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Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival 2018 stable tour

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 10 Mar 2018

By Geoffrey Riddle at Seven Barrows

Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer of all time at the Cheltenham Festival with 58 wins.

The four-time champion trainer has landed the Champion Hurdle a record six times, and has also achieved half a dozen wins in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase.

The master of Seven Barrows has 38 entries so far, not including the handicaps which are released on Thursday. The 67-year-old went through his key players at his stable on Tuesday.

Might Bite – Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup:

[(full)Watch Replay](//) Watch Might Bite win the King George at Kempton

I would like to go to Kempton for a gallop with him. He has two more bits of work to do and his work has been vastly superior to anything last year. He is a better horse at home than last year. He is more mature and looks more professional.

We haven’t been three and a quarter miles yet. To jump the last in the RSA and to stop still, and get going again, must mean he has stamina.

We just have to assume that he does stay. He has been three miles around Cheltenham and he has stayed on up the hill. It is not that much further and he is a year stronger. It is a different track. The better the ground the better he will be.

It is a different track to last year (in the RSA Chase), but it is a stiffer track. That was him throwing a race away and I was the only one in a win-win situation.

[(full)Watch Replay](//) Watch Might Bite narrowly win the RSA Chase in March

Everybody is going to have it in their mind what will happen should he jump the last in front. I’ll go and stand down there and wave at him.

Buveur D’Air – Unibet Champion Hurdle:

I wouldn’t have minded if he had had a slightly harder race at Sandown. He is quite a stuffy horse and will need a gallop.

[(full)Watch Replay](//) Watch Buveur D'Air win at Sandown

He is so quick over a hurdle. His knees flick the top. He frightens you. If he gets it wrong by nearly an inch it is over. He is like a human hurdler - it is absolute precision. You have got to be deadly accurate to do it. Get it wrong by an inch and you can see what will happen. He’ll have to jump five hurdles before we go, but I won’t teach him anything. He is improving and getting stronger.

My Tent Or Yours, Charli Parcs, Verdana Blue – Unibet Champion Hurdle:

[(full)Watch Replay](//)

The Champion Hurdle will be Buveur D’Air, My Tent Or Yours, maybe Charli Parcs and they are still keen to run Verdana Blue if it is good ground. Call Me Lord won’t go.

My Tent Or Yours is on old legs, bless him. He is spectacular. He will probably go to Kempton on Tuesday for a gallop. He’s been second in three Champion Hurdles and he had his reward in the International. He is an old horse and he there are bits and pieces that we have to be very careful with. We have literally kept him for this.

When Charli Parcs gets there it will happen. I genuinely think he wants very good ground and is a very talented horse. He might have to lead Buveur D’Air at Kempton on Saturday. I need something to set a gallop for him. He ran a very good race at Newbury.

Verdana Blue is technically not quite up to that standard, but she is when she works at home. She travelled as the best horse in the Betfair Hurdle, and Charli Parcs came to the second last on the bridle.

Altior – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase:

[(full)Watch Replay](//) Watch Altior's return from a wind operation at Newbury

He hasn’t done anything serious since he won the Game Spirit Chase. He did two good canters today, will work at the weekend and doesn’t need to go to a racecourse.

He has three bits of work to do between now and the Festival and a couple of schools. He likes his jumping and it keeps his eye in. Newbury was as good as we could have dared hope for and the timing of the race was fantastic.

Politologue has been filling his boots all winter while we have been sat here. Altior had to run up to a good level (to beat him), so it was a pretty good performance.

From his weight point of view he wasn’t far off before Newbury – had he been 30ks off he wouldn’t have run. If you go from full training to zero for one month very often they will fall to pieces on you and lose all the muscle and you have a long build-up again. He stood still in his box for a month and to his credit he held on to his condition really well

Sam gave us a lovely lead at Newbury and I like the way he dropped his bridle and he raced sweetly and jumped beautifully. The ground was plenty soft enough for him, too.

I don’t believe in the bounce factor and he had not been out of action for that long.

Everything is desperately easy for him and he is different class. That is what it was at Newbury – just pure class.

Brain Power – Racing Post Arkle Trophy:

[(full)Watch Replay](//) Watch Brain Power fall in the Clarence House Chase

He has had his wind op, but what he has had done and what Altior has had done are not remotely in the same bracket. He had five days box rest - Altior had a month.

He is the forgotten horse in the Arkle. Nothing has gone right. He won very nicely the first time, then we didn’t want to make the running at Sandown, which was a disaster, to be honest with you.

Then we went to Ascot, not trying to say we would beat Un De Sceaux, but I wanted a really good gallop. Everything was going great until he turned out of Swinley Bottom and he just choked, which was his palette, which has now been cauterized and he galloped this morning.

He is a very, very talented horse. Seriously talented. It is a hot Arkle, and they are going to go a good gallop. Footpad is very good, Saint Calvados looked good at Warwick but Brain Power was the best of those over hurdles by quite a long way and he is a good jumper of fences.

He’s by Kalanisi – you have to be very careful with him. He is quite fragile. The Champion Hurdle last year (in which he was eighth) was over after about three hurdles. He was racing far too soon - all the way up the straight.

"You have to drop him in, put him to sleep and ride the race – Paul Carberry would have been a good man for him. He won the Grand Annual for us on a horse called Bellvano and there wasn’t a horse behind him on top of the hill.

Top Notch – Ryanair Chase:

He ran a bit flat for me in the Betfair Ascot Chase but seems absolutely fine. He will run in the Ryanair Chase.

L’Ami Serge – Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle:

After he won the French Champion you have to give him that. He was 7lb lower over fences, which is why we switched to have a look. He has to go left-handed, which is the important thing. Thomas Campbell will go to the Pertemps Final, as he is just shy of a Grade One horse at the moment.

Apple’s Shakira and We Have A Dream – JCB Triumph Hurdle:

Apple's Shakira has won all three of her starts at Cheltenham

She probably doesn’t think there is another racecourse in the country as she has been around Cheltenham three times!

I can’t tell you she is that good because she doesn’t do it at home. She is seven bells of useless at home, she does nothing. She won one race in France but I did ask what Apple’s Jade (full sister) was like and when they said she doesn’t do a tap at home I put down the phone and said, “thank you very much, that is what I wanted to hear".

She has learnt to race and Barry has been at pains to make sure she does. Last time he had her in behind horses, and gave her something to do.

They jumped the second last and it looked as if he was going to take her on but left her some work to do and she did it well. She came right away up the hill and the further she went the better she went.

I’d love to see her on good ground. I would love to see We Have A Dream on good ground, too. He went to Musselburgh as a last minute decision. He was going to wait for Haydock and the Victor Ludorum.

But I thought it might be bottomless there, but we went to Musselburgh and did not get the good ground.

To be honest, I had not prepared him at all. He blew up and looked messy three out and two out but then picked up again and did it well. It was my fault and he is a lot better than that. You could do anything with him; make the running, drop him in. He is very straightforward and is a lovely horse.

On The Blind Side – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle:

Watch On The Blind Side win at Sandown

Our novice hurdlers are quite good, but it depends on how good this Samcro is. We’ll do our own thing, as ever.

On The Blind Side will run in the Ballymore with OK Corral.

We had a fortnight when we were held up with On The Blind Side. He has done nothing wrong. He was getting sore shins. And the second time he was getting touchy on them and it looked to everybody that he wanted three miles because it took him forever to get there.

I am convinced he was feeling his shins and fell down the hill. As soon as he hit the rising ground he picked up. Your shins hurt, when you are coming down the hill and when you are galloping up hill it is a lot easier. He is a big baby, and needs a gallop but he is ready to go. He hasn’t got shin issues now.

Claimantakinforgan – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle:

[(full)Watch Replay](//)

Claimintakinforgan is probably my only Supreme runner.

You know Musselburgh; it was a bit messy and I have seen that happen at Musselburgh before. I wasn’t worried, and nor was Nico (De Boinville).

Up until then he had done everything right. He jumped very well, was very slick. I think you just have to say he got beaten in a prep race on horrible ground. It had rained on Saturday and they had raced on it. He was fourth in a Champion Bumper and was a weak horse. He has to be better.

Chef Des Obeaux, Santini, Mr Whipped – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle:

There are three for the Albert Bartlett; Santini, Chef Des Obeaux and Mr Whipped. They are three nice horses.

If the Albert Bartlett was soft then Chef Des Obaux, who loved it at Haydock last weekend, would be a better horse than Santini, who ran a very good race on soft ground. I bet he’d be better horse on good ground.

Others:

Dame De Compagnie and Countister will run in the Trull House Mares’ Novices Hurdle – almost certainly. I was pleased with Dame De Compagnie the other day at Ascot, she travelled like the best horse in the race for a very long way and I would not mind coming back to two miles.

Countister was involved in a sprint at Sandown and it did not suit her well. I think both of them are a little bit better than what you have seen.

Divine Spear and Rather Be would have nice chances in the Close Brothers Handicap. I have entered 14 in the Martin Pipe, and they could all get in, which means there are only 10 more spaces if I wanted!

O O Seven will go three miles (Ultima Handicap). I want to see if he does stay, as I want to see if he should run in the Topham or the Grand National. The better the ground the better. I though he ran a good race that day (when fifth at Cheltenham in January) and is a great jumper.

Gold Present had a bruised foot last weekend so he couldn’t run at Ascot. He worked this morning and as long as he is alright he will run this Saturday at Kempton and if that goes well he will miss Cheltenham and go straight to Aintree.

Terrefort is unlikely to go unless it is very soft as he loves soft ground. He is only five, and are inclined to leave him out of it this year.

I’ve got nothing for the Foxhunters, nothing for the Bumper, which isn’t much favourite race, there are a few for the National Hunt Chase won’t get in.

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