Henderson savouring enviable Festival hand

Mon 12 Mar 2018

Heading to the Cheltenham Festival as the envy of every trainer comes with an increased level of pressure, but it is a position Nicky Henderson would not swap for the world.

With Altior (Champion Chase), Buveur D'Air (Champion Hurdle) and Might Bite (Gold Cup) all topping their respective markets, the weight of expectation for the Seven Barrows handler to succeed is arguably the greatest he has ever faced up to.

While such a challenge may overface some, there are few better equipped than the 67-year-old to ensure each individual delivers on the big occasion.

He said: "There is going to be pressure as everyone wants a bit of it and that's fair enough, that is the position we are in.

"There is anticipation and it is exciting as you know you have got good horses and they are not the only ones, there is a cavalry going there. They are all as important as each other.

"I would rather be in this situation, though, with everybody knocking on the door every day. The day when nobody is knocking on the door is probably the day to give up.

"You always say you would settle for one and you would in a funny way, but when you have got these sort of horses, you don't get that many chances of winning a Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase in the same year.

"There is still a long way to go and a heap of opposition out there, nobody is going to give anything away and it will be tough.

"We've been lucky in the Champion Hurdle and have won quite a few, but it doesn't mean I don't mind not winning it - I mind like hell.

"The amazing thing in the Champion Chase is having said goodbye to Sprinter Sacre, within two years there is nearly a follow-up to him. Altior has got a long way to go to fill Sprinter's boots, but he is going the right way."

With just the finishing touches to be applied at home to his three stable stars, Henderson is content with the form each of them are in ahead of their Festival assignments.

He said: "Might Bite has been very good since the King George at Kempton.

"You always have that slight concern with him as everybody knows he did some very odd things at the back end of the RSA last year. I hope he won't be repeating that, but I don't see why he should. He is in great form and his work is coming along well.

"You can't sit still with Buveur D'Air, he needs a hell of a lot of work and the gallop he had with Might Bite at Kempton the other weekend will probably have helped him more than his last run at Sandown.

"Altior is fine now with that run at Newbury under his belt."

Although holding a trainer's licence for almost 40 years, Henderson has yet to find a remedy to ease the sleepless nights and curtail the nerves as he looks to add to his 58 Festival successes.

He said: "The last bit is always nerve-racking and it is for everybody. It is exciting, of course it is. You half dread it and you half look forward to it.

"As you get older you can probably live with it, but it keeps you on your guard. You can't afford to shut your eyes, you have got to be very careful from here on and take what comes.

"You are in the nervous nights now when you get to this stage of it. Their racing is done, now it is just the preparation.

"Every day is a scary day as anything can come and bite you. Touch wood, they are all in good shape at the moment. You have got to keep your head down and there is not a lot else you can do."

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