Born in Lambeth on 10 December, 1950, Nicky Henderson was destined for a horseracing career, with his late father Johnny being the founder of 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.Educated at Eton and the Royal Agricultural College, he worked for the City stockbroker’s Cazenove in London and Australia, where he gained experience riding work at Randwick. He made his name in Britain as an amateur rider, finishing runner-up three times in the amateur 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 came aboard 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 became assistant trainer to Fred Winter in 1974 and took out his own training licence in July, 1978, replacing Roger Charlton at Windsor House Stables, Lambourn. It did not take long for Henderson to establish himself as one of the leading members of his profession, landing the jump trainers’ title in both 1985/6 and 1986/7.
In 1992, Henderson moved his string to Seven Barrows stables in Lambourn in a straight swap with trainer Peter Walwyn. That same year saw Henderson added to the Royal trainers’ list with the Queen Mother sending him three horses, including New Zealand Grand National winner Nearco Bay. He currently trains four horses for the Queen.
Henderson is always a trainer to follow at the big meetings and has trained 34 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, placing him equal second on the all-time list alongside Martin Pipe. He is six wins behind the great Fulke Walwyn. He also has the distinction of clinching three successive victories in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle with See You Then (1985, 86 & 87), a race he also took in 2009 with Punjabi. Those four wins make him the most successful current trainer in the race’s history and leave him one short of equalling Peter Easterby’s all-time record.
Other high-profile successes at The Festival have come with Remittance Man in the 1992 Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as Rustle (1989) and Bacchanal (2000) in what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. Zaynar’s victory in the 2009 JCB Triumph Hurdle was Henderson’s fourth in the race after First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987) and Katarino (1999). He has also landed the Byrne Group Plate, formerly the Mildmay Of Flete, on four occasions with The Tsarevich (1985 & 1986), Liberthine (2005) and Non So (2006).
At The Festival in 2006, Henderson landed an emotional triumph in the race named to commemorate his father, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase. Greenhope was the horse that provided the special moment as he stayed on gamely up the hill to victory.
Henderson has clinched the Thomas Pink Award as leading or joint-leading trainer at the Festival on seven occasions, most recently in 2000 with four successes. He also topped the ranks in 1993 (joint – two wins), 1992 (joint – two wins), 1990 (two wins), 1987 (joint – two wins), 1986 (three wins) and 1985 (three wins).
Away from The Festival, his numerous big-race wins include the Paddy Power Gold Cup (2003 Fondmort), the Boylesports.com Gold Cup (2002 Fondmort, 2003 Iris Royal), the Melling Chase (1992 Remittance Man), the totesport Trophy (1998 Sharpical, 2000 & 2004 Geos, 2001 Landing Light) and the Sandown Gold Cup (1989 Brown Windsor), as well as a host of Grade One triumphs on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Henderson does not restrict his talents to Jump racing and has also enjoyed big-race wins on the Flat. His biggest successes to date have come in the totesport Cesarewitch (2003 Landing Light, 2008 Caracciola) and the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot (2009 Caracciola). The trainer’s first Flat success in Britain came with his first runner, Thinking Twice, at Newmarket in April, 1993.
Mick Fitzgerald was his long-time stable jockey until retirement in 2008. Barry Geraghty is currently in his second season as stable jockey at Seven Barrows, splitting his time between Britain and his home in Ireland, and has continued in as successful a vein as his predecessor.
He sent out his 105th winner of the season at Warwick on Friday, 26 February (2010), and looks set to beat his previous best total of 115 successes last season.
NICKY HENDERSON’S ENTRIES AT THE FESTIVAL 2010
• Tuesday, 16 March
Spinal Research Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Bellvano, General Miller, Ghimaar, Oscar Whisky
The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase
French Opera, Long Run, Mad Max, Riverside Theatre
William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase
Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
• Wednesday, 17 March
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle
Finian’s Rainbow, General Miller, Master Of The Hall, Quantitativeeasing
Burton Port, Long Run, Punchestowns
Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
Ainama, Andytown, Busker Royal, Caracciola, Erzen, Fairyland, Gold Award, My Petra, Quantitativeeasing , Spirit River, Stravinsky Dance, Tanks For That, Tasheba
• Thursday, 18 March
Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase
Aigle D’Or, Carole’s Legacy, Dave’s Dream, Special Envoy, Tanks For That, The Polomoche, Viking Rebel, Wogan, Working Title
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle
Ainama, Andytown, Busker Royal, Erzen, Fairyland
Barbers Shop, Jack The Giant, Petit Robin
Ladbrokes World Hurdle
Byrne Group Plate Handicap Chase
Aigle D’Or, My Petra, Shouldhavehadthat,
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
Fleet Street, Oedipe, Polyfast, Scots Dragoon, Shouldhavehadthat, Trabolgan, Wogan
• Friday, 19 March
JCB Triumph Hurdle
According, Soldatino, Super Kenny
Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
Afsoun, Bellvano, Black Coffee, Eradicate, Fairyland
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Caracciola, Erzen, Fairyland, Gold Award, Kerada, Lord Generous, Miss Sarenne, My Petra, Peveril, Quantitativeeasing, Radium, Ranjobaie, Spirit River, Tanks For That, Viking Rebel
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap
Dave’s Dream, First Point, French Opera, My Petra, Pepsyrock, You’re The Top
Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there’s a lot more to learn…