Champion trainer Nicky Henderson is looking ahead to the National Hunt season and he's outlined plans for some of his stable stars, including £1million bonus-hunting Might Bite.
Oli Bell caught up with Seven Barrows maestro Nicky Henderson at a 'Racing to Cricket' charity event at Wormsley Estate, where the trainer outlined plans for some of his stable stars...
On the start of the National Hunt season...
We're just getting to the time when they’re into work and the build-up is going to plan.
We’ve a lovely bunch of horses, a great bunch of owners and great staff. The top horses are in great shape and I think there’s a lot of potential to back them up. So it’s really exciting.
We actually had quite a good summer, a few winners here and there, totting up a few runs which is nice.
It’s a bit like last year as you know where you’re going to go with the three star horses and they’re the ones that are going to have to stand up again.
MIGHT BITE (5/1 with Sky Bet for Gold Cup)
We protected him at the beginning of last year. As we saw him in the RSA Chase the previous year, people were just a little bit worried about his mind was quite where it should be.
So we gave him an easier start in that Intermediate race at Sandown, rather than thinking about Haydock or anything like that. As the King George was the project and it’s still very much the first major project again.
Now this time we have to down the £1million bonus road, so we’ll aim to go for the Betfair Chase first and if you win that then you’re immediately the only man standing, so it’s obvious you’ve got to try and he’s grown up enough now.
He was pretty grown up all last season and I thought he was great in the Gold Cup. I wouldn’t say that the ground beat him but a better horse on the ground beat him.
I just thought it was fantastic at Aintree, he was the one horse that came back from Cheltenham that did have quite a hard race. And he came and put up an immaculate performance and I thought he was brilliant that day.
ALTIOR (5/4 with Sky Bet for Champion Chase)
Last year things went wrong in that we had to stop because he had a wind problem so he didn’t get to the Tingle Creek, or Christmas. But we managed to get the Game Spirit in before the Champion Chase and then the Celebration at Sandown.
So I would hope this year that we could start in the Tingle Creek.
The breathing operation was an extraordinary thing. He’d finished the previous season and we never heard a murmur, it was only the first bit of work we did with him, we heard a little noise. We confirmed it later after they'd scoped him and he was in with the vet the next day.
He's already one thing that Sprinter (Sacre) didn't do and that’s unbeaten over obstacles – hurdles and fences. Sprinter was third in the Supreme, AP (McCoy) rode him and got off and said to get his wind done. So his wind (operation) was done then.
Altior is going to get beaten one day, we know that.
But watching him run you always know it’s there, Nico (De Boinville) knows it’s there, he’s learned to race really relaxed and comfortable. And he’s gone to sleep, which is good, but you’ve got to wake him up.
At some stage I’d love to go further with him but why go further when you don’t have to. What’s the advantage of stepping him up and going for the Ryanair?
If the King George was entered tomorrow then I’d ring the owner and say ‘shall we put him in?’ but then, on the other hand, we’re lucky enough to have Might Bite anyway.
Each year you get new horses coming into each category and into Altior’s it looks like Footpad who is coming in as a real danger but I hope they might stay in Ireland for a bit.
BUVEUR D'AIR (5/2 with Sky Bet for Champion Hurdle)
He's obviously going straight down the Champion Hurdle route again and will most likely start with the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle.
And then the Champion, where I hope it’ll be the same there as well!
We don’t know what Willie (Mullins) will send over but dangers will emerge to Buveur D’Air this year.
WE HAVE A DREAM (16/1 with Sky Bet for Champion Hurdle)
I think on paper he comes out as the top four-year-old from last year and the only sadness really was that he had to miss Cheltenham.
He literally came down with a temperature two days before. Luckily he threw it off and was back in time for Aintree and was very impressive.
The Irish didn’t come to Aintree as Willie and Gordon (Elliott) were having their own battle over there. But We Have A Dream did nothing wrong, but for get a cough before the Festival.
We ran him at Warwick first time and didn’t really know what to expect but was very pleasantly surprised. And he just went on and on the whole way.
He could be anything. But don’t forget these four-year-olds tend to have a very difficult second season.