Nicky Henderson has remained at the top of his profession after almost 34 years with a training licence and he looks set to lay down his strongest challenge for the trainers’ championship in a bid to end the six-season dominance of Paul Nicholls.
Henderson was born in Lambeth, London, on 10 December, 1950, and his late father Johnny founded Racecourse Holdings Trust, the Jockey Club subsidiary (and forerunner of Jockey Club Racecourses), which saved Cheltenham Racecourse and now has 14 courses under its umbrella.
He was educated at Eton and the Royal Agricultural College and spent time working for city 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 came on Happy Warrior in the 1977 Fox Hunters Chase at Aintree and on Acquaint in Sandown’s Imperial Cup in the same year.
His 50th win as an amateur was Strange Love at Folkestone on 3 October, 1977, and his final ride was aboard the victorious Rolls Rambler in the Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford in June, 1978, his 78th success.
He had become 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. He soon established himself as one of the leading members of his profession and landed the jump trainers’ title in both 1985/6 and 1986/7.
In 1992, Henderson moved his string to Seven Barrows stables, just to the north of Lambourn, in a straight swap with fellow trainer Peter Walwyn. That same year saw him added to the royal trainers’ list with the Queen Mother sending him three horses, including New Zealand Grand National winner Nearco Bay. The Queen is still among his owners.
Henderson is the most successful current trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 39 successes and second on the all-time list, just one win behind the great Fulke Walwyn.
He enjoyed two winners at The Festival in 2011 including a first success in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, thanks to the Robert Waley-Cohen owned Long Run, who was partnered by amateur Sam Waley-Cohen.
He took the Thomas Pink leading trainer award at The Festival last in 2010 with three victories and was the most successful or joint most successful trainer also in 2000 (4); 1993 (2); 1992 (2); 1990 (2); 1987 (2); 1986 (3) and 1985 (3).
Alongside Peter Easterby, he is jointly the most successful trainer in the history of the Stan James Champion Hurdle with five wins (See You Then 1985, 1986 & 1987, Punjabi 2009 and Binocular 2010).
Henderson’s other major winners at the Cheltenham Festival include Remittance Man in the 1992 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as Rustle (1989) and Bacchanal (2000) in what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Soldatino’s victory in the 2010 JCB Triumph Hurdle was Henderson’s fifth in the race after First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999) and Zaynar (2009).
At The Festival in 2006, Henderson landed an emotional triumph in the race named to commemorate his father, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, with Greenhope.
There have been many other major Jump race successes and he has also done well on the Flat, with victories in the Betfred Cesarewitch (2003 Landing Light, 2008 Caracciola), Queen Alexandra Stakes (2009 Caracciola) and Ascot Stakes (2011 Veiled) at Royal Ascot, plus the Goodwood Stakes (2010 Ghimaar).
Mick Fitzgerald was his long-time stable jockey until retirement in 2008, when Barry Geraghty took over. Geraghty splits his time between Britain and his home in Ireland, and has continued in as successful a vein as his predecessor.
Henderson had his best ever total of 153 winners in the 2010/11 campaign, which saw Long Run develop into Britain’s best chaser, and accrued just over £2.2 million in prize money, another personal best, as he finished runner-up in the trainers’ championship (decided on prize money) for a third successive season.
He celebrated his 2,000th Jump winner when Punchestowns triumphed in a graduation chase at Kempton on 11 February, 2011.
He currently lies a close second behind Paul Nicholls in the trainers’ championship, with close to £1.4 million in prize money.
This season has already yielded Grade One success courtesy of Binocular in the William Hill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, while Riverside Theatre landed a repeat victory in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase in February on his seasonal reappearance.
Grandouet collected the Grade Two StanJames.com International at Cheltenham in December, while on the same card Quantitativeeasing took the Grade Three Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup.
Finian’s Rainbow, runner-up in last year’s Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase, landed the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park, while the latest superstar on the block is Sprinter Sacre, who is still a novice but was a facile winner from seasoned rivals in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on 17 February. Sprinter Sacre, owned by Caroline Mould, has won all three of races over fences.
Long Run was runner-up behind Kauto Star on both the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park but returned to winning ways last time out when giving 10lb to his stable companion Burton Port in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on 17 February.
Henderson best seasonal tally was 153 British winners in 2010/2011, while this season he has sent out 128 scorers up to the start of racing on Tuesday, 28 February.
NICKY HENDERSON’S 39 WINNERS AT THE FESTIVAL
- JCB Triumph Hurdle – 1985 First Bout, 1987 Alone Success, 1999 Katarino, 2009 Zaynar, 2010 Soldatino
- Stan James Champion Hurdle – 1985, 1986 & 1987 See You Then, 2009 Punjabi, 2010 Binocular
- Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase – 1991 Remittance Man, 1993 Travado, 2000 Tiutchev
- sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase – 1992 Remittance Man
- William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle – 1986 River Ceiriog, 1992 Flown
- Cathcart Chase – 1990 Brown Windsor, 1994 Raymylette, 1999 & 2000 Stormyfairweather
- Ladbrokes World Hurdle – 1989 Rustle, 2000 Bacchanal
- Byrne Group Plate – 1985 & 1986 The Tsarevich, 2005 Liberthine, 2006 Non So
- Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase – 1990 Master Bob, 2002 The Bushkeeper, 2005 Juveigneur
- Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle – 1993 Thumbs Up, 1997 Barna Boy
- JLT Specialty Handicap Chase – 2000 Marlborough
- RSA Chase – 2005 Trabolgan
- Ryanair Chase – 2006 Fondmort
- Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase – 2006 Greenhope
- Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle – 2009 Andytown
- Coral Cup –2010 Spirit River
- Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup – 2011 Long Run
- Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – 2011 Bobs Worth
NICKY HENDERSON’S LEADING FESTIVAL CONTENDERS
LONG RUN (FR)
- 7 b g Cadoudal (FR) – Libertina (FR) (Balsamo (FR))
- Form: 21211113/1211113/311–221
- Jockey: Robert Waley-Cohen
- Breeder: Marie-Christine Gabeur
Nicky Henderson said: “He did a bit of work this morning. He will have one session with Yogi (Briesner) next Wednesday and he will not see a fence between now and then. He will wear earplugs in the paddock at Cheltenham and going to the start but he won’t wear them in the race. That was what we did at Newbury. That was the first time we had taken them out at the start. If you start in them, you have to finish in them. It is just to take the parade out if you like. Then he can have a rush of adrenalin.
"It was a good gallop at Newbury though not what Kauto (Star) was going at Haydock and Kempton. Haydock is a very different track to anything else at the moment – it favours speed which did not suit him. Kempton is better for him and Newbury even better than that. I don’t think there is any doubt that this is a different Kauto to the one we were playing with last season when we were two-nil up. Now it is two-all so it is going to be a very interesting battle. I have a nasty feeling that public opinion will go to the old favourite and I will be sat in a little corner and be very unpopular if we happen to beat him.
"Last year we hoped for a great race and it was. It is building up to be the same thing this year. There is all to play for and there isn’t much between the two horses. I do think Kauto has to be better than he was last season. He was going through a little patch then and no doubt that was why there were a lot of people baying for Kauto’s retirement at the end of last season – the only thing I can say is that I wish Paul (Nicholls) had done so – it would have made life a lot easier!”
Long Run began his career with French trainer Guillaume Macaire, initially racing in the colours of breeder Marie-Christine Gabeur who, with her husband, Benoit, is based in the Mayenne region of north west France. He finished runner-up to Viotti, beaten three lengths, in a Listed hurdle at Auteuil on his career debut in May, 2008, and got off the mark later that month when defeating the smart Mr Thriller by two lengths in a Listed hurdle over two and a quarter miles at the same venue. That is when the offers started to flow in.
Long Run was beaten a length by Viotti on his next start on 17 June and on 4 September he carried the colours of Robert Waley-Cohen (after a deal brokered by Highflyer Bloodstock) for the first time when returning to the winner’s enclosure. Benoit Gicquel was the jockey for the first four starts and then David Cottin took over. The gelding won the following month’s Grade Two Prix Georges de Talhouet-Roy (an 18-furlong hurdle) by six lengths, while his first Grade One triumph came on 9 November in the Prix Cambaceres.
Long Run had a four-month break before returning to action with victory in a Grade Three hurdle in March, 2009. Sam Waley-Cohen, the owner’s son and amateur rider, partnered the gelding for the first time on a racecourse when third in another Grade Three on 7 April which turned out to be his final start over hurdles. Cottin was back in the saddle for the first chase win on 3 May and Long Run went on to finish runner-up in the Grade One Prix Ferdinand Dufaure on 24 May, going down by half a length to Rubi Ball.
The chaser returned to action in the autumn with a four-race winning streak. He took a Grade Two chase by six lengths from Rubi Ball on his seasonal debut in October and the following month again defeated the same rival in the Grade One Prix Maurice Gillois Grand Steeple Chase 4 Ans. He raced 12 times in France, on each occasion at Auteuil, the country’s main jump racing venue and his French record was eight wins, three seconds and a third.
He moved to Nicky Henderson’s Lambourn yard shortly after that Grade One triumph and made a stunning British debut with a 13-length drubbing of Tazbar in the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase over three miles at Kempton in the December of 2009, with Sam Waley-Cohen on board.
Long Run dropped back to two miles for the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick in February, 2010, and easily landed the spoils by 12 lengths, despite some less than fluent jumping. Similar errors cost him at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival as he made several mistakes when third behind Weapon’s Amnesty and stable companion Burton Port in the Grade One RSA Chase over an extended three miles.
Long Run started his 2010/2011 campaign with a first foray into handicap company in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November when, despite being sent off the red-hot 2/1 favourite, he could only take third behind Little Josh in the two mile, four and a half furlong race.
The introduction of earplugs alongside sessions with a Harley Street chiropractor and jumping lessons from Yogi Breisner meant that Long Run lined up for Kempton Park’s rearranged King George VI Chase on 15 January, 2011, a revitalised horse. Always tracking the leaders, he moved up to take the advantage three fences out and soon powered clear of his rivals for a stunning 12-length success over Riverside Theatre, with defending champion Kauto Star a further seven lengths back in third.
Long Run struck a further blow for the younger generation in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 18 March, 2011, as he became the first six-year-old to triumph in chasing’s Blue Riband since Mill House in 1963. A couple of early errors looked set to cost the young pretender but he moved up to take the lead from Denman approaching the final fence and powered up the famous Cheltenham Hill for an emphatic seven-length success. Long Run also recorded the fastest time in the race's history, winning in 6m 29.70s to eclipse the previous best set by Looks Like Trouble in 2000, while Sam Waley-Cohen became the first amateur in 30 years to win the Cheltenham showpiece.
He missed a possible tilt at the totesport Bowl at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting and ended the 2010/11 season as the top-rated chaser in training with a rating of 182 – a mark only surpassed in the past 10 years by Kauto Star (186 – 2008/09) and Master Minded (186 – 2007/08).
This season began at Haydock Park on 19 November, when he lined up in the Grade One Betfair Chase. Long Run started 6/5 favourite as he took on six rivals including Kauto Star. Long Run did not with any great fluency and after a series of mistakes was always playing catching with Kauto Star, who made all to score by eight lengths. To his credit, Long Run rallied well to get as close as he did to Kauto Star in second place.
Next time out he was fancied to overturn placings with Kauto Star as the pair met again in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. For the second time, it was the Paul Nicholls-trained veteran who came out on top, as Long Run was once again let down by his jumping. He did get closer to Kauto Star this time though, as he rallied close home to go down by a length and a quarter. He completed his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup preparation in the rearranged Grade Two Betfair Chase at Newbury on 17 February. Having undergone a further schooling session with Yogi Breisner, Long Run jumped with far greater fluency as battled well to come home half a length ahead of Burton Port (received 10lb).
Race Record – Starts: 21; Wins: 13; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £1,209,737
- 8 b g Enrique – Bleu Ciel Et Blanc (FR) (Pistolet Bleu (IRE))
- Jump Form: 1121/113/5311/3114–3211
- Owner: J P McManus
- Breeder: Elie Lellouche
Nicky Henderson said: “He is just in very good form. We were going to Newbury to have a gallop, because I thought he would need it, but we went to Wincanton for a race and did not look like he needed a run at all. Maybe we don’t need to do too much more with him. He looks slick and happy – he enjoyed his race the other day and seemed back to himself. Hurricane Fly is there and is there to be beaten.
"We thought we were going into the Champion Hurdle with three horses and now we have one which shows how fickle this game is. If you think the next fortnight is going to be fun, you must be joking. With what we saw at Wincanton, maybe one will do. I hope so. I know he is not everybody’s favourite but I love him. He is pretty unlucky not to have had a higher Cheltenham profile – I would have thought he would have won three Champion Hurdles by now but life hasn’t been easy for him or me.”
Bred by French trainer Elie Lellouche, Binocular is from the family of Derby winner Kris Kin and other top-class Flat performers Warrsan, Luso and Needle Gun. Binocular commenced his career with Lellouche on the Flat with a pair of nine-furlong victories at the end of his two-year-old season. He raced five times as a three-year-old in 2007, with four of his five starts coming in Listed races and displayed a good level of ability with two runner-up efforts in that grade over 10 furlongs at Longchamp in May and Chantilly in July.
That latter effort was his last before his sale to owner JP McManus and a switch to Nicky Henderson’s Lambourn yard. He won his British Jump debut in a soft ground two-mile novice hurdle at Ascot in January, 2008. He captured the following month’s Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton and was then runner-up to Captain Cee Bee in the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March, 2008.
On only his fourth start over timber, he landed the Grade One Anniversary 4YO Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree by seven lengths from Celestial Halo. He opened the 2008/09 season with victory at Haydock in November and then impressed with a four and a half length win over Celestial Halo in the rescheduled Grade Two StanJames.com International at Ascot the following month. He finished third in the 2009 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle, just half a length behind stablemate Punjabi.
Much was expected ahead of the 2009/10 season but he was only seven lengths fifth to Go Native on his seasonal return in the Grade One stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November. He posted a better effort when third to the same rival in the Grade One williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and cruised to success when 1/7 favourite in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, 2010.
Connections reported 11 days after that win that Binocular was unlikely to run again that season due to a muscular problem but his condition improved dramatically and he was allowed to take his chance in the 2010 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He posted an impressive victory as he took the lead two out and raced clear for a three and a half length triumph over Khyber Kim, with stablemate Zaynar a further six lengths adrift.
The 2010/2011 season again started with defeat in the stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle, which was run at Newbury, as he faded in the closing stages to come home third behind the Donald McCain-trained Peddlers Cross. Binocular again showed the benefit of his seasonal return as he produced an excellent performance to take the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in January, 2011, when he beat another of McCain’s top hurdlers, Overturn, by three and three quarter lengths. He made a quick reappearance with a second successive start in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, but was forced to miss The Festival last year after a substance used to treat an allergy two weeks before the Stan James Champion Hurdle remained in his system. Binocular instead lined up in the Grade One John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle the following month but failed to stay the two and a half mile trip and came home fourth behind stable companion Oscar Whisky. He returned to two miles for the Grade One Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May and came third to reigning Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars.
Binocular started the current campaign with a third successive appearance in the Grade One stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on 26 November and he once again met with defeat, this time going down by four and a half lengths to Overturn. As with previous years, Binocular produced a better effort on his next appearance as he retained his crown in Kempton’s williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle on 26 December with a thrilling neck verdict over Rock On Ruby.
Binocular underwent a minor wind operation shortly after that success and warmed up for Cheltenham in the Grade Two Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on 18 February after stable companion Grandouet was scratched from the race. Binocular produced a faultless display as he cruised up to take the lead from Celestial Halo nearing the final flight before going away for a facile six-length success.
Jump Race Record – Starts: 19; Wins: 11; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £719,808
BARBERS SHOP (GB)
- 10 b g Saddler’s Hall (IRE) – Close Harmony (Bustino)
- Form: 1/3122U/124121/217/0430P/0P–11
- Owner: The Queen
- Breeder: Queen Elizabeth
Barbers Shop could is set to try and give Her Majesty The Queen a first success at the Cheltenham in the year she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. The Saddler’s Hall gelding was bred by the late Queen Mother and made his debut for The Queen in a very competitive Wincanton bumper in March, 2006, defeating Denman’s full-brother Silverburn by a short-head.
He made his hurdling bow at Newbury that November, finishing third to Sizing Europe. Victory followed at Ascot the following month but, despite twice going close, he was unable to win any of his three subsequent starts that season. A success over hurdles at Southwell in June, 2007 preceded a switch to fences in December when he finished runner-up to Big Buck’s.
His next outing produced a fourth place finish in the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton and he returned to that venue for a beginners’ chase success over an extended two and a half miles in February, 2008. That race primed him for the 2008 Festival and a tilt at the Listed Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase. The Queen narrowly missed out on a first Festival success as Barbers Shop went down by a neck to Finger Onthe Pulse. He made some amends by rounding off the season with a Newbury success the following month.
The 2008/09 season commenced at The Open in November with a runner-up finish in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup. In a light campaign, Barbers Shop proved his stamina with a Listed success over an extended three miles at Sandown in December and took seventh place behind Kauto Star in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at the 2009 Festival. Barbers Shop contested the Grade Three Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November, 2009, when he finished fourth behind Denman and he also ran a good race to take third behind Kauto Star in the Grade One King George VI Chase the following month. But he failed to build on those two promising efforts on his two subsequent appearances of the season as he came home seventh in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at the 2010 Festival and was pulled up in the Grade One Punchestown Gold Cup in May, 2010.
The 2010/2011 campaign provided two more disappointing performances as Barbers Chop was a distant seventh in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, 2010 and was pulled up in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup a month later. He has lined up in two hunters’ chases so far this season, easily winning at Fakenham on 17 February and battling to a half-length success at Fontwell on 26 February. Those two wins qualified Barbers Shop for the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase (Gold Cup Day, Friday, 16 March).
Race Record: Starts – 23; Wins: 8; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £143,049
BOBS WORTH (IRE)
- 7 b g Bob Back (USA) – Fashionista (IRE) (King´s Theatre (IRE))
- Form: 21/1111–132
- Owner: The Not Afraid Partnership
- Breeder: Mrs L Eadie
Nicky Henderson said: “He is doing all right. Take out Grands Crus from the RSA and it is a very open race. Bobs Worth looks 10 times better than he did before the Reynoldstown. Yogi (Briesner) is coming next Wednesday for a Long Run session and I do want this horse to have a go too. He was jumping a bit to the left at Ascot but at least Cheltenham, the last time I was there, is left-handed. So in all probability he will be better going left-handed and he won around there last year. The breathing operation knocked him back a bit but he looks so much better now. I did not think I was going to get him to The Festival but he is on course for the RSA.”
Bob Worth was purchased by Nicky Henderson’s future stable jockey Barry Geraghty and his brothers for 16,500 euros at the Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt in November, 2006, before being sold by them to Henderson and Highflyer Bloodstock for £20,000 at Doncaster sales in May, 2009. He made a pleasing debut when going down by a length and a half to stable companion Prince Of Pirates in a Kempton bumper in February, 2010, and returned to the same course three months later for a comfortable seven-length victory.
Bobs Worth also started the 2010/2011 season at the Sunbury course as he made an impressive debut over hurdles to take a two-mile novices’ contest by nine lengths on in November. He went on to win at Cheltenham, scoring over an extended two and a half miles on New Year’s Day and landing the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over the same trip on Festival Trials Day in January, 2011. He stepped up to three miles for the first time in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival last year and relished the extra half-mile as he stayed on well to comfortably account for stable companion Mossley.
Bobs Worth made an impressive start to his chasing career at Newbury on 25 November as he rallied well to beat the more experienced Cue Card by a short-head in a Grade Two novices’ chase over two and a half miles. He stepped back up three miles for the Grade One williamhill.com Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton on 26 December, but failed to deal with Grands Crus and Silviniaco Conti and came home third, beaten five and a quarter lengths. Bobs Worth was given a wind operation after that display and headed to Ascot for the Grade Two Sodexho Prestige Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase over three miles on 18 February but a bad mistake two fences out cost him momentum and he stayed on to finish second, three lengths behind the Alan King-trained Invictus.
Race Record – Starts: 9; Wins: 6; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £105,451
BURTON PORT (IRE)
- 8 b g Bob Back (USA) – Despute (IRE) (Be My Native (USA))
- Form: 113342/1211121/2–2
- Owner: Trevor Hemmings
- Breeder: Tom Meagher
Nicky Henderson said: “He has never been very big but he has been in good form all season. He got 10lb from Long Run but ran very well at Newbury. He has got to improve to win the Gold Cup and can improve. He has to beat the dreaded bounce after running well after a long time off. The bounce factor does happen and this is the horse I am worried about. He looks fantastic – he is an amazing horse – a bit like Bobs Worth – you would not know he was here – he does not flash around. When he won most of his races, he did not show us he was a very good horse, rather a very nice person who got on with the job.
"He was second in the Hennessy and then had his time off when he went back to Gledhill, Trevor’s (Hemmings – the owner) stud and Mick Meagher did a lot of work with him there before he came back to us. His work this season has been very much superior to anything he had done before. I don’t know why but he seems to have improved at home. It was a very good run at Newbury and he looks tremendous. Trevor has said this is a good horse and we are going to win the Gold Cup.”
Bred by Tom and Magette Meagher at Kedrah House Stud, County Tipperary, Burton Port initially raced in point-to-points in Ireland, winning on his fourth start for trainer Colin McKeever at Summerhill in April, 2008. He was subsequently purchased privately by owner Trevor Hemmings and made a winning debut for Nicky Henderson when comfortably taking a Hereford bumper in December, 2008. Burton Port made a winning start over hurdles at the same course in January, 2009, and reached the frame in his four subsequent starts over the smaller obstacles, including a fourth in the Grade Three EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown.
He opened his account over fences at the first time of asking with a confident display in a Bangor beginners’ chase in November, 2009, but switched back to the smaller obstacles to take second behind Diamond Harry in a valuable “fixed-brush” handicap hurdle at Haydock later the same month. Burton Port returned chasing and racked up an impressive hat-trick of wins – following up an easy victory in a Grade Two contest at Lingfield with a cosy Southwell success before staying on strongly to take the Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February, 2010. The last of those victories persuaded connections to let Burton Port take his chance the Grade One RSA Chase at The Festival and he ran a superb race to take second behind Weapons Amnesty, a short-head in front of his better-fancied stable companion Long Run. Burton Port ended his first season over fences with another Grade Two victory as he stayed on strongly to take the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting.
He made just one appearance in the 2010/2011 campaign – coming home second behind Diamond Harry again in the Group Three Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury – with a setback ruling him out for the rest of the season. Burton Port also filled the runner-up spot at Newbury on his first start for more than 14 months as he went down by half a length to reigning Betfred Cheltenham Gold victor Long Run, who was giving his stable companion 10lb, in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase on 17 February. Both horses are set to re-oppose in this season’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, highlight of Gold Cup Day at The Festival, on Friday, 16 March.
Race Record – Starts: 15; Wins: 7; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £204,187
- 5 br g Milan – Darbela (IRE) (Doyoun)
- Form: 1–111F
- Owner: JP McManus
- Breeder: MG Kilroe
Nicky Henderson said: “He has done great but it was a horrible fall at Newbury. He schooled on Friday and you would not know anything about it. For a five-year-old to come out and just blink and put that fall to the back of his mind is really admirable. He has just done a little bit this morning and will do a bit of work this weekend. We will then see if he needs another gallop.
"He is a lovely horse – gorgeous. He will be a better horse in a year’s time. I don’t know what would have happened at Newbury – I don’t know if AP (McCoy) does either. AP thought at some point of the race that he had a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle horse. Certainly schooling has gone well. Nobody will know what would have happened at Newbury. I felt very sorry for his owner JP because if that was going to win he has thrown it away. His other horse finished second and probably without Darlan getting in the way he would have won.”
Darlan made a winning debut for owner JP McManus and Nicky Henderson in a bumper at Haydock in April, 2011, winning by 27 lengths. He returned this season with an effortless success at Kempton in November, before winning by the shortest of margins at Cheltenham three weeks later. He gained a third victory over hurdles when scoring on the bridle at Taunton on 9 January, before taking a heavy fall at the penultimate flight in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on 17 February when travelling strongly. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Race Record– Starts: 5; Wins: 4; 2nd: –; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £16,416
- 6 b g Alderbrook – Lady Orla (IRE) (Satco (FR))
- Form: 2116–3320
- Owner: Bridget Hanbury
- Breeder: Mrs M McDonagh
Ericht is set to return to Cheltenham after coming home sixth in last season’s Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper, for which he was sent off the 5/1 favourite. The six-year-old started his career with a good second in an Ascot bumper in November, 2010, and gained a pair of convincing bumper victories, easily scoring at Huntingdon in January, 2011, and readily taking the Grade Two Winter Bumper at Newbury the following month.
After his appearance at last year’s Festival, Ericht returned to Cheltenham for his hurdling debut in the Grade Two Opus Energy Novices’ Hurdle at The Open on 11 November and he ran well to take third behind Steps to Freedom, one of the favourites for the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and Prospect Wells. But he failed to build on that pleasing effort in lesser company on his two subsequent starts as he was turned over in a Newbury maiden hurdle on 14 December and in a novices’ contest at Huntingdon on 13 January.
On his latest start, Ericht raced prominently before fading to finish down the field in the fiercely competitive Grade Three Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on 17 February. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle & the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Race Record – Starts: 8; Wins: 2; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £11,910
FINIAN’S RAINBOW (IRE)
- 9 b g Tiraaz – Trinity Gale (IRE) (Strong Gale)
- Form: 1/1315/11121–12
- Owner: Michael Buckley
- Breeder: J O'Keeffe
Nicky Henderson said: “Barry (Geraghty) came last weekend and schooled him. He worked on the grass this morning. He and Oscar Whisky live out together and are quite good mates.”
Formerly trained by Adrian Maguire in Ireland, Finian’s Rainbow was unlucky not to win a point-to-point at Inch in March, 2008, as he fell at the final fence with the race at his mercy. He was bought through former trainer John Edwards by owner Michael Buckley and sent to Nicky Henderson shortly afterwards but missed the first half of the 2008/09 season with a series of small setbacks. He made his British debut in a Kempton bumper in March, 2009, and easily accounted for nine rivals to win unchallenged by six lengths.
Sent hurdling for the 2009/2010 campaign, Finian’s Rainbow posted an even more impressive performance to win a Newbury novices’ hurdle in November, 2009, as he strolled to a 15-length victory. He returned to the Berkshire course the following month to contest the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle, in which he ran a fine race to take a close third behind Reve De Sivola and Restless Harry. Finian’s Rainbow returned to the winner’s enclosure at Ascot in February, 2010, as he dropped down in grade to win a novices’ hurdle on the bridle. He contested the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2010 and ran an excellent race after being slightly hampered by the fall of Quel Esprit at the second flight, to finish fifth behind the victorious Peddlers Cross.
Finian’s Rainbow enjoyed an exciting start to his chasing career in the 2010/2011 campaign, posting a pair of effortless victories in Newbury novices’ chases in November, 2010, and January, 2011. He also recorded a comfortable success in the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick the following month and ran an excellent race in the Grade One Racing Post Arkle Chase as he produced a bold display of jumping in front, only to be reeled in by Captain Chris after the final fence to come home second. Finian’s Rainbow ended last season on a high as he made all of the running to capture the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting.
He started the current campaign with victory in the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on 27 December, although the manner of his success was far from straightforward as he blundered badly four fences from home only to fly home to beat Wishfull Thinking by three quarters of a length. Finian’s Rainbow had his final start prior to this year’s Festival in the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on 21 January and looked set for another major success but was worn down by Somersby to go down by a length and a quarter to the Henrietta Knight-trained chaser.
Race Record – Starts: 12; Wins: 8; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £180,682
- 9 b g Bering – On Fair Stage (IRE) (Sadler´s Wells (USA))
- Jump Form: 1/222/1F22356/11121/01651–2
- Owner: Judy Wilson & Martin Landau
- Breeder: N P Bloodstock Ltd
French Opera failed to shine in five Flat starts for former trainer Jamie Osborne, with a fourth place in a 10-furlong Bath maiden proving the highlight, but made a winning debut for Nicky Henderson when taking a Taunton juvenile maiden hurdle in March, 2007. He was second on all three hurdling starts in the 2007/08 season but returned to the winner’s enclosure in an Aintree handicap hurdle in October, 2008. He got no further than the third fence on his chasing debut at Kempton the following month but produced a far better effort to chase home Original on his next start at the same course in the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase in December.
He continued to impress over fences and hurdles without winning, most notably when coming home third in the 2009 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at The Festival. He had two major victories at Cheltenham in the 2009/2010 campaign in the paddypower.com Handicap Chase at The Open and Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase at The International. He returned to The Festival in 2010 for another crack at the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, in which he produced another excellent effort to go down by a length and a quarter to Pigeon Island. He ended the 2009/2010 campaign with a deserved Grade Two success in the Future Champions Novices’ Chase at Ayr in April.
French Opera started the 2010/2011 season with a rare below-par run in a Sandown handicap chase in January, 2011, but bounced back with an impressive success in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury the following month. After taking sixth behind Sizing Europe in last season’s Grade One Sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival, French Opera stepped up to two and a half miles for the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree and again proved himself to be a very talented, if just shy of top-class, chaser by coming home sixth behind Master Minded. He ended last season with another deserved Grade Two victory as he made most of the running to take Sandown’s Celebration Chase.
French Opera has made one appearance this season in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on 17 February, but he was unable to successfully defend his crown as he came home second, six lengths behind brilliant stable companion Sprinter Sacre.
Jump Race Record – Starts: 22; Wins: 8; 2nd: 7; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £190,245
KID CASSIDY (IRE)
- 6 b g Beneficial – Shuil Na Lee (IRE) (Phardante (FR ))
- Form: 13/132–1F11
- Owner: JP McManus
- Breeder: Greenville House Stud & M Morgan
Kid Cassidy won a junior bumper at Newbury in March 2010, before finishing third in a more competitive affair at Punchestown a month later when under the ownership of Sue Magnier. He made his hurdling debut for JP McManus at Newbury in November, 2010, winning easily by 15 lengths.
The gelding ran well in defeat back at the Berkshire course when third behind Rock On Ruby a month later, before suffering an electric shock at Newbury’s abandoned Betfair Hurdle meeting. That traumatic experience was blamed for his odds-on defeat Sandown in late February, 2011, however he returned to his best at Punchestown in May, beating a large field by 13 lengths in a novice hurdle.
He started his career over fences at Lingfield on 22 November, 2011, but fell at the third last which left him winded for a few moments. Fortunately that hasn’t appeared to have affected his confidence, and he subsequently won a novices’ chase at Ludlow on 19 January and a Grade Two at Doncaster on 28 January, when be he beat consistent yardstick Kumbeshwar by three and three quarter lengths. Entered in the Racing Post Arkle and Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase.
Race Record – Starts: 5; Wins: 4; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £16,416
- 4 b g Paolini (GER) – Lysuna (GER) (Monsun (GER))
- Jump Form: 1
- Owner: Trevor Hemmings
- Breeder: Gestut Hof Ittlingen
Nicky Henderson said: “Lyvius will run at Newbury on Friday. When First Bout won the Triumph Hurdle in 1985 he went to Plumpton on the Monday as favourite for the Triumph and won by 20 lengths but the handicapper said he would not be high enough rated to get in so I had to run him at Newbury on the Saturday before to get him high enough and he won by 20 lengths again. I then said to the handicapper, is that enough and he replied I think he will get in now. I said thank you very much and First Bout duly won the Triumph Hurdle. Lyvius went to Kelso and now he is going to Newbury – I don’t say he is good enough to win the Triumph but we will find out more on Friday. I like him.”
Lyvius was purchased for 32,000gns at Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale at Newmarket in October, 2011. The Paolini gelding had previously raced in Germany for trainer Peter Schiergen, for whom he won a Hamburg maiden in June and a 10-furlong handicap at Baden-Baden in October. Lyvius made his debut for Nicky Henderson and Trevor Hemmings at Kelso on 15 February, easily winning a novices’ hurdle, and he could warm up for his potential engagement in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle (Gold Cup Day, Friday, 16 March) by lining up in a juvenile hurdle at Newbury on Friday.
Jump Race Record – Starts: 1; Wins: 1; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £2,274
- 5 gr g Smadoun (FR) — Memorial (FR) (Homme De Loi (IRE))
- Form: 2220–111
- Owner: Simon Munir
- Breeder: Ludovic Picard & Antoine Lamotte D'Argy
Molotof joined Nicky Henderson in February, 2011, after running two nice races over hurdles at Pau in December and January, finishing second on both occasions. He filled that spot behind subsequent JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar in the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle in late February, before finishing down the field in the juvenile showpiece at The Festival. Molotof has returned this season in tremendous form, winning a novices’ hurdle easily at Wincanton on 5 November, prior to a Listed success at Haydock on 18 November. He completed the hat-trick over hurdles on 16 December with a hard fought Grade Two success at Ascot, where he got the better of the highly-regarded pair Peckhamecho, and Hazy Tom over two miles. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Coral Cup and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Race Record – Starts: 7; Wins: 3; 2nd: 3; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £48,824
- 6 b g Old Vic – Sorivera (Irish River (FR))
- Form: 11152P–12P
- Owner: Michael Buckley
- Breeder: Pipe View Stud
A faller on his only start in an Irish point-to-point at Punchestown in April, 2010, for owner Wilson Dennison and trainer Colin McKeever, Mossley was subsequently bought privately by owner Michael Buckley and made a winning debut for trainer Nicky Henderson in a Worcester bumper in June, 2010. He scored by five lengths on his hurdling debut at Huntingdon that October and seamlessly progressed to Grade Two company when beating Join Together by a length and a quarter in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham two months later.
Mossley was well beaten when only fifth to Court In Motion in a Warwick novices’ hurdle on heavy ground in January, 2011, but he bounced back with an excellent second behind stable companion Bobs Worth in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival last year. He was pulled up in the Grade One John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree the following month but made a winning start to his chasing career with a 10-length verdict over Canni Thinkaar in a Kempton beginners’ chase on 21 November. He filled the runner-up spot in the Ryman Stationer Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on 10 December, finding Join Together 12 lengths too strong, and was pulled up on his latest start in the Grade One Betfair Novices’ Chase at Newbury on 17 February.
Race Record – Starts: 9; Wins: 4; 2nd: 2; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £47,826
OSCAR WHISKY (IRE)
- 7 b g Oscar (IRE) – Ash Baloo (IRE) (Phardante (FR))
- Form: 1/1114/1131–F11(1)
- Owner: Walters Plant Hire Ltd
- Breeder: Stephanie Hanly
Nicky Henderson said: “A lot of people say do I wish he was still in the Champion Hurdle and the bottom line is no. Dai (Walters – owner) and I have talked about him. Oscar stays two and a half miles well so we are going to try the impossible and take on Big Buck’s. He has the one horse to beat and is in very good form. It all went well this morning. Let’s see what happens at Cheltenham but I would expect him to go over fences next season. We have to find out what his trip is.
"It is quite unusual going into a race like the Ladbrokes World Hurdle untried over the distance. But that was always the point. The only other way of doing it was to try Big Buck’s before this but we went the two and a half mile route. I have always said this – I wish there was a Ryanair Hurdle because that would be very handy. I think we have a great chance of being there at the last in the World Hurdle to have a fight with Big Buck’s. This horse would have some speed if he had the stamina. He must have a chance – as good a chance as any horse that has taken Big Buck’s on for a while. Big Buck’s is probably the best three-mile hurdler I have seen. He has dominated by a very long way and been in a different league. I love horses who can switch off like Big Buck’s does and just doodle around for two and three quarter miles and then switch on to win.”
An 80,000 euros purchase from former jockey Norman Williamson at the 2008 Goffs Land Rover Sale, Oscar Whisky made his debut for owner Dai Walters, the driving force behind Ffos Las Racecourse, in a junior bumper at Newbury in March, 2009. Sent off the even money favourite for the extended mile and a half contest, he didn’t come off the bridle and recorded a facile nine-length victory over Sophies Trophy. Oscar Whisky returned to Newbury and posted another comprehensive bumper success in November, 2009, before making his hurdling debut at the same course the following month, when beating Spirit Of Adjisa in a canter by seven lengths.
Following another convincing success in a Sandown novices’ hurdle, Oscar Whisky ran an excellent race in the 2010 Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March when fourth behind Menorah, Get Me Out Of Here and Dunguib. He returned to Cheltenham for the extended two and a half mile Cheltenham & Three Counties Club Hurdle on New Year’s Day, 2011, and posted an effortless seven-length victory over Any Given Day. He then headed to Ffos Las in February for the Welsh Champion Hurdle, giving his owner a cherished win in the race with an effortless victory.
Oscar Whisky lined up in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at last year’s Festival and ran an excellent race in defeat as he stayed on gamely to take third behind Hurricane Fly and Peddlers Cross. He stepped back up in trip and gained a deserved first Grade One success the following month in the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles as he resisted the late challenge of Thousand Stars to prevail by a neck. A rare mistake cost Oscar Whisky almost certain victory on his first start of the current campaign as he fell at the final flight when challenging for the lead in the Grade Two Ascot Hurdle on 19 November, but he regained the winning thread with a cosy success over Get Me Out Of Here in the Grade Two Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on 10 December.
He returned to the same course for another easy win in the Cheltenham & Three Counties Club Hurdle on New Year’s Day but had to miss the Welsh Champion Hurdle after the meeting was lost to frost. With no suitable hurdle races in the build-up to The Festival, Oscar Whisky instead headed to Kempton Park for a “jumpers’ bumper” on Polytrack and he proved a different class to his rivals as he cruised to a three-length success.
Connections have decided not to take on Hurricane Fly again this year and Oscar Whisky is set to step up to three miles for the first time as he bids to prevent Big Buck’s from winning a record fourth success in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on St Patrick’s Thursday, 15 March.
Race Record – Starts: 13; Wins: 10; 2nd: -; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £220,762
- 7 ch g Anshan – Mazuma (IRE) (Mazaad)
- Form: 111250/0112–021
- Owner: JP McManus
- Breeder: Sheila Moore
A full-brother to multiple Grade One winning hurdler Asian Maze, Quantitativeeasing made an impressive racecourse debut in a bumper at Punchestown in April, 2009, scoring by eight lengths under JP Magnier in the colours of his mother Sue. He returned to action at Newcastle in November, 2009, in the ownership of JP McManus and won a two-mile maiden hurdle by five lengths and scored easily again the following month at Newbury before finishing second in a similar event at Kempton in February.
He finished fifth in the Coral Cup at the 2010 Festival and went on to be seventh in a Grade One novices’ hurdle at Punchestown. Sent chasing for the 2010/2011 season, Quantitativeeasing recorded a pair of novices’ chase wins in small fields at Fontwell and Market Rasen before running an excellent race at The Festival, finding only Divers two and three quarter lengths too strong in the Listed Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase. He headed to Fairyhouse for the Irish Grand National in April and ran well on only his fifth chase start to finish 10th behind Organisedconfusion.
Quantitativeeasing kicked off this season with an excellent effort in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open on 12 November as he stayed on well to come home second, seven lengths behind the impressive Great Endeavour, despite racing from 2lb out of the handicap. He returned to the same course for the Grade Three Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup at The International on 10 December and produced a superb display as he stayed on gamely to defeat Medermit by three quarters of a length. He holds an entry in the Grade Three JLT Specialty Handicap Chase on Champion Day, Tuesday, 13 March.
Race Record – Starts: 13; Wins: 6; 2nd: 3; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £130,021
- 8 b g King’s Theatre (IRE) – Disallowed (IRE) (Distinctly North (USA))
- Form: 13/12114/3115F/121–1
- Owner: Jimmy Nesbitt Partnership
- Breeder: Goldford Stud
Nicky Henderson said: “Riverside was very good the other day. He is not a huge, heavy horse and was probably fairly fit at Ascot but you would like to think there was a bit of improvement in him. He will go for the Ryanair and we are exactly where we were last year. Some people say he does not like Cheltenham – I hope they are wrong. It is only because he ran in the Arkle and got completely outpaced but he is much sharper now. He only missed six months with his pelvis problem and I would be disappointed if he bounced.”
Riverside Theatre, who races in the colours of actor Jimmy Nesbitt, ran on strongly to take a Kempton bumper on his debut in February, 2008. He was third behind Diamond Harry in a valuable bumper at Newbury the following month, but scored in a lesser contest at Ascot that November. He took second on his hurdling debut at Newbury later that month and followed up with a cosy victory in a novices’ hurdle at Kempton in January, 2009.
After posting another facile success at Newbury, he stepped up to Grade Two company for the John Smith’s Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, where he ran an excellent race to come home fourth behind El Dancer. He ended his campaign with another pleasing effort to take third behind Hurricane Fly in the Grade One Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle.
Sent chasing for the 2009/2010 season, Riverside Theatre made an impressive start over fences as he produced a faultless display of jumping to take a Newbury beginners’ chase by 28 lengths at the end of November. Having been victorious on both his appearances at Kempton, he returned to the Sunbury course for the Grade Two William Hill Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase the following month and maintained his faultless record there with a cosy 12-length success over El Dancer. He headed to last year’s Festival for the Grade One Racing Post Arkle but looked like he would be pulled up as he struggled at the back of the field, only to storm up the hill to finish fifth behind Sizing Europe. He also failed to shine on his final start of the campaign as he fell five fences from home in the Grade One Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown.
Connections decided to step Riverside Theatre up in distance for his second season over fences and he made an impressive return at Kempton in November, 2010, as he recorded an authoritative victory in an extended two and a half mile graduation chase. He showed improved form to finish second, 12 lengths behind his stable companion Long Run, in the Grade One William Hill King George VI Chase over three miles at Kempton Park in January, 2011. Riverside Theatre stepped back to an extended two miles, five furlongs for the Betfair Ascot Chase the following month and gained a deserved first Grade One success as he easily accounted for his six rivals.
A hairline fracture of the pelvis ruled Riverside Theatre out of his intended engagement in the Ryanair Chase at last year’s Festival and he made a belated seasonal return in the Betfair Ascot Chase on 18 February. Despite not having run for 364 days, Riverside Theatre produced an excellent display of jumping and ran on well to comfortably beat Medermit by three lengths. He is currently among the favourites for this year’s Ryanair Chase, one of the feature races of St Patrick’s Thursday, 15 March.
Race Record – Starts: 16; Wins: 9; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £283,429
- 6 gr g Fair Mix (IRE) – Dusty Too (Terimon)
- Form – 1121
- Owner: Ronnie Bartlett
- Breeder: Simon Tindall
Nicky Henderson said: “I don’t know where he is going yet at The Festival. He worked very well this morning and will be schooled on Friday and work again on Saturday. I chatted to his owner Ronnie Bartlett last night and we will try and make a decision at the weekend. We have been flicking between one race and the other. At two o’clock in the morning he was going two miles and at four o’clock in the morning I was favouring two and a half miles. I don’t know. It is nothing to do with the opposition, it is simply what is his trip? It is hard to get away from the pace and the speed he has.
"He is a hugely talented horse. He is very, very well and he worked great this morning. He could win on the Flat with his speed. He is in good form but was quite rusty at Kelso. Barry (Geraghty) schooled him last week and we will have another pop on Friday. Ian Ferguson said to me when Simonsig came if you are not sure whether to give him a gallop then don’t. You cannot believe he won’t stay – he has won a point-to-point – but he just has so much speed for a horse that does stay.”
Simonsig was bred by publisher Simon Tindall and he started his career in the colours of his breeder in point-to-points in Ireland under the care of Ian Ferguson, who trained Zemsky to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at The Festival in 2011. The son of Fair Mix made a winning debut at Kirkstown in February, 2011, but fell on his second start at Castletown Geoghegan in April. He bounced back with a 20-length success at Limavady six days later and was purchased privately by Ronnie Bartlett shortly afterwards.
Simonsig made his debut under rules in the Fairyhouse Champion Point-To-Point Bumper on 25 April and recorded an easy 13-length success. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary had offered €100,000 for the winner of the race, but Bartlett spurned his advances and sent Simonsig to Nicky Henderson. He made an exciting debut for his new trainer with a facile success in an Ascot novices’ hurdle over just shy of two and a half miles on 18 November, 2011.
Stepped up to Grade Two company for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Sandown on 2 December, Simonsig ran well in defeat as he found subsequent Grade One winner Fingal Bay two and three quarter lengths too strong. He returned to winning ways with a straightforward victory over seasoned campaigner Knockara Beau in the two and a quarter mile Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on 15 February and holds entries in the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle on Champion Day, 13 March, and the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle on Ladies Day, 14 March.
Race Record – Starts: 4; Wins: 3; 2nd: 1; 3rd: –; Win & Place Prize Money: £44,929
SPRINTER SACRE (FR)
- 6 b/br g Network (GER) – Fatima III (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR))
- Form: 11/2113–111
- Owner: Caroline Mould
- Breeder: Christophe Masle
Nicky Henderson said: “Sprinter does not take a lot of work. We might jump a fence with him on Friday – Barry (Geraghty) might say he wants to but I may say he does not need to. He is the most lovely horse – some say he won’t come up the hill at Cheltenham and Mr Tizzard says he is going to go too fast for him. We will just do our own thing.”
Sprinter Sacre produced an scintillating display of jumping and class to take Grade Two Game Spirit Chase run as the Betfair Super Saturday Chase at Newbury on 17 February when he comprehensively slammed a field of seasoned chasers, beating stable companion French Opera by six lengths on the bridle. The six-year-old has made a superb start to his chasing career – winning his three starts over fences by an aggregate of 46 lengths – and is the red-hot favourite for this year’s Grade One Racing Post Arkle Chase.
He started his career with a pair of bumper victories at Ascot and Ayr in 2010 and was second on his hurdling debut at Ascot in November, 2010. Sprinter Sacre recorded wide-margin success at Ffos Las and Ascot in February 2011 before coming home third to Al Ferof in the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year's Festival, when he briefly led the field three fences out before keeping on in the closing stages. He made his eagerly-awaited debut over fences in a novices’ chase at Doncaster on 9 December and he easily outclassed his rivals with a sound display of jumping to score by 24 lengths. An even more impressive effort followed in the Grade Two williamhill.com Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on 27 December as he made virtually all of the running to beat the 2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up Peddlers Cross by 24 lengths. Following his recent stunning Newbury success, Barry Geraghty commented: "I'm not sure I've ever ridden anything like that – he's electric.”
Race Record – Starts: 9; Wins: 7; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £64,667
UNE ARTISTE (FR)
- 4 b f Alberto Giacometti (IRE) – Castagnette III (FR) (Tin Soldier (FR))
- Form: 0311114
- Owner: Simon Munir
- Breeder: Emmanuel & D Clayeu
Une Artiste began her racing career under the care of trainer Emmanuel Clayeux in France and the Alberto Giacometti filly posted a comfortable bumper success at Fontainebleau on her third start on 26 October. She followed up with a pair of victories at Pau – scoring in another bumper on 10 December before making an exciting debut over hurdles with an effortless 12-length win on 5 January . Une Artiste joined Nicky Henderson shortly afterwards and scored for her new trainer and owner Simon Munir with a cosy length and three-quarter victory in the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle at Haydock on 18 February. She was tailed off behind Baby Mix on her latest start in the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton seven days later and has the option of the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle (Gold Cup Day, Friday, 16 March) or the Grade Three Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Ladies Day, Wednesday, 14 March) at The Festival.
Jump Race Record – Starts: 7; Wins: 4; 2nd: -; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £40,381
NICKY HENDERSON’S CURRENT ENTRIES AT THE FESTIVAL
CHAMPION DAY, TUESDAY, 13 MARCH 2012
- William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle – Keys, Tetlami, Ericht, Darlan, Molotof, Simonsig
- Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase – Kid Cassidy, Sprinter Sacre
- JLT Specialty Handicap Chase – Aigle d'Or, Loose Preformer, Master of The Hall, Mossley, Quantitativeeasing
- Stan James Champion Hurdle – Binocular
- Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase – State Benefit, Loose Preformer
- Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase – Cucumber Run, Minella Class, Owen Glendower, Skint, Triolo d'Alene
LADIES' DAY, WEDNESDAY, 14 MARCH 2012
- Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle – All The Aces, Mono Man, Nelson's Bridge, Keys, Simonsig, Molotof
- RSA Chase – Bobs Worth, Mossley
- sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase – Finian’s Rainbow
- Coral Cup – Celtus, Minella Class, Molotof, Problema Tic, Soldatino, Spirit River, Veiled
- Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – One Lucky Lady, Otto The Great, Ozeta, Soliwery, Une Artiste
ST PATRICK’S THURSDAY, 15 MARCH 2012
- Jewson Novices' Chase – Minella Class, Solix
- Ryanair Chase – Jack The Giant, Riverside Theatre, French Opera
- Ladbrokes World Hurdle – Oscar Whisky
- Byrne Group Plate – Aigle d'Or, Giorgio Quercus, Jack The Giant, Triolo d'Alene
- Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup – Be There In Five, Forzy Origny, Loose Preformer, Master Fiddle
GOLD CUP DAY, FRIDAY, 16 MARCH 2012
- JCB Triumph Hurdle – Une Artiste, Lyvius
- Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle – Celtus, Crystal Rock, First In The Queue, Heather Royal , Higgy's Ragazzo, Lifestyle
- Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle – Barenger
- Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase – Long Run, Burton Port
- Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – All The Aces, Celtus, Crystal Rock, Cucumber Run, Ericht, Joseph Lister, Kells Belle, Molotof, Mush Mir, Open Hearted, Oscar Nominee, Problema Tic, Speed Master, Thanks For Coming, Top of The Range, Tour d'Argent, Veiled
- Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – Anquetta, Bellvano, Eradicate, French Opera, Giorgio Quercus, Kid Cassidy, Tanks For That