Cheltenham - At The Races

Nicky Henderson Stable Tour

    The Master of Seven Barrows is second on the all-time list for Festival winners and his team for 2019 is headlined by superstars Altior and Buveur D’Air and includes some very smart novice hurdlers.
  • Tuesday 19 February 2019
  • Stable Tours

Nicky Henderson came perilously close to completing the unprecedented Champion Hurdle/Queen Mother Champion Chase/Cheltenham Gold Cup treble with Buveur D’Air, Altior and Might Bite at the Cheltenham Festival 12 months ago and although the odds of that happening this time around will be considerably longer but there is an upbeat air of optimism at Seven Barrows.

Buveur D’Air is set to bid for a third successive success in the Unibet Champion Hurdle and got his winning sequence back on track in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown earlier this month whilst the irrepressible Altior maintained his “Winx-like” sequence when notching his 17 straight win over obstacles with a bloodless seven-length victory from Fox Norton in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.

Might Bite remains the joker in the pack as his two runs in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton have not shown him anywhere near his best but Henderson has quite often slipped out an ace from under his sleeve and the vibes from the stable suggest you ignore last year’s Gold Cup runner-up (currently a 20-1 shot) at your peril.

However, it is the future which concerns the ever-enthusiastic Henderson and there was a boyish glow when he spoke about his novice hurdling division which includes, Angels Breath, Birchdale, Champ and Downtown Getaway to name just a few.

Henderson said: “We have a solid team and some really good novice hurdlers and that means I will have to go one for three, four and five years as that is when they will be at their best.

“We have been frustrated with our running plans and were unable to run quite a few last weekend due to the vaccination problems that have arisen and we are trying to get runs into many of them before the Festival.

“We are out of sync a bit after last week as we had to stop and give them vaccinations. I like to give them three or four quiet days after they’ve been vaccinated as you just can’t go off and them and at the same time you have to go on. However, they are back in work and I don’t think it’s done any real damage.

“As we say every year if we can get one on the first day then we can sit back and enjoy it – it’s just like a cricketer you want to get the runs on the board when the first balls are bowled.”

Here, Henderson guides Tony Elves of attheraces.com through his star-studded team which he hopes will put in another fine display at Prestbury Park in March.

Older Horses

Adjali (GER)

Form Profile:

145-rated hurdler. Finished third, beaten 16 ½ lengths, to Fakir d’Oudaries in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham (2m 1f) in January and had previously failed by only a neck behind Quel Destin in the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow (2m) in December on his debut for the stable.

Trainer Says:

He looked the same as Paul’s horse Quel Destin when they were first and second at Chepstow and that would have to give him a squeak in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Video Form
27 Dec 2018:

Altior (IRE)

  • 9-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: High Chaparral - Monte Solaro (Key Of Luck)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 13 Mar 2019 15:30
  • Result: Won/9, jumped left at few times, tracked leader, mistake 7th (water), led after 3 out, ridden after 2 out, headed last, edged left into rival and led again flat, stayed on well and asserting towards finish
  • View full form
Form Profile:

Unbeaten in 17 starts over obstacles. Bidding for a fourth successive success at the Cheltenham Festival having been victorious in the 2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase, 2017 Arkle Challenge Trophy and the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. As good as or even better this season and has taken the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown (1m 7 1/2f) in December (by four lengths from Un De Sceaux), the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton (2m) over Christmas (scoring by 19 lengths from Diego Du Charmil) and the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot (2m 1f) (beating Fox Norton seven lengths easing down).

Trainer Says:

All is good and everything has gone good so far. He hasn’t put a foot wrong and we have adopted a different strategy this year. He was fit and well and then had a nice break and coming back fresh and hopefully we can go on after Cheltenham. He looks super and will work on Tuesday morning and then have a couple of schools as he enjoys it. We are back into the Sprinter Sacre situation and I can tell you how horrible it was then – I suppose we are getting back to the same factor where anything bar a really good performance won’t do. It will be disappointing if it goes wrong, but you are prepared for the fact that it has to go wrong one day and you can’t go on forever. Altior is a very good horse and he has been picking up his Grade 1s and 2s but he hasn’t been meeting a great deal of opposition. He has to do what you have to do and it will happen one day but I hope it’s not in the Champion Chase as that is what you build your season around. Pat Pugh and I did discuss the King George and if everything went right this year we would probably branch out and try something completely different and then would probably get him beaten! He is not quite the showman that Sprinter Sacre was, but he is a really good looking horse. Altior is a machine and just gets on with it and has tremendous pace. He has a lot of gears and if he was a Flat horse he would be a very good miler and quarter/mile and half horse and a Group horse but I can assure we are not going do that!

Video Form
19 Jan 2019:

Angels Breath (IRE)

Form Profile:

Near the head of the betting for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle who created a very favourable impression when hacking up by four and a half lengths from Danny Kirwan at Ascot (1m 7 1/2f) in December.

Trainer Says:

He is in the Dovecote this weekend and I would ideally have liked to take him for a normal novice with plenty of runners so he can learn more. You always get a furious pace in the Supreme and a big field and all he’s done so far is run in a six-runner race and jumped four hurdles. He will go over two miles in the Supreme.

Video Form
21 Dec 2018:

Birchdale (IRE)

  • 5-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Jeremy - Onewayortheother (Presenting)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 15 Mar 2019 14:50
  • Result: PU/20, mid-division, headway 3 out, chased leaders next, driven and unable to quicken turning in, weakened and pulled up before last
  • View full form
Form Profile:

146-rated hurdler. Made a winning debut for the stable when scoring by four lengths from Clarendon Street in a maiden hurdle at Warwick (2m 5f) in December and came home by 18 lengths from Buster Valentine in a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham (2m 4 1/2f) in January when left clear by the last hurdle fall of Brewin’upastorm.

Trainer Says:

He could be one of a strong team in the Ballymore. He is good and he did well to win at Cheltenham the other day as he was very green. I hope he has learnt enough but he should have done. He could go two miles five or three.

Brain Power (IRE)

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Kalanisi - Blonde Ambition (Old Vic)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 12 Mar 2019 15:30
  • Result: PU/10, held up in rear, not fluent 4th, slightly hampered 4 out, soon ridden and beaten, weakened before next, pulled up before 2 out
  • View full form
Form Profile:

158-rated hurdler. Runner-up, beaten 14 lengths, to Footpad in the Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham (2m) last Match but not the most fluent over fences. Returned to hurdling with a vengeance when scoring by a length and three quarters from Silver Streak in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham (2m 1f) in December.

Trainer Says:

He was very good in the International at Cheltenham and that’s the way to ride him. He was always travelling and good ground helps him. I was never intending to run him again before Champion Hurdle and he is in great form and I would like to go to a Racecourse to gallop him. He’s in very good form and is probably forgotten – I know he won an International that wasn’t a great contest but it was one of the better British ones.

Video Form
20 Jan 2018:
28 Apr 2017:
26 Apr 2016:

Buveur D'air (FR)

Form Profile:

172-rated hurdler. Winner of the Champion Hurdle for the past two seasons. Scored by eight lengths from Samcro in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (2m 1/2f) in November and suffered a rare defeat when short headed by stablemate Verdana Blue in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (2m) in December. Enjoyed a confidence-boosting success in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown (2m) this month when eased to score by two lengths from Vision Des Flos.

Trainer Says:

I don’t think he was at his best on the day (in the Champion Hurdle) as he lived in a box next door to We Have A Dream and on the Monday that horse was screaming and had a temperature and they lived nose to nose. We took We Have A Dream out of the barn at 6.00am and he hadn’t touched his food and he had a temperature. Buveur D’Air is as tough as teak but he didn’t get over Cheltenham at all last year and I would have come back to Aintree which he did the year before and it should have been a piece of cake for him. He wasn’t impressive in the Champion Hurdle and it took him apart. Normally you can run him the next week but he hadn’t recovered in four weeks to go anywhere near Aintree. Nor had Rather Be who was in the next box so you can take that they had something the same as We Have A Dream. Two miles on fast ground around Kempton we got caught out a little bit and Nico got a lovely run round in his slipstream and Verdana Blue does have a serious turn of foot. Buveur D’Air is in great form and Sandown was great and on we go. You have to keep on working him. He really didn’t take Cheltenham at all well last year and he won it by a certain amount of ability and quite a lot of guts as well. He has beaten them all before and was not at his best. He has to be better than last year if he is going to be a Triple Champion Hurdler and it’s a better race than last year but he had a nice run around Sandown which is good and he worked well on Saturday. I still think he is the one to beat if all goes well between now and then.

Video Form
1 Dec 2018:
2 Dec 2017:

Champ (IRE)

  • 7-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: King's Theatre - China Sky (Definite Article)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 13 Mar 2019 13:30
  • Result: 2/16, in touch, tracked leaders when switched towards outside after 3 out, led narrowly approaching next, headed turning in, every chance last, soon ridden, no extra closing stages
  • View full form
Form Profile:

152-rated hurdler. Winner of his four hurdle races this season and gained his most prestigious victory in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury (2m 4 1/2f) in December when scoring by two and a half lengths from Getaway Trump.

Trainer Says:

He will go over two miles five in the Ballymore. He has been very good and he has plenty of experience.

Video Form
20 Jan 2018:
31 Jan 2017:

Champagne Platinum (IRE)

  • 5-y-o; grey gelding
  • Breeding: Stowaway - Saffron Holly (Roselier)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Newbury, 29 Dec 2018 12:40
  • Result: Won/16, tracked leaders, travelling well when switched left before 2 out, quickened to lead last, pushed along and well in command run-in
  • View full form
Form Profile:

140-rated hurdler. Winner of a maiden hurdle at Newcastle (2m 1/2f) in December and followed up with a four and a half length defeat of Percy’s Word in an Introductory Hurdle at Newbury (2m 1/2f) later that month.

Trainer Says:

He could be another for the Ballymore but he could also go three miles. You are trying to spread them around. The novice hurdlers are particularly good.

Video Form
1 Dec 2018:

Dickie Diver (IRE)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Gold Well - Merry Excuse (Flemensfirth)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 15 Mar 2019 14:50
  • Result: 4/20, held up towards rear, headway under pressure after 2 out, ridden turning in, stayed on into 4th after last, no impression with leaders
  • View full form
Form Profile:

Winner of his only point-to-point in Ireland and beaten only a head by Lisnagar Oscar on his debut for the stable at Chepstow (2m 3 1/2f) in January.

Trainer Says:

He could also go for the Ballymore but he’s another with an entry in the Albert Bartlett. I would have like to run him in a three-mile novice but we were unable too.

Video Form
23 Feb 2019:
18 Jan 2019:

Downtown Getaway (IRE)

  • 6-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Getaway - Shang A Lang (Commander Collins)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Ascot, 19 Jan 2019 16:05
  • Result: Won/8, raced keenly tracking leading pair, 2nd soon after 3 out, upsides from 2 out, hit last, strong challenge under pressure close home, led post
  • View full form
Form Profile:

131-rated hurdler. Off the mark on his second attempt for the stable when short heading Champagne Well in a novice hurdle at Ascot (2m 5 1/2f) in January.

Trainer Says:

I want to run him in either the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett and he was due to run last Sunday but we were unable too. I am trying to find a three-mile novice hurdle which is what I want and so does Dickie Diver but there is not one this week and I did ask for one.

Video Form
19 Jan 2019:
3 Dec 2017:

Epatante (FR)

  • 5-y-o; bay mare
  • Breeding: No Risk At All - Kadjara (Silver Rainbow)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 14 Mar 2019 16:50
  • Result: 9/22, mid-division, headway when mistake 4th, chasing leaders 2 out, ridden and switched right before last, no impression, stayed on one pace
  • View full form
Form Profile:

Ex-French filly who made a successful debut for the stable when scoring by three and a half lengths from Ey Up Rocky in a novices’ hurdle at Kempton (2m) in November.

Trainer Says:

She really needs a run and should be out this week. The Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle would be a possibility.”

Fusil Raffles (FR)

  • 4-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Saint Des Saints - Tali Des Obeaux (Panoramic)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Kempton, 23 Feb 2019 14:25
  • Result: Won/12, tracked leading trio and always going well 2nd on bit led approaching last, quickened clear, impressive
  • View full form
Form Profile:

Winner over hurdles in France when trained by Guy Macaire.

Trainer Says:

He hasn’t run yet but will probably run in the Adonis and then we will decide whether he goes for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Laskadine (FR)

Form Profile:

Disappointing last of five, beaten 25 lengths, to Jester Jet in a listed Mares’ Hurdle at Haydock (2m 3f) on Saturday.

Trainer Says:

I was very disappointed with Laskadine at Haydock and JP (McManus) will win it (Triumph Hurdle) but I don’t have it.

Might Bite (IRE)

  • 10-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Scorpion - Knotted Midge (Presenting)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 15 Mar 2019 15:30
  • Result: PU/16, prominent, led 2nd, not fluent and headed next, led 4th, headed 11th, led 15th, hit next and headed, bumped on last bend, weakened quickly and pulled up before 2 out
  • View full form
Form Profile:

169-rated chaser. Disappointing in both starts this season – finished last of five, beaten 29 lengths, to Bristol De Mai in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock (3m 1 1/2f) in November and seventh, beaten 37 lengths, to Clan Des Obeaux when bidding to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton (3m) in December for a second year running. Finished runner-up, beaten four and a half lengths, to Native River in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham (3m 2 1/2f) last March.

Trainer Says:

We have done lot of things and he re-cauterised his palate. Two years ago, he was hobdayed and when you do that you have to re-cauterise the palate. The hobday is perfectly alright but you can’t do it again anyway, but the soft palate part very often needs to be done again. You can see if one part of the larynx isn’t working properly you can hear a noise rather like Altior did last year. We scoped him, and you can see there’s a margin that isn’t working. There was no real reason for doing it, but it just tightens things up and that has been done since Kempton. We have freshened him up and changed a few things and Nico rode him on Saturday and thought he was in terrific form. He went around there last year in soft ground in the winter and there was a fresh strip all the way round in the Gold Cup which hadn’t been used since the previous April and Native River and he went around on that the whole way together and they never came off until you jumped the last. The run-in was the wettest part of the track and when you jump the last you then come across Tuesday and Wednesday’s hurdle track, Tuesday and Wednesday’s Chase course, Thursday’s hurdle and chase course and all three hurdle races you have had on Gold Cup day. To me he jumped the last fence and they had been on remarkably good ground all the way and then you have two strides after that and you go bang. When he landed in front after the second-last you thought he was going to go away like he does. Maybe he just got tired, but he did hit that patch of ground having travelled so well all the way. I might have made the mistake of not running him since the King George, but I have done it again as I had no option but to stop and start again this time. He is entitled to be 20-1 on what he’s done this season, but he doesn’t know that and I don’t care. We have just got to get him there the best we can, and I was thrilled with what I saw on Saturday – he was very good. I have to be hopeful he can come back – it has been disappointing, but he’s been good twice round Kempton and you get some odd results in that Haydock race – the formbook doesn’t follow that race for the rest of the season. Kempton was disappointing, but he has lacked his rhythm and his jumping hasn’t been with the fluidity that it normally is. That is what we are hoping is going to come back and it definitely not a mental thing that has held him back.

Video Form
9 Feb 2017:
9 Dec 2016:
6 Nov 2016:

Mister Fisher (IRE)

Form Profile:

145-rated hurdler. Gaining his second success over hurdles when beating Bright Forecast two and a half lengths in the Grade 2 Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock (1m 7 1/2f) in January.

Trainer Says:

I’m pretty sure he is a two-miler and, like Angels Breath, he will go over two miles in the Supreme.

Ok Corral (IRE)

Form Profile:

153-rated chaser. Winner of both his novice chases and most impressive when landing a listed event at Warwick (3m) in January by six lengths, from Secret Investor.

Trainer Says:

He will go for the four-miler but I must admit at Warwick he didn’t look like he was desperate for it but if you ask Derek O’Connor I think I know what he will tell you. I am sure he will get four miles and he will go for the National Hunt Chase. He was here for three years before I could get a run into him and he wasn’t sound for more than five minutes but he kept coming back and then he kept going lame. At least touch wood, he has got through it and for the past two seasons we have been able to keep going. He looked very good at Warwick and he had the best man at Warwick and that was why Derek rode him there as we had a plan.

Video Form
17 Dec 2018:

On The Blind Side (IRE)

Form Profile:

149-rated chaser. Returned to winning form when scoring by three and a quarter lengths from Talkischeap in a novice chase at Kempton (3m) in January.

Trainer Says:

He missed his run last weekend and I need to get a run into him. I was pleased with at Kempton but he needs another run but I am not going to send him three and quarter miles in Chepstow ground. That is not a good idea two and a half weeks before Cheltenham.

River Wylde (IRE)

Form Profile:

150-rated chaser. Leading when fell last in race won by Activial at Haydock (2m 5 1/2f) in November.

Trainer Says:

He could go for the Ryanair but the Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Handicap is more likely. He tripped over the last at Haydock when he would have won and could be a forgotten horse.

Video Form
3 Nov 2017:

Santini

  • 7-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Milan - Tinagoodnight (Sleeping Car)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 13 Mar 2019 14:10
  • Result: 2/12, tracked leaders, stumbled just after 4 out, challenged 3 out, led after next, headed soon after last, stayed on, held towards finish
  • View full form
Form Profile:

153-rated chaser. Scored by four lengths from Rocky’s Treasure on his chasing bow at Newbury (2m 7 1/2f) in December and third, beaten three and a half lengths, to La Bague Au Roi in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton (3m) at Christmas.

Trainer Says:

Santini was going to run in the Reynoldstown and I thought he was very good at Kempton and if you had to take one horse out of the Feltham you would take him. They are all going to meet again in the RSA and Cheltenham will suit him better than Kempton. It doesn’t mean he is going to beat them and I really would have loved to run him last weekend. He really needed it but we will do plenty of schooling work and ideally it would be nice if we could go for a Racecourse gallop and school him over half a dozen fences but there we go.

Terrefort (FR)

Form Profile:

159-rated chaser. Finished runner-up, beaten 11 lengths, to Clan Des Obeaux in the Grade 2 Denman Novices’ Chase at Ascot (3m) on Saturday.

Trainer Says:

We don’t know yet but the Ryanair would be a possibility. He had a right good blow at Ascot on Saturday and I was very impressed with Clan Des Obeaux as he didn’t half put us in our place. The Gold Cup is probably not the right race for him and he could come into the Ryanair.

Video Form
16 Feb 2019:

Top Notch (FR)

  • 8-y-o; bay gelding
  • Breeding: Poliglote - Topira (Pistolet Bleu)
  • Trained by: N J Henderson
  • Last Race: Cheltenham, 14 Mar 2019 15:30
  • Result: 15/18, mid-division, not fluent 9th, headway approaching 3 out, chasing leaders 2 out, beaten on last bend, weakened well before last
  • View full form
Form Profile:

162-rated chaser. Finished creditable third, beaten five and three quarter lengths, to Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle (3m 1 2/f) on his reappearance in December and returned to winning form with a five length defeat of Black Corton in a Listed Chase at Kempton (2m 4 1/2f) in January.

Trainer Says:

He will go Ryanair but he’s not quite a Grade 1 horse. It was a pity he couldn’t go to Ascot as that’s where he was supposed to be but having said that Cyrname was mightily impressive and I don’t think Top Notch would have beaten him but we were going to run at Ascot. He will now go straight for the Ryanair. He is a lovely horse and everybody loves him but I am the first to admit he’s just probably 5lb short of being a Grade 1 horse. He is in good form and we ran him in the Long Walk as a prep and he got the three miles and went and did it really well at Kempton. He would have to be on the shortlist of horses we are looking forward to.

Video Form
22 Dec 2018:
17 Feb 2018:
25 Nov 2017:
28 Nov 2016:
28 Oct 2016:

Verdana Blue (IRE)

Form Profile:

157-rated hurdler. Gained her most prestigiuous success when beating stablemate Buveur D’Air in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (2m) on Boxing Day.

Trainer Says:

She was going to run in a Fast Track Qualifier at Kempton which would have qualifier for a £200,000 race but she had to miss that as result of the flu vaccination situation and she will go straight to Cheltenham. She is fine and has a very good turn of foot but ground is essential for her. It will be good to soft on Champion Hurdle Day and she wouldn’t want it any worse than that.

Video Form
23 Dec 2017:
24 Nov 2017:
4 Nov 2017:
4 Jan 2017:
30 Sep 2016: