Nicky Henderson: My Festival team
Nicky Henderson talks us through his team for the Cheltenham Festival including Bobs Worth and My Tent Or Yours.
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Everything's gone well and he was very good in Ireland in the Lexus. Coming off the back of that it was exactly what we wanted, when we wanted and he's a great character. He hasn't got the greatest constitution, but he tries and tries and tries and he loves what he does. He'd die for you and that's his strength, there's nothing flashy about him. Sprinter is this gorgeous, flashy horse that shows off all the time. Bob just gets on with it and he's very genuine and honest, with talent. And he loves coming up that hill. It is a hard race to win and to do it twice you've got to be at the top of your game for two years and there's always young horses coming along. This year it looks much the same line-up without one or two, but Silviniaco Conti, who fell late last year, was definitely going to be in contention and he was our main danger and will be again. We've got a line on the Irish horses that we've beaten before, but he's the defending champion and he's going to have to fight very very hard to retain his crown. He's in good form.
My Tent Or Yours
He does (compare well to his Champion Hurdlers of the past), favourably. He's got a lot of very natural talent and I think what he has done is learn how to use it better. He's been very good all year, he's won two Grade Ones already in the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle and a rather insignificant Flat race the other day that was an important part of his preparation. He was very impressive in the jumpers' bumper, winning in a very quick time and it was what we wanted. So far, touch wood, he's had an uninterrupted preparation. He's got speed, probably more than stamina and some people will say the Newcastle's and the Kempton's suit him better than Cheltenham, but I don't think that necessarily. The New One came to challenge him at Kempton and couldn't get by him, he wasn't stopping. I think good ground helps him and very slow ground would be against him. I think if you get good ground he can use his speed, but I'm not worried about stamina, I'm more worried about the other horses. It's going to be a great race and let's hope it's properly run with no incident and it's exciting. He can pull quite hard, and that's why we ran him at Kempton the other day on the Flat, just to try and take a little bit of the fizz out of him and that worked really well. Hopefully AP will get him to settle without having to hang out the back. The one thing he can do is travel well throughout a race, and though you've got the hill to fight again - Bobs Worth loves that hill, we don't know that he does - but I'm hopeful.
Kid Cassidy has stepped up a gear this year and he beat Sire De Grugy at Cheltenham, admittedly getting a fair bit of weight. Having said that it was a very good performance and entitles him to be here. After beating Sire De Grugy, where else can he go? He has to go to the Champion Chase. He hasn't just come in because Sprinter Sacre doesn't go and neither has Captain Conan.
I think he probably is a two-mile horse. We tried him over two and half, principally last year to try and keep out of Simonsig's way. We haven't run him since the Tingle Creek and he really looked as if he'd come to win the race two out and he didn't get home, but we've had a few issues and things that hopefully we've corrected. Things have gone quite well since then and though he hasn't had a race, he'll have a racecourse gallop over the weekend and if everything goes good then he comes in with a fighting chance. Sire De Grugy is now the horse to beat and this fellow has got the ability to do so.
Riverside Theatre/Hunt Ball
Hunt Ball will run in one of the handicaps, Riverside Theatre won't go to Cheltenham and we'll just have to let the Ryanair go by this year without a runner.
I think he has (got the required talents for the Supreme). Royal Boy beat him in the Tolworth, but I think he outstayed him that day. I don't think Josses Hill lacks stamina, he ran in a bumper in Ireland, and he's been very good. I think he's entitled to be one of the protagonists in the Supreme. It looks open and we're sort of watching and wondering in what Willie Mullins is up to. It seems he's got an absolute army of them, but I can only judge my own horses on what we've seen and we just hope that the Irish challenge isn't as strong as it sounds.
He's one that could be in the mix for the Supreme, he's on the periphery but is blooming at the right time. Originally the thought was to wait another year but he could run.
Royal Boy/Captain Cutter
Royal Boy will go for the Neptune, it's just whether Captain Cutter goes with him or to the Albert Bartlett. They both worked together this morning and that's just because they work well together, not because we wanted to see which one can run faster. JP (McManus) says we can go where we want with Captain Cutter, it's not dependent on anything else, and I suppose I would just prefer the Albert Bartlett at the moment, though that could change if it came up soft.
He was another one who went through a bit of a blip at the end of the winter and he ran a disappointing race last time having run a couple of good ones. There wasn't much between him and Hinterland and those other good horses. He just seems to be bouncing back a little bit at the moment. A bit of good ground and a bit of sunshine and he's in the mix. He was a genuine Champion Hurdle contender last year when he fell and the year before, so he's got the speed and the last couple of times he's jumped very well.
If you'd had a two-and-a half-mile hurdle at previous Festivals, he'd have been odds-on. Because two and a half miles around Cheltenham is what he absolutely loves. We've switched him to fences a little bit later in life than you'd possibly expect but he's jumped very well, he's won twice round Cheltenham already and he finally gets his Festival opportunity over the right trip.
I like him, very much so actually. I think he has a very realistic chance in the Festival Handicap Chase. He's a good, solid horse. He's a good horse. I don't know that he'd be the only one in the race but he'd have as good a chance as any of them.
His principal objective is the Grand National, but I've got to get a run into him before and I'm getting towards the situation where that will have to be at Cheltenham. If he goes there, let's hope he wins there, he won't get a penalty for the National so that doesn't matter, but it would be as part of a plan for the National, that's his main aim. I don't want to give him too hard a race before Aintree, so he could run in the two and a half mile handicap (Byrne Group Plate).
The National is the prime objective and as he won at Kelso last week he doesn't need to go again. At the moment that's the way we're leaning and we'll be giving the Gold Cup a miss. If you're concentrating on the Grand National you don't need three and a quarter miles in the Gold Cup beforehand in a year like this, when it's the short break.
I like his chances in the Fred Winter, he's in good form. I'm pleased with him, he's done everything right, winning his last two at Newbury. It was always the plan (the Fred Winter) so that's where we're going to go.
Royal Irish Hussar/Kentucky Hyden
Royal Irish Hussar would have to have good ground (To run in the JCB Triumph Hurdle), as much as Kentucky Hyden wants very soft ground, so whichever way it goes we'll have one chance in it, but we won't have two chances as one wants it quick and one wants it slow. They'll both probably run, but they will not win if it's on the wrong ground.
He'll run in the Coral Cup but unfortunately his Welsh Champion Hurdle second was a very expensive exercise in that he got beaten a nose in a £50,000 race, which was unlucky in the respect that he lost the race and it probably cost him the Coral as well, as he got bumped up 6lb for finishing second. It's a very hard race to win anyway but now it's almost impossible for him now he's a fully exposed horse.
Grand Annual Team
It's much the same as last year. French Opera, Anquetta and Tanks For That have all been there before and they'll go there again. Ericht is in there too but I think he'll go for the two-and-a-half-mile novices' handicap (Rewards 4 Racing Novice Handicap Chase) and I think he'd have a very good chance too if it's good ground.