2019/20 National Hunt horses to follow – Five Nicky Henderson horses to track this term
Our expert takes a look through Nicky Henderson’s yard and highlights five horses who are well worth tracking during the 2019/20 National Hunt season.
Nicky Henderson’s quest to claim a third-straight Champion Trainer title came up just short in 2018/19. Although he saddled a few more winners than his old adversary, Paul Nicholls managed to rake in almost half-a-million more in prize money to wrestle the Champion Trainer trophy away from the master of Seven Barrows.
Henderson will be confident he can turn the tables on his rival in the title race this term and his squad will again be led by Altior, who looks set to step up beyond two miles for the first time and target the King George at Kempton. Buveur D’Air made up for his fall at Cheltenham with a Grade One win at Punchestown and will be out to make amends when the Festival rolls around. Champ had to settle for second in the Ballymore in March, but he’s strengthened up again over the summer and will be pointed towards a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019/20.
Here are five talented horses who could shine during the upcoming National Hunt season and help their trainer, Nicky Henderson regain the Champion Trainer crown.
Nicky Henderson Horses To Follow
This impressive son of Yeats ran twice as a point-to-pointer, unseating his rider at the last fence on debut when cruising to a comfortable victory over Monkfish, now trained by Willie Mullins. Chantry House righted that wrong last December, fighting hard for a narrow win under Jamie Codd and was subsequently sold to JP McManus for almost £300k at the Cheltenham sale later that month.
Nicky Henderson managed to get his new recruit out just once last season and Chantry House made an excellent impression at Warwick. Backed into 8/13 favouritism on the day, Barry Geraghty gave the four-year-old a confident ride, cantering into contention down the home straight before forging clear without really breaking a sweat.
Chantry House didn’t look short of pace that day and will likely start off over two miles when he starts out over hurdles during the autumn. Yeats’ progeny often progress when stepped up in trip and I’d be surprised if Chantry House didn’t arrive at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as a live contender in either the Ballymore or the Albert Bartlett.
A couple of bloodless victories in novice races forced Nicky Henderson’s hand in the spring and the Seven Barrow’s maestro threw Precious Cargo into the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. That proved to be a step too far for this son of Yeats, who never looked comfortable on his Grade One debut, eventually finishing with just one of his six rivals behind him.
Before the race, Precious Cargo turned plenty of heads as he trotted around the paddock. He’s a typical Nicky Henderson youngster – a rangy, handsome, brute of a horse, who will improve no-end with another summer on his back as he fills out into his impressive frame.
Anything Precious Cargo achieved over hurdles was a bonus, as he’s built to jump the larger obstacles. Like Chantry House, I’d be surprised if he remained over two miles for too long when he returns to action and he could shape up into a prime challenger for the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown, or even the Kauto Star at Kempton, as he seemed to enjoy the challenges posed by those sharp tracks last season.
After arriving at Seven Barrows from France at the start of the season, Nicky Henderson forced Janika to carry top-weight in four hugely competitive handicaps. Although he failed to win, Janika acquitted himself wonderfully in all four outings and he will surely be stepped up into open company during the 2019/20 campaign.
Only weight stopped Janika beating Siruh Du Lac on Trials Day at Cheltenham and Henderson’s charge had to settle for second behind that same rival in the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival. Daryl Jacob’s mount then handled the Grand National fences perfectly well in the Becher, only to find himself a little too far back as Cadmium set sail for home approaching the elbow.
I’m adamant Janika wouldn’t have looked out of place had he taken part in the Ryanair at Cheltenham and that’s the race he could be pointed at this season. However, I see no reason why Henderson’s chaser will not stay three miles when he’s returns and, at the age of just six, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of progression left in Janika’s tank. He could even be a Gold Cup horse.
Nicky Henderson threw this French recruit in at the deep-end last autumn, running Never Adapt in the Grade Two Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle on her first start on British soil. A ten-length winner on her only start in France, all eyes were on Barry Geraghty as he guided the three-year-old into battle. However, things didn’t go smoothly right from the off.
As soon as the starter dropped his flag, Never Adapt carted her way to the front and had opened up a clear lead after just three obstacles. The front-runner was then swamped by the field turning from home and seemed to be fading. Yet, Geraghty’s mount found a second-wind from somewhere, staying on eye-catchingly to claim third behind Quel Destin.
Sadly, Never Adapt sustained a leg injury that day and was ruled out for the rest of the season. She’s now had a year to iron out the juvenile antics she displayed at Cheltenham and is sure to be a big player on the Mares’ Hurdle scene when she returns to action.
Nicky Henderson and his team were forced to part with £400k to snap up My Whirlwind at the sales staged during the Cheltenham Festival. That fee is the biggest any National Hunt mare has ever fetched at a sales event, so it’s clear Henderson has high hopes for what this daughter of Stowaway will achieve when she gets her career under rules underway.