Nicky Henderson has an incredibly strong team assembled for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and he guides us through his main contenders including Buveur D'Air, Altior and Might Bite.
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Buveur D'Air (2/5 Unibet Champion Hurdle)
I would like to work him at Kempton on Saturday, during racing, just to get him psyched up. He could be one of four runners for us at Cheltenham in the Unibet Champion Hurdle alongside My Tent Or Yours, Charli Parcs, and they are still keen to run Verdana Blue.
Buveur D’Air worked on Saturday and today (Tuesday) and as I say I’d like to take him to Kempton, weather permitting. I wouldn’t have minded him having a slightly harder race at Sandown last time, I just wish he’d been stretched a little more.
It’s great to see them win like that but he didn’t have to do too much and is a stuffy horse who needs plenty of work. That's why I want the racecourse gallop.
His great asset is his jumping, he's so quick it's frightening. It's precision stuff. He'll jump five hurdles before we go to the Champion Hurdle but we certainly won't be teaching him anything new.
I think he’s still improving, he's getting stronger. When he was third to Altior in the Sky Bet Supreme we knew he was a good horse and we went chasing last season, something he might do again but only after he shows he can’t win more Champion Hurdles.
We could have switched Altior back (to hurdles) last season but I was pleased with how it went for the two horses, we got it the right way round and they've stayed on their own routes.
He was very, very good at Newbury and has done nothing serious since. He had a couple of strong canters on Tuesday and won't need to go off for a racecourse gallop.
Nico (de Boinville) gave him a great ride on his return. Sam Twiston-Davies and Politologue gave us a lovely lead. We didn’t know what was going to happen. One minute we thought they’d go very quick and make it a test – then next they wouldn’t make the running at all.
I loved the way our horse dropped the bridle on ground that was plenty soft enough and was very sensible the whole way round. He raced sweetly, jumped beautifully and you couldn't write a better script.
I'm not worried about the bounce factor with him. He hadn’t been off that long, he'd been in training and done all his pre-season work. It was only when we went to gallop him that the issue surfaced. He had the core fitness.
I wasn’t sure about running at Newbury at first but when I weighed him two or three days before the race he was remarkably close to his normal racing weight. Had he been 30kg away I’d have been worried silly but he was only six or seven. It told me he wasn’t desperately unfit.
Might Bite (3/1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup)
All's well and let's hope it'll be alright on the night for Bite.
I'd like to take him to a racecourse before Cheltenham. I’d like to take him to Kempton whether it be on the grass or the all-weather. He has two more bits of work to do but is in very good form – he worked this morning and went great.
His work has been excellent – he’s a better horse at home this year than he was last – that’s not saying he’s going to be better on the racecourse.
I know everyone wants to know what will happen should he jump the last in front – after last year’s RSA Chase. This is a horse with a high cruising speed. In the King George we knew Bristol De Mai would make it and it was only a question of when Nico would ask him the question. It came earlier than I expected but it didn’t take long to say goodbye to Bristol.
Might Bite is more mature and looks more professional this season and as I say is working very well. We’re keeping him happy and the key is understanding these horses.
We don't know if he’s going to stay three-and-a-quarter miles because he’s never run over it – but in the RSA he jumped the last in front, came to a complete stand-still – and then going again. That suggests he’s going to stay pretty well.
This is a different track, a stiffer track, but I just assume he’ll stay. I see no reason why he won’t. It’s not that much further and he’s a year older and a year stronger. The better the ground, the better he’ll be.
My Tent Or Yours (9/1 Unibet Champion Hurdle)
My Tent is on old legs now but has been an absolute star and had his day in the sun in the International earlier in the season.
He’s been second in three Champion Hurdles and earned plenty of prize money. I love him to bits.
Verdana Blue (25/1 Champion Hurdle - betting without Buveur D'Air)
On good ground you never know with her. She’s no good when it’s very soft and I probably shouldn’t have run her in the Betfair Hurdle.
Her form on the track might not be up to Grade One standard but her work at home is. She travelled like the best horse in the race at Newbury and probably was, although Charli was also going very well to two out. The owners remain keen to go down the Champion Hurdle route.
Charli Parcs (33/1 Champion Hurdle - betting without Buveur D'Air)
Everyone knows how much I think of Charli and he ran well in the Gerry Feilden first time up this season. I just think he's a genuine good ground horse.
He might actually be used as a lead horse for Buveur D'Air in their gallop at Kempton but I don't expect that to be the case in a Champion Hurdle. He will have options come the Festival.
Top Notch (6/1 Ryanair Chase)
He just a little bit flat to me at Ascot, but he's absolutely fine afterwards and he looks well. He'll definitely run in the Ryanair Chase.
Apple's Shakira (5/2 JCB Triumph Hurdle)
I'm pretty sure Apple's Shakira will run in the Triumph Hurdle but I don't know for certain. We'll have to see what happens, I can't make any promises right now.
She probably doesn't know there's another racecourse in the country! She'll be happy though as she's been around Cheltenham three times.
She does nothing at home, she looks useless in the morning.
My only hope was that she was one of those and I did enquire as to what Apple's Jade was like and when they said she doesn't do a tap at home I just said 'thank you very much' and put the phone down. That's all I needed to hear.
The last time Barry jumped the second last and left her some work to do and she did it well. The further they went the better she looked and I'd love to see her on good ground.
We Have A Dream (6/1 JCB Triumph Hurdle)
He's definitely running in the Triumph so hopefully we've two quite nice chances for that.
I'd love to see him on decent ground too. He went to Musselburgh and he won but it was a last minute decision to run there. I said, look, Haydock could be bottomless, so let's go to Musselburgh.
I haven't prepared him well at all and he blew up. That's why he looked a bit messy before he picked up again and did it well. He's a lot better than that.
You could do anything tactically, he's very straightforward. I don't know how good they are compared to our previous winners but I couldn't tell you they're a brilliant bunch of juveniles all told.
Brain Power (12/1 Racing Post Arkle)
He's had his wind operated on but it was only a very minor procedure, certainly compared to Altior's.
Nothing's gone right for him really over fences, it was a bit of a disaster at Sandown as we didn't want to make the running, then we went to Ascot.
I didn't think he would go and beat Un De Sceaux but I hoped for a really good gallop. Everything was going great until he turned out of Swinley Bottom and he just choked.
He's a very talented horse. It's a hot Arkle and they're going to go a good gallop. Plenty have looked good but Brain Power wasn't far off the best of them over hurdles and believe it or not he's a very good jumper of fences.
He's quite fragile, he was racing far too soon in the Champion Hurdle last year and you just need to drop him in and go to sleep. Paul Carberry would have been brilliant for him.
Claimantakinforgan (14/1 Sky Bet Supreme)
He's really the only one we've got for the Sky Bet Supreme. He was beaten last time but we all know Musselburgh. It was a bit messy. He's a good horse and before then he'd done just about everything right, and I've seen that happen at Musselburgh before. I'm not worried about that effort really and nor was Nico.
He jumps well, he's very slick. We got beat, but it was part of his prep and it didn't come off on the day. It had rained all day Saturday and they'd raced on it then too. As it happened it wasn't very nice ground at all.
He has a lot of pace and he was fourth in the Champion Bumper last year. He's a lot better than he showed at Musselburgh, I'm certain of that. He's still in the mix.
On The Blind Side (9/2 Ballymore)
A depends how good this crow horse (Samcro) is... I watched his last victory and I'm not sure what he was beating but he did look quite impressive.
He's done nothing wrong at all. He was getting sore shins and it looked to everyone that he wanted three miles but I think he was feeling his shins at Cheltenham.
And coming downhill wasn't nice for him. He's just a big baby and he hasn't got sore shins now I can tell you. He needs a gallop but he's done very well in the past few weeks.
OK Corral (16/1 Ballymore)
He's entered in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle along with On The Blind Side and he was impressive the other day at Kempton.
Santini (7/1 Albert Bartlett)
I know straight after Cheltenham we were a little uncertain whether or not we'd run him in the Albert Bartlett but we've discussed it with the owners and we've decided let's go. So that's the plan. He's in tremendous form, he's fresh and mad so he is going to go. He'd love a bit of good ground.
Chef Des Obeaux (6/1 Albert Bartlett)
He was really impressive at Haydock the other day and he might really come into it in the Albert Bartlett if it's soft ground. He handles it extremely well so with him and Santini we look to have a good twin-pronged attack.
L'Ami Serge (10/1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle)
It'll be the Stayers' Hurdle for him, that's been his maiden target ever since he won the French Champion Hurdle last year. He was second in the Long Walk, then we switched him. We just figured he was 7lb or so lower over fences so we put him in the Sky Bet Chase and with a clear run he probably would have won.
But he just didn't get a great sail up the straight. He has to go left-handed.
Thomas Campbell (16/1 Pertemps Final)
He is entered in the Stayers' but he's also going to be in the Pertemps Final and I admit that he's just at the moment a level below Grade One. So he'll probably run in the handicap.
Kayf Grace (16/1 Coral Cup)
She is a really nice mare and we fancied her last season for the novice race. It didn't happen for her in the Betfair Hurdle last month but she's hugely talented and we could look to step her up to two and a half miles in something like the Coral Cup. Better ground would definitely help her.
Dame De Compagnie (16/1 Trull House Mares' Hurdle)
I was quite pleased with her the other day, she travelled like the best horse for a very long way.
Countister (8/1 Trull House Mares' Hurdle)
Like Dame De Compagnie she's a bit better than she's shown so far and I like both of them. They could both run in the Trull House Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
Diese Des Bieffes (12/1 Martin Pipe)
I think I've got 12 horses entered in the Martin Pipe and only 24 can run so theoretically I could have half the field! That won't happen but this fella could be one of my main ones for the race. He'll get in the race at least.
O O Seven (16/1 Ultima Handicap Chase)
He will run over three miles in the Ultima Handicap Chase. He'll go three miles, I want see whether he does properly stay as I want to know whether to run him in the Topham again or the Grand National. The better the ground the better.
I thought he ran a very good race that day and he's a very good jumper.
Gold Present (10/1 Ultima Handicap Chase)
He had a bruised foot and couldn't run at Ascot last weekend but he's fine and might run this Saturday. If that happened to go well then he'd miss Cheltenham and go straight for the Grand National.
Terrefort (10/1 JLT Novices' Chase)
We were thinking possibly not going as he's only five but he looks pretty smart and would likely to be part of the team if it was on the soft side. We're inclined to leave him out unless it comes up soft but he's very smart.