Options being considered for Angels Breath before Cheltenham

Mon 18 Feb 2019

Nicky Henderson has a handful of options for Angels Breath as he seeks to teach his Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hope some racecraft ahead of his Cheltenham Festival date next month.

The five-year-old was a point-to-point winner before joining Henderson, but has had just one start under rules, claiming victory at Ascot before Christmas in what was, for Henderson, a rather unsatisfactory test.

Angels Breath had his intended prep at Huntingdon scuppered by the equine flu outbreak, but the trainer has given him a clutch of entries later this week and is eager for an educational outing.

He said: “He is in a few races, including the Dovecote (at Kempton on Saturday). What I would really like would be a just an ordinary novice hurdle with lots of runners in it so he could learn to race.

“You are going to get a fast and furious Supreme with a big field and all he has done has been in a six-runner race and jumped four hurdles.

“You could go either (Supreme or Ballymore), but I’m pretty sure he is a two-mile horse. Mister Fisher will definitely go two miles.”

Champ and Aidan Coleman clear the last flight before going on to win at Newbury
Champ and Aidan Coleman clear the last flight before going on to win at Newbury

Henderson has an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdling division, with Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle favourite Champ also among his Seven Barrows inmates along with leading Albert Bartlett contenders Birchdale and Dickie Diver. All three are owned by JP McManus.

Henderson said: “Champ will go two and a half and Birchdale, and maybe Dickie Diver, will probably go three miles. I’m not sure Barry (Geraghty, McManus’ retained rider) thinks that is right, but I do.

“Champ has been very good and has plenty of experience. Birchdale is good and he did well to win the other day as he was very green. I hope he has learnt enough and he should have done.

“We were going to go two with Champagne Platinum, but we could go two and a half with him. We are just trying to spread them around.

“I think the novice hurdlers are a particularly strong bunch.”

Nicky Henderson has not lost any faith in Santini
Nicky Henderson has not lost any faith in Santini

Henderson also has some decent arrows to fire in the novice chase division, headed by RSA Chase favourite Santini.

His planned prep run at Ascot last week had to be shelved due to the fact he needed a flu booster and while he arrives on the back of a surprise defeat at Kempton at Christmas, Henderson thinks he will relish the Festival test.

He said: “I thought he was very good at Kempton and I’d like to agree with what most people concluded – that if you had to take one horse away from the Kauto Star, you would take him.

“Cheltenham will suit him better than Kempton, there is no doubt about that, but it doesn’t mean he is going to beat them.

“He could have done with the run last weekend, but we will do plenty of schooling and work with him.”

OK Corral looked good at Warwick and is expected to be a force in the four-miler at Cheltenham
OK Corral looked good at Warwick and is expected to be a force in the four-miler at Cheltenham

Henderson has the favourite for the National Hunt Chase in OK Corral, who will be ridden by crack Irish amateur Derek O’Connor as he tackles the near four-mile trip.

The trainer added: “He will go four miles, although at Warwick it didn’t look like he was desperate for it.

“If you ask Derek O’Connor if he wants four miles, I’m pretty sure what he is going to tell you. I’m sure he will get four as he wants all of three.

“He was here for three years before he had a run and I couldn’t keep him sound for five minutes. God bless him, he kept coming back!

“At least, touch wood, for the last two seasons he has got it through it. He looked very good at Warwick and he travelled so well. At least he is building up a consistent portfolio.”

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