Henderson Struggling With Dame's Cheltenham Target

Dame De Compagnie

Nicky Henderson has alerted ante-post backers to wait until the Cheltenham festival before placing a bet on Dame De Compagnie after her superb debut over fences as it is very much up in the air what race she will head for at Prestbury Park in March.

The eight year old for owner JP McManus has been exceptional over the last 12 months, landing a Mares Handicap at Cheltenham back in December 2019 and off the back of that going to the festival and landing the Coral Cup with ease.

The mare was always bought to be a chaser and Henderson sent her to Ayr on Monday for her belated seasonal return and first try over fences and apart from one mistake on the first circuit she was superb.

She saw off Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad with ease over two miles, but the trainer admitted she wants another half a mile to be at her best, however this then leaves the Seven Barrows handler with a huge predicament as to what race she will be entered into at the Cheltenham festival.

After her success she was shortened in the betting for the new Grade Two Mares' Chase, but Henderson is said to be shying away from that idea and is looking at other options.

(Credit ATR) Henderson said: “She was great, she made just the one mistake, and when she did it I said ‘she won’t do that again’ – and she didn’t.

“I’m not sure there’s an awful lot she can go for in March. She’d ideally want two and a half miles, but then you meet Envoi Allen (in the Marsh Novices’ Chase).

“There’s the new mares’ chase, but that’s not really for novices – after just one run, that would be asking quite a lot.“She beat a Fighting Fifth winner there, but to be fair the other horse hasn’t run to the form he showed when beating Buveur D’Air since – though I’m sure the handicapper might try to tell me he has!

“The trouble was we couldn’t find a two-and-a-half-mile novice chase for her – there was a lack of opportunities, and she was ready to go.

“I didn’t really want to run her over two miles. But with nothing else coming up, we had to get her in the box and head north.

“We’ll have to do some thinking (for her next target).”