Nicky Henderson Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2021

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour: Cheltenham Festival 2021

The 2020/21 jumps season hasn’t exactly been a vintage one for Nicky Henderson so far, but when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival he certainly knows a thing or two about training champions.

Only Willie Mullins has trained more winners at the meeting than Henderson, but he hasn’t actually won the leading trainers title since 2012, when he clocked up seven winners thanks to victories from the likes of Simonsig, Sprinter Sacre and Bobs Worth.

Those big names are matched by some of Henderson’s stable stars this year, who could be set to take the Festival by storm. We’ve taken a look at some of the best from Seven Barrows and outlined where they could be heading at this year’s Festival.

Allart

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: F115-1F

Verdict: He finished fifth in last season’s Supreme at Cheltenham, and made a great start to his chasing career when being pitched straight into Graded company to win the Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot in December. He was then well backed next time at Haydock, but fell down the back in what would have been far from ideal conditions. His jumping record would be a concern, but he certainly has the quality to get competitive in the Marsh.

Altior

10-y-o bay gelding

Form: 111/21-2

Verdict: A legend of the Cheltenham Festival, Altior is a four-time winner at the meeting after winning the Supreme, Arkle and two Champion Chases. Despite those victories, he’s always hit a certain flat spot in his races and in his older age, it seems that those flat spots are getting bigger. He’s had his fair share of niggles in the last few years, but since being beaten by Cyrname at Ascot over 2m5f, he’s never quite been the same. He was beaten by Nube Negra in the Desert Orchid most recently, but it’s hard to see him winning again at Cheltenham as he aims for a third Champion Chase.

Buveur D’Air

10-y-o bay gelding

Form: 1F2/12-2

Verdict: Another multiple Cheltenham Festival winner, Buveur D’Air won two Champion Hurdles between 2017 and 2018, and fell when going for a historic hat-trick in 2019. He then picked up a horrendous injury when second in the Fighting Fifth later that year, and has only just recently returned when second in very heavy ground in the Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock. He came with every chance at the last that day, only to blow up in the final furlong, so’d you expect him to improve on that showing as he bids to go close in the Champion Hurdle once again.

Buzz

7-y-o grey gelding

Form: 114-312

Verdict: A fair performer on the flat for Hughie Morrison, he moved to Henderson’s last season and quickly got off the mark with back-to-back wins in novice hurdles. He’s performed with great credit in open company this season and is yet to be out of the places in three attempts, including a win at Ascot in November. He’ll be a big player in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, and depending on his performance there, could be a good bet for the County Hurdle or the Coral Cup.

Captain Morgs

5-y-o bay gelding

Form: 212

Verdict: Still very lightly raced with three appearances so far in his racing career, one of which was victory at Ascot in October. He was then a close second on his most recent start at Kempton in November, but ran very green down the home straight and hasn’t been seen since then. He holds an entry in the Ballymore, but one of the handicaps looks more realistic.

Champ

9-y-o bay gelding

Form: 21/11F1-

Verdict: At the time of writing Champ is yet to be seen this season, but has reportedly had an away day race to help build his fitness ahead of a tilt at the Gold Cup this March. He was a last gasp winner of the RSA Chase last season, and was 2nd to Envoi Allen in the Ballymore the year before. He was brought to win a Gold Cup, and it seems like he will have every chance to do that this year.

Chantry House

7-y-o brown gelding

Form: 1/113-13

Verdict: A highly rated hurdler, this 7-y-o was third in last season’s Supreme, but has made the switch to chasing this season and is yet to reach the same kind of levels. He won on chasing debut at Ascot, but that came in a three-runner field that saw Pic D’Orhy fall at the third last when leading. He’s been seen just once since then and that was when a distant third in a class two at Cheltenham in December. He’s reportedly picked up a back problem since then and is a doubt to even make the Festival.

Dame De Compagnie

8-y-o bay mare

Form: 1/511-1U

Verdict: A classy mare that won the Coral Cup last season, and has quickly established an excellent record at Cheltenham by winning on three of her five visits to the track. This season she embarked on a career over fences, winning a match race with Cornerstone Lad at Ayr, before unseating when badly hampered by the falling Hitman in the Scilly Isles most recently. The Mares Chase would be her most obvious target, of which she’d be well in the mix given her course form.

Dickie Diver

8-y-o bay gelding

Form: 1/214/2

Verdict: Owned by JP McManus, this eight-year-old is still very lightly raced, but has done plenty to prove his quality so far, including finishing fourth in last season’s renewal of the Albert Bartlett. He seems to have appreciated that step up to three miles, and remained over a staying trip for his chase debut in December. He was very keen that day, and was held up in last by Aidan Coleman, but ran on well to grab second. That would put him in contention for the handicaps at Cheltenham with the NH Chase being top of the agenda.

Epatante

7-y-o bay mare

Form: 9/111-12

Verdict: Last season’s Champion Hurdle winner will be back for more of the same this March, despite suffering defeat in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. She returned for the season with a blistering win in the Fighting Fifth, but struggled last time and reportedly picked up a back injury. If she can put that run behind her, then she could make it a match in the Champion Hurdle between herself and Honeysuckle.

Flinteur Sacre

6-y-o bay gelding

Form: 21-40

Verdict: He’s had to carry the burden of being related to the great Sprinter Sacre, and so far that burden has been too tough to carry. He’s been very keen in both starts this season, and didn’t look to have the appetite for racing when 12th of 18 at Doncaster most recently. He was well fancied for the Supreme at the start of the season, but now it would be a surprise to see him make the Festival.

Floressa

6-y-o bay mare

Form: 129-142

Verdict: A decent mare that has run some great races over the last couple of years, including this season when second in the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster. However, at the highest level, she’s always been left wanting and although she’ll give another good account in the Mares Hurdle, it’s hard to see her winning it.

Fusil Raffles

6-y-o bay gelding

Form: P0-11P1

Verdict: A Cheltenham regular in 2020, Fusil Raffles ran four times at the track, including two victories, with his latest coming over 2m4½f in February. That step up in trip certainly seemed to suit as he rallied on up the hill to secure his third win over fences. He might just lack the class to win a Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival, but that latest performance at least allows him to take his chance in the Marsh.

Gallyhill

6-y-o bay gelding

Form: 1-1

Verdict: A winning point-to-pointer, he was bought for £450k and went a good way to proving his worth by winning on his hurdles debut over 2m½f at Newbury in January. Since the race, Henderson has said that he won’t run again at 2m, so although a tilt at the Supreme looked like a possibility, he now only holds an entry for the Ballymore.

Goodbye Stranger

4-y-o bay gelding

Form: 13

Verdict: A Munir and Souede recruit, this four-year-old looks a nice type on paper and opened his account at the first time of asking by winning a juvenile race in gritty style at Newbury. He’s since finished third on heavy ground at Warwick, but he stayed on well that day so the Cheltenham hill could aid his chances. He’s a big price for the Triumph, but his owners and trainer have a good record in the race, so he wouldn’t be totally without a chance.

Heross Du Seuil

4-y-o bay gelding

Form: 1

Verdict: Another from the Donnelly-owned string, this four-year-old is bound for the Triumph Hurdle and could well be under the radar as we head towards Cheltenham. He’s only had the one start for Nicky Henderson, which came in a decent Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton over Christmas, but he pulled clear by 10 lengths to score in that after Honneur D’Ajonc (Jane Williams) fell at the last. It’s debatable as to whether he would have still won that day without the faller, but you’d expect him to improve and that could give him each way chances in the

Janika

8-y-o bay gelding

Form: 14442-9

Verdict: He’s blown hot and cold over the last 12 to 18 months, with his last win coming in the Haldon Gold Cup of 2019, and it was no surprise to see him have wind surgery before the start of this season. However, on reappearance in a Grade Three handicap hurdle at Ascot in January, he could only finish ninth, and although he will go back over fences before Cheltenham, it’s hard to see him winning anything at the Festival, where the Ryanair was on the agenda.

No Ordinary Joe

5-y-o bay gelding

Form: 14

Verdict: Another that belongs to JP McManus, this youngster won a nice bumper at Sandown in November, but then lacked a bit of zest when finishing fourth in a Grade Two Supreme trial at Ascot in December. It’s no surprise to see him entered in the Ballymore and not the Supreme after that.

Santini

9-y-o bay gelding

Form: 112-253

Verdict: He’s yet to pick up a win this season, but as an out and out stayer, he tends to keep his best races for Cheltenham. Despite not winning at the Festival, he has Cheltenham form figures of 13212, which makes him a real contender in the Gold Cup, regardless of his recent results. He was only beaten a neck by Al Boum Photo in the race last year, but if the persistent wet weather brings Cheltenham up soft or heavy, then that could swing the race in his favour this time.

Shishkin

7-y-o bay gelding

Form: 111-111

Verdict: Heading into this year’s Festival, he’d be the pick off Nicky Henderson’s entries as he aims to extend his unbeaten run to seven races. After narrowly winning the Supreme last season, he’s three from three over fences, including Grade Two’s at Kempton and Doncaster. He’s very much following in the hoof prints of his stable mate Altior, and currently leads the betting for the Arkle, where he’ll have a tough race on his hands against the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene.

Verdana Blue

9-y-o bay mare

Form: 51/4-228

Verdict: A tremendous mare who has mixed it with the best over jumps and on the flat, finishing 2nd at Royal Ascot and 3rd in the Ebor last year, as well as winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle in 2019. This season, she’s been just as good, with placed efforts in Listed races at Kempton and Wetherby, before a slight disappointment in the G2 International Hurdle last time. The Mares Hurdle looks most likely for her at Cheltenham, and given her consistency, she’d have to be an each-way player if the ground is decent.

Maries Rock

6-y-o bay mare

Form: 111-73

Verdict: She was three from three heading into this season, but hasn't managed to match that form this term with two fairly average outings. The first was when seven of nine in a Listed hurdle at Newbury, before a slight improvement when a 22 length third in the Yorkshire Rose at Doncaster. On that form, she wouldn't be the most competitive horse heading to the Festival.

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