Nicky Henderson hoping to take advantage of Bowen’s claim for sixth win

By Harry Allwood@H_Allwood1
Fri 9 Feb 2018

By Harry Allwood

Rising star James Bowen will bid to maintain his unbeaten record aboard Jenkins when the pair line up in Britain’s richest handicap hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.

Coral Welsh Grand National Day - Chepstow Racecourse Bowen strikes on Raz De Maree in the Welsh National in December (PA)

The teenager, who turns 17 on March 12, the day before the Cheltenham Festival starts, lost his 5lb claim when he guided Jenkins to victory in a Grade Three at Ascot in January.

Bowen has ridden eight winners from 15 rides for Henderson this season and is operating at a 53 percent strike rate when riding for the Champion Trainer. “It’s a pleasure to have him on board,” Henderson said.

“He’s got a lot of natural talent like his brother [Sean]. He’s had an enormous amount of practise as he rode in pony races and point-to-points from an early age and the Bowen family are all very talented.

“I think it’s an amazing thing what Peter and Karen Bowen have done to bring up two boys to ride like this and they’re lovely lads as well.

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“James’s allowance has gone down since Ascot, so we have lost 2lb there, but Jenkins has got 11st 12lb to carry because of a 5lb penalty so I think I’ve got to use that 3lb. 5lb was even better but at least I know they get on well.”

Jenkins is two from two since he was applied with blinkers and, although the six-year-old does not work in them, Henderson believes they have made a difference.

“The blinkers seem to have made the difference to him on the racecourse. I was impressed with him at Ascot as he raced keenly throughout the race and I was worried that he had done too much early on, but it didn’t stop him from coming home well.”

Henderson is the most successful trainer in the Betfair Hurdle with five victories. It is 20 years since the Seven Barrows handler first claimed the lucrative handicap with Sharpical and he has since added to his tally with dual winner Geos (2000 and 2004), Landing Light (2001) and My Tent Or Yours (2013).

The trainer could not split his quintet earlier this week but sponsors Betfair, who are paying a quarter of the odds, six places in the £155,000 showpiece, make Jenkins the 9-1 joint-favourite. The firm are also 15-8 that Henderson wins the race.

Henderson - Betfair Hurdle runners 2018 - Newbury Racecourse Nicky Henderson parades his Betfair Hurdle quintet at Seven Barrows on Tuesday (Newbury Racecourse)

Nico de Boinville will ride recent Kempton winner Kayf Grace and Davy Russell will partner Champion Hurdle contender Verdana Blue for the first time.

Ned Curtis, the 5lb claimer, is aboard Charli Parcs and Jeremiah McGrath, who has been operating at a strike rate of 50 percent in the past fortnight, takes the mount on Lough Derg Spirit.

Henderson added: "Kayf Grace always struggles with muscle enzymes and it is very hard to control them, but she is a very talented mare and she is a very slick jumper. I've never had her muscle enzymes more under control.

"Lough Derg Spirit works very well. He is probably a better horse on better ground and this has always been the objective.

"Verdana Blue doesn't want to be in front too long, but she will travel well through the race and she is a very good filly. On very fast ground she would be deadly.

"Good ground is important to Charli Parcs, but his work is excellent."

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