep a clash with Envoi Allen and run in one of the handicaps.
Henderson’s runners in the big Festival handicaps are always worth noting and he has two likely contenders in Dickie Diver and Craigneiche. Dickie Diver was off the track for 655 days prior to an eye-catching run behind Paint The Dream at Newbury. Craigneiche has also had his training problems, overcoming a 375-day absence to win impressively at Ascot in January. He looks the ideal type for a race like the Coral Cup.