Nicky Henderson Stable Tour: Cheltenham 2020

nicky henderson trainer might bite buveur dair stable

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour: Cheltenham 2020

Second in the list of leading trainers at the Cheltenham Festival with 64 winners, Nicky Henderson is the best of British when it comes to saddling success at the big meeting.

Last year was a hard luck story for the Seven Barrows handler after forced flu vaccinations shortly before the Festival interrupted preparations across the yard.

However, he still managed to notch four winners for the week, and heads to Prestbury Park once again with a string of leading candidates including the likes of Shiskin, Epatante, Altior and Santini.

Luke Parkinson takes a look at some of Henderson’s stable stars and assesses their chances ahead of Cheltenham.

Altior

 10-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 1111-21

Verdict: Not considered a Festival great by some racing fans, but surely any horse with the record of Altior deserves significant recognition.

Those doubters went a long way to forcing connections into trying him out over further earlier this season, with that plan ultimately backfiring when he was beaten by Cyrname at Ascot.

That put a blot in his form book, but he was classy enough to bounce back in style over two miles at Newbury last time.

He’ll need to be at his very best in the Champion Chase, but its impossible to rule him out.

Call Me Lord

 7-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 1/73-212

Verdict: Ran in the Imperial Cup instead of going to Cheltenham last season and grabbed third behind the Paul Nicholls-trained Malaya.

He’s gone on from that this season so far, winning the International at Cheltenham along with being placed at Ascot and Sandown.

He’s been freshened up since then and has the form around Prestbury Park to suggest he could get involved in the Champion Hurdle.

Champ

 8-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 121-11F

Verdict: Beaten by City Island in the Ballymore last season, but bounced back at the first time of asking when upped to three miles in the Sefton at Aintree.

His novice chase campaign started with two classy wins as well, including a Grade Two at Newbury, before he fell at the last when well clear in the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

That isn’t an ideal prep for a race like the RSA, especially when he has some strong competition, and he’s probably a favourite that is worth taking on.

Chantry House

 6-y-o; brown gelding

 Form: U11-11

Verdict: A former point-to-point winner, he is unbeaten in three starts since moving to Nicky Henderson, all at short prices and actually got the better of Edwardstone in his bumper back at Warwick in March last year.

However, its his most recent run that has been the eye-catcher this season, winning by over four lengths and practically eased down at the line.

He hasn’t tasted top level company yet but might just be an outsider to follow in the Supreme.

Epatante

 6-y-o; bay mare

 Form: 1/119-11

Verdict: Fluffed her lines in the Mares Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but other than that she has a perfect record for Nicky Henderson.

Two starts this season have brought two victories, with the very best of them coming in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton where she blitzed the field to win by an impressive five lengths.

In a wide-open Champion Hurdle, she sets the standard on what we’ve seen this season and despite reports of coughing, remains the one to beat.

Floressa

 5-y-o; bay mare

 Form: 12-1213

Verdict: Was second in a bumper at Cheltenham last season but has shown some progression since then over hurdles, winning a Listed Mares race at Newbury back in November.

She was sent off favourite for her next run at Doncaster as a result, but was put in her place by Lady Buttons and appeared to lack the class required to win a race like the Mares Novices’ Hurdle.

Fusil Raffles

 5-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 121-11P

Verdict: He has won four times from five starts for Nicky Henderson, including victories in the Grade One Four-Year-Old Hurdle at Punchestown and the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

He was pulled up last time in the Christmas Hurdle which is a huge disappointment heading into the Champion Hurdle.

His best form wouldn’t be far away from being a leading player in the race, but that last run just leaves a bit of a hangover.

Mister Fisher

 6-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 18-7211

Verdict: Eighth in the Supreme behind Klassical Dream last year, but he has taken well to life over fences this season, winning his last two.

His campaign started with a defeat to Torpillo at Warwick, but he improved to win at Cheltenham the next time and then got the better of Al Dancer in a Grade Two at Doncaster.

That looks a fair bit of form and makes him a leading fancy for the Marsh.

Pentland Hills

 5-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 111-52

Verdict: Winner of last year’s Triumph Hurdle at a huge 20/1, but made sure that was no fluke by following up in the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

He’s not quite matched that this season, but in both runs at Cheltenham and Haydock he has travelled like the winner up to the last and then just not quite seen his race out.

He’s had some wind surgery as a result, and could still be the one to follow in the Champion Hurdle.

Pym

 7-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 10-211P

Verdict: Due to having the same owners at Altior there has been a big weight of expectation to carry for Pym so far in his career.

On what he has shown, he’s not quite up to the level of Henderson’s stable star, but you do have to give him some credit, with 12 runs yielding five victories.

Two of those have come when upped to three miles this season, although his RSA credentials were tarnished slightly when he was pulled up in the Reynoldstown at Ascot last time.

That would be a worry heading to the big meeting.

Santini

 8-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 1/132-11

Verdict: Notoriously difficult to train, he finished second in last season’s RSA Chase despite a troubling preparation which saw him pick up a niggle and still not quite being over the effects of a flu jab.

It was an excellent run in the circumstances, and he’s backed up the form this season to suggest he’s a massive player in the Gold Cup. Success has come at Sandown and more recently over Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.

He’s a dour stayer and you might just need that if conditions get testing on Friday.

Shishkin

 6-y-o; bay gelding

 Form: 3/11-F11

Verdict: Kicked of this season by falling at the second fence in Newbury, which slightly halted in growing reputation.

However, he was back on song with a convincing victory back at the same track in January, and then flew to the top of the betting for the Supreme after blitzing the field in a Listed race at Huntingdon most recently.

His current price does look a little short though and you could have some doubts as to the quality of the horses he has beaten already.

He might be other favourite to take on, with the owners also looking to run the Willie Mullins-trained Asterion Forlonge in the same race.

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