Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners – A look at the Seven Barrows Festival team

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners.Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners.

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners

Six-times British champion trainer Nicky Henderson needs no introduction and the Seven Barrows maestro is second only to Willie Mullins in the Cheltenham Festival trainers’ list of most winners with 62 successes including two ‘Grand Slams’ having won each of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Stayers’ Hurdle.

The Champion Hurdle has been his most successful race with eight wins in the race, followed by the Triumph Hurdle (seven wins) and the Arkle Chase (four wins) but the powerful yard is sure to have plenty of ammunition to fire at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

We’ve looked through some of the Nicky Henderson-trained entries across the course of the four days at the greatest show on turf and highlight a few of his big hopes for success where a couple of the Seven Barrows big guns are sure to feature in many punters’ Cheltenham Festival free bets and ante-post accumulators as likely winners.

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival day one runners

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Nicky Henderson has a good record in this contest with four wins in the race and the Seven Barrows maestro has saddled the likes of Shishkin, Altior, Finian’s Rainbow and Sprinter Sacre in the race in recent years.

All four of those instantly recognisable and top-class performers went on to take high order over fences and Team Henderson usually has one or two classy sorts lined up for this race. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year however and none of the intended Henderson runners feature towards the top of the betting with odds of 50/1 and bigger available on all the Seven Barrows entries in the race.

FLINTEUR SACRE hasn’t delivered what was promised in the wake of an impressive bumper success last February and the Network gelding has been soundly beaten on both his hurdles starts to date at Newbury and Doncaster.

A brother to the top-class Sprinter Sacre, his last run saw him finish some thirty lengths behind Lunar Sovereign at Doncaster where he failed to fire in the first-time hood. He had pulled hard on his hurdles debut so the application of headgear appeared a good move although it failed to have the desired effect and he was disappointing.

It is still early days and he could be capable of better but he’d need to step up markedly on what he’s shown thus far to take a hand in the Cheltenham Festival day one opener. That isn’t beyond the realms of possibility however and the usual furious pace this race is run at might help him to settle better than has been the case.

Arkle Chase

Already touted as a Cheltenham Festival banker by many SHISHKIN will surely feature prominently in punters’ Cheltenham Festival free bet ante-post accumulators and it isn’t hard to understand why with the unbeaten chaser being faultless in his three wins to date over the larger obstacles.

Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has demolished opposition in three runs at Kempton and Doncaster and while it is perhaps debatable the quality of his rivals he has despatched thus far his performances can’t be cribbed and he’s surely got further improvement to come.

The likes of Energumene and Allmankind should ensure the Sholokhov gelding doesn’t have everything his own way but he’s looks sure to go close in the novices’ championship.

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners. Is Shishkin an Arkle Chase banker?

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners. Is Shishkin an Arkle Chase banker?

Champion Hurdle

Henderson is responsible for defending champion EPATANTE in the Cheltenham Festival day one feature and while the No Risk At All mare met with defeat last time in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton she remains worthy of the utmost respect having bolted up in the race twelve months ago.

That defeat latest was only her second over hurdles having flopped in the 2019 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle but she was later found to have been in season which is a viable excuse for her below par run behind Silver Streak although that rival is certainly no mug.

If she’s back to her best at Cheltenham in March then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the defending champion turning in a big performance as she bids to retain her crown and it would be foolish to overlook her claims.

David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle

The Seven Barrows camp are likely to have a couple in this contest headed by the smart VERDANA BLUE who won a Grade One earlier in her career, beating Buveur D’air in the 2018 Christmas Hurdle and winning the 2019 Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Wile that was her last success she has run a series of solid races since, often making the frame despite not always having the top of the ground conditions she favours.

She perhaps isn’t quite as good as she once was but she is still likely capable of taking a hand in a race of this nature given it is likely to cut up and if the ground at Cheltenham was to come right for her then she could post a big run.

National Hunt Chase

One of the few races that Nicky Henderson has yet to win at the Cheltenham Festival but DICKIE DIVER could be the trainer’s big hope to end that barren run although the Gold Well gelding has just one start over fences.

A smart hurdler who beat future Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar he finished fourth to Minella Indo in the 2019 Albert Bartlett Hurdle although was subsequently absent for a long while before returning at Newbury back in December with a promising runner-up effort behind Paint The Dream.

That run would certainly have been needed and he can do better with that under his belt although he may just lack the experience of a few of his likely rivals.

Cheltenham Festival Day Two runners

Champion Chase

Can dual-Champion ALTIOR regain his crown? That will be the question on many punters’ lips as Nicky Henderson’s star bids to regain the crown he’s held twice although it remains to be seen whether the High Chaparral gelding is as good as he was in his prime.

Unbeaten over obstacles in 19 starts which include this race twice and four wins in all at the Cheltenham Festival he lost his air of invincibility when outstayed by Cyrname in the 2019 Christy 1965 Chase although the ground didn’t help him on his reappearance and he impressed next time in the Game Spirit at Newbury.

Forced to miss this race twelve months ago following an abscess in his hoof he made a pleasing reappearance at Kempton despite meeting with defeat again on his return, shaping as if he’d be better for the run but as an eleven-yearl old he might prove vulnerable to younger rising stars such as Chacun Pour Soi and Nube Negra.

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners. Can Altior regain his Champion Chase crown?

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners. Can Altior regain his Champion Chase crown?

Champion Bumper

Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott look to have a stranglehold on this race and the Champion Bumper on day two of the Cheltenham Festival is another race that so far has eluded Nicky Henderson.

His NO ORDINARY JOE could prove to be his main hope of ending his drought in this race although he’ll have to step up markedly on his defeat behind My Drogo in an Ascot Grade Two contest back in December.

He had impressed on his debut at Sandown when beating Flemenstide but looked short of pace at Ascot latest although the stiff finish of Cheltenham could help him do better along with a likely strong pace although he’ll need to improve on what he’s shown so far.

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners on day three

Marsh Novices’ Chase

While he also has Allart in the contest it might be that FUSIL RAFFLES could fly the flag for Seven Barrows in a competitive renewal as Nicky Henderson chases a first win in the race.

Progressive as a hurdler which saw him win a Grade One at Punchestown he contested last season’s Champion Hurdle although never got involved; however he’s 3-4 over fences and stepped up to this trip latest to beat Lieutenant Rocco at this venue in December.

He is 2-3 at Cheltenham and the progressive Saint Des Saints gelding could have more improvement to come over the larger obstacles. This could well prove his target despite holding an entry also in the race formerly known as the RSA Chase and he could deliver a big run back at this venue.

Ryanair Chase

Altior holds an entry in this contest but is likely to try to regain his Champion Chase crown leaving MISTER FISHER as the likely main hope for the Henderson camp in the Cheltenham Festival day three feature.

Progressive over fences last term where he won twice before being beaten four lengths by Samcro in the Marsh Novices’ Chase twelve months ago he bounced back from a lesser effort in the Paddy Power Gold Cup here in November to beat Kalashnikov in the rearranged Peterborough Chase at this venue in December.

On form he’d have a little bit to find but he’s clearly effective over course and distance and it wouldn’t be a shock if he were to turn in a big effort.

Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Festival runners. Mister Fisher likes Cheltenham and could carry Seven Barrows’ hopes in the Ryanair Chase.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

A decent sort on the flat Henderson’s big hope in this contest could prove to be AHORSEWITHNONAME who shaped with plenty of promise on her hurdles debut at Newbury back in November in a Listed contest won by Pink Sheets.

The Cacique mare had won twice on the level for Brian Ellison prior to joining this yard and she showed up well in that first spin over timber where she finished second, staying on well. That was her first run in more than a year and she can step up for the outing although likely needs a fair bit more against more experienced rivals.

Cheltenham Festival day four tips

Triumph Hurdle

Nicky Henderson is no stranger to success in this race but the Seven Barrows maestro has no stand-out candidates for the 2021 renewal of the Cheltenham Festival day four opener where Irish trainer Gordon Elliott boasts a very strong hand.

Henderson’s big hope may lie with HEROSS DU SEUIL who has had just one run for the yard following his switch from France, but he made that appearance a winning one with a ten lengths’ victory over Her Indoors at Kempton over Christmas where he looked a smart prospect although it is debatable whether he’d have won had Honneur D’Ajonc not crashed out at the last when holding a slender lead.

The Rail Link gelding is sure to progress with that experience under his belt but he’ll need some significant improvement if he’s to deny a powerful Irish challenge although the yard knows what it takes to win this race and his presence amongst the entries suggests he has plenty more to come.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Having stormed up the hill in last season’s RSA Chase it was perhaps the obvious choice for Henderson to target the Cheltenham Gold Gup with CHAMP who should relish the even stiffer test of stamina.

Runner-up to City Island in the 2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle he won an Aintree Grade One next time before switching to fences last term where he won three of his four starts with his only mishap coming when falling in the Dipper Novices’ Chase while clear.

He looked beaten in the RSA Chase when last seen but he flew up up the hill to deny Minella Indo and a wind operation in the interim might unlock further improvement although it is a slight worry he hasn’t been seen since. A warm-up run in the Game Spirit Chase over two miles has been touted as a prep run and given the good record of past RSA Chase winners in the Gold Cup he has to be respected if lining up.

Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase

The newest race on the Cheltenham Festival schedule and Henderson could send his DAME DE COMPAGNIE into battle in the Festival’s penultimate race.

The Lucarno mare took the Coral Cup twelve months ago and she delivered a debut chase success at Ayr in January before unseating her rider in the recent Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase although she was badly hampered by the fall of Hitman so perhaps can’t be judged too harshly on that mishap.

She could do better back at Cheltenham where she is 3-5 at the track albeit over hurdles but there’s likely better to come from her as a chaser and she could make her presence felt.