Henderson plans to have 30+ runners at The Festival 2015, he told the media at his Seven Barrows yard just to the north of Lambourn in Berkshire.
The most successful trainer ever at The Festival, with 51 successes, talked of his hopes for the four-day Cheltenham meeting between Tuesday, 10th March and Friday, 13th March.
His highest-profile runner is superb two-mile chaser, Sprinter Sacre, who is continuing a comeback in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, 11th March. Sprinter Sacre won the Grade One chase in 2013 in great style but missed out last year after recuperating from an irregular heartbeat.
The nine-year-old had his first run since December, 2013 at Ascot last month, finishing a promising second in the Grade One Sodexho Clarence House Chase to Dodging Bullets.
Henderson said: “We are as good as we have been for a very, very long time with Sprinter Sacre. He is right there – spot on. We have had our run and he has done plenty of work since and he does not need to go to a racecourse (for a gallop).
“We will probably go to Mandown (part of The Jockey Club’s Lambourn gallops) on Wednesday. He worked on Saturday (21st Feb) and schooled on Friday (20th Feb). As always the better the ground, the better for him. He travelled well at Ascot – like the best horse in the race – and just got tired at the second last.
“We knew he had to have a run and it was there or nowhere. The ground was not bad and I cannot make that an excuse. They went a right good gallop and set out to test him so it could have been a kinder race for him. He seems in good shape and since Ascot has been great.
“We have been waiting for that spark which wasn’t there last year – you cannot force it to happen and have to wait. He was absolutely, ridiculously unbeatable a couple of years ago – I am not saying we are totally unbeatable next month, but he is in seriously good shape. He has done everything we have asked him to do. It will be a great race (Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase). Sire De Grugy has a crown we want back. I think we have a good chance – I am not confident but pretty hopeful.”
The trainer is looking forward to L’Ami Serge running in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday, 10th March, Josses Hill in the next race, the Racing Post Arkle Chase and Vaniteaux in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on the same day, with Ma Filleule in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday, 12th March.
Then on the last day, Friday, 13th March, he is pleased with his three runners in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Peace And Co, Top Notch and Hargam, while Bobs Worth goes for a second Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup success following on from his 2013 victory.
Henderson said: “Ma Filleule came to herself in the spring of last year and she is back there – it was a good run at Ascot the other day (when second in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase). We have reason to believe she can find a length or two on that.
“Luckily, I don’t have to split my three in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. I would be hopeful with one of them and I have got three shots. They are three lovely horses, they are all entitled to go there and are good enough to go there. They compare well with the horses we have had in the past for the race.
“Bob’s Worth has only had the one run in the Lexus this season but that was always the plan. He has one more bit of work to do and the plan is to go to Newbury on Sunday if the ground is not too bad. He is fresh and well. Barry (Geraghty) was pleased with him in Ireland where the ground was desperate. He wants better ground.
“In normal circumstances, I would be pretty keen on L’Ami Serge. He was very impressive in the Tolworth – he quickened well, is classy and experienced. Soft ground won’t worry him.
“They will go quick in the Arkle and Barry says that will suit Josses Hill. It will be easier for the horse to jump well if they go a good gallop.
“I still think Vaniteux is a very good horse and he is very, very well. Good ground would be important to him and he has not had it this season.”
ABOUT NICKY HENDERSON
Nicky Henderson is the all-time leading trainer at The Festival with 51 successes. He has won the Jump trainers’ championship three times – 1985/86, 1986/87 and 2012/2013.
Born – Lambeth, London, on 10th December 1950
Background – The son of financier and amateur jockey John Henderson MBE, who founded Racecourse Holdings Trust, the forerunner for Jockey Club Racecourses, he was educated at Eton and the Royal Agricultural College.
He worked for stockbrokers Cazenove in London and Australia, where he gained experience riding work at Randwick, before devoting himself full-time to racing.
Henderson first made his name in Britain as an amateur rider, finishing runner-up three times in the non-professional championship. His main wins as a jockey came on Happy Warrior in the 1977 Fox Hunters Chase at Aintree and on Acquaint in Sandown’s Imperial Cup in the same year. Henderson recorded his 78th and final win on Rolls Rambler in the Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford in June, 1978.
He became assistant trainer to Fred Winter in 1974 and received his own training licence in July, 1978, taking over from Roger Charlton at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn, Berkshire. He moved to Seven Barrows, to the north of the village, in 1992, after swapping yards with Peter Walwyn.
First Winner As A Trainer – Dukery at Uttoxeter, 14th October 1978.
Cheltenham Festival Wins (51)
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1986 River Ceiriog, 1992 Flown)
Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase (1991 Remittance Man, 1993 Travado, 2000 Tiutchev, 2012 Sprinter Sacre, 2013 Simonsig)
Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase (2000 Marlborough)
Stan James Champion Hurdle (1985, 1986 & 1987 See You Then, 2009 Punjabi, 2010 Binocular)
CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices’ Handicap Chase (2013 Rajdhani Express)
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2012 Simonsig)
RSA Chase (2005 Trabolgan, 2012 Bobs Worth)
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (1992 Remittance Man, 2012 Finian’s Rainbow, 2013 Sprinter Sacre)
Coral Cup (2010 Spirit River, 2014 Whisper)
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2012 Une Artiste)
Ryanair Chase (2006 Fondmort, 2012 Riverside Theatre)
Ladbrokes World Hurdle (1989 Rustle, 2000 Bacchanal)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (1985 & 1986 The Tsarevich, 2005 Liberthine, 2006 Non So)
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase (1990 Master Bob, 2002 The Bushkeeper, 2005 Juveigneur)
JCB Triumph Hurdle (1985 First Bout, 1987 Alone Success, 1999 Katarino, 2009 Zaynar, 2010 Soldatino)
Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (1993 Thumbs Up, 1997 Barna Boy)
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (2011 Bobs Worth)
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (2011 Long Run, 2013 Bobs Worth)
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (2009 Andytown)
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (2006 Greenhope, 2012 Bellvano)
Cathcart Chase (1990 Brown Windsor, 1994 Raymylette, 1999 & 2000 Stormyfairweather)