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Alan King profile, winning festival record and his thoughts on his 2012 festival runners

ALAN KING

           

Born into a farming family in Lanarkshire on December 13, 1966, Alan was a member of a local pony club and also competed on the show jumping circuit before joining David Nicholson in Gloucestershire as an amateur jockey in 1985, having previously worked for John Wilson in hisnative Scotland. 

He managed to finish third in a couple of hunter chases, but soon realised that race riding was not for him and served as assistant for 15 years to Nicholson, from whom he took over the licence at Jackdaws Castle stables near Temple Guiting on December 3, 1999. 

He only had to wait until the following day for Mini Moo Min to provide him with a first success at Towcester. In that rookie season, Alan also saddled Relkeel to take a third Bula Hurdle (now the StanJames.com International) at Cheltenham a week after breaking his duck and the following weekend captured  the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot with Anzum, who formed part of a four-timer. He also sent out Go Ballistic to finish second behind See More Business in the King George VI Chase at Kempton. 

Alan was based at Jackdaws Castle, then owned by Colin Smith, until the end of that 1999/2000 season, when he moved (June 1, 2000) to the Barbury Castle estate near Marlborough, Wiltshire, which was bought by one of his principal owners, Nigel Bunter, and the trainer has since gone from strength to strength from that base. 

Horses of the calibre of Stromness, winner of the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2002, Spendid, victorious in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Ascot the same year, and 2004 Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle victor Crystal D’Ainay helped to cement Alan’s position as one of the most talented and successful trainers in Britain. He gained 66 successes during the 2004/05 season and came within three of that total the following term. A memorable campaign in terms of both numbers and quality in the 2006/07 season saw him end the term with 92 winners, while there was another significant leap forward in 2007/08 when 128 successes were seen. 

Alan’s first win at The Festival came in 2004, when Fork Lightning won the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase and the following year the trainer landed the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Penzance. 

The 2006 Cheltenham Festival saw Alan secure a Grade One double, as Voy Por Ustedes captured the Racing Post Arkle Chase and My Way De Solzen battled to victory in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. 

The trainer completed a Grade One three-timer over the four days at Prestbury Park in 2007. My Way De Solzen got the ball rolling when charging up the hill five lengths clear of Fair Along to give the handler back-to-back wins in the Racing Post Arkle Chase on the opening day, while Voy Por Ustedes landed the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase in fantastic style just over 24 hours later. Katchit rounded off the perfect Festival for Alan when scoring a runaway nine-length victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle on the fourth day. 

Katchit returned to The Festival in 2008 to take the Stan James Champion Hurdle, becoming the first five-year-old to triumph in the championship race for 23 years, while Nenuphar Collognes won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Charlie Huxley rode Old Benny to victory in the National Hunt Chase. 

The 2008/09 season saw Alan take third spot in the trainers’ championship for a second consecutive season, with a career-best 136 wins to his name and £1,888,035 in total prize money. Voy Por Ustedes continued to be a standard-bearer for the stable, easily landing the Grade One Ascot Chase and recording a second victory in the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree. Alan continued to enjoy remarkable success with his juvenile hurdlers as Walkon triumphed in the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle in December. 

Hopes were high for both horses at The Festival in 2009 as Voy Por Ustedes was sent off a red-hot favourite for the Ryanair Chase and Walkon headed the market for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Both horses ran gallant races in defeat with Voy Por Ustedes going down by two lengths to Imperial Commander and Walkon finding Zaynar three quarters of a length too strong in the JCB Triumph. Medermit also took the runner-up spot behind Go Native in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while Karabak chased home Mikael D’Haguenet in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. A frustrating week for the Barbury Castle stable ended on a brighter note as Oh Crick landed the final race of The Festival, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, giving Alan the 700th victory of his training career. 

A muscle enzyme problem affected many of Alan’s string at the start of the 2009/2010 campaign  and the trainer endured a frustrating campaign that saw him saddle a total of 76 British Jump winners. Notable successes included Medermit, who triumphed in the Grade Two Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock and Trenchant, successful in Fontwell’s Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle. 

Last season Alan sent out 84 winners, including his 12th at The Festival when Bensalem took the JLT Trophy Specialty Chase. Highlights so far this season include Raya Star’s victory in the Ladbroke at Ascot, while West End Rocker looks a live contender for the John Smith’s Grand National following his win in the Becher Chase at Aintree. Alan looks set for a powerful assault on The Festival once again. He has trained 62 winners so far this season (before racing on Thursday, March 1). He has also had considerable success on the Flat over the years. 

Alan married his wife Rachel in Antigua in 1998 and they have a son Henry and a daughter Georgia.

 

ALAN KING’S 12 WINNERS AT THE FESTIVAL

 

JLT Specialty Handicap Chase

2004 Fork Lightning, 2011 Bensalem

 

Racing Post Arkle Chase

2006 Voy Por Ustedes, 2007 My Way De Solzen

 

Ladbrokes World Hurdle

2006 My Way De Solzen

 

sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase

2007 Voy Por Ustedes

 

JCB Triumph Hurdle

2005 Penzance,  2007 Katchit

 

Stan James Champion Hurdle

2008 Katchit

 

Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup

2008 Old Benny

 

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

2008 Nenuphar Collognes

 

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase

2009 Oh Crick

 

ALAN KING’S ENTRIES AT THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL  

 

Tuesday, March 13 – Champion Day

William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Balder Succes, Montbazon

JLT Specialty Handicap Chase – Walkon, Hold On Julio

Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase – Bless The Wings

 

Wednesday, March 14 – Ladies Day

Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase – Iron Chancellor

Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle – Secret Edge, Bygones In Brid, Batonnier

RSA Chase – Invictus, Walkon

Coral Cup – Secret Edge, Smad Place, Sir Harry Ormesher, Batonnier

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle –  Volcan Surprise, Fire Fighter, Ardlui, Secret Edge, Vendor

Weatherbys Champion Bumper – Valdez

 

Thursday, March 15 – St Patrick’s Thursday

Jewson Novices’ Chase – Kumbeshwar, Invictus

Ryanair Chase – Medermit

Ladbrokes World Hurdle – Smad Place

Byrne Group Plate – Kumbeshwar, Bless The Wings

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Midnight Appeal

 

Friday, March 16 – Cheltenham Gold Cup Day

JCB Triumph Hurdle – Grumeti, Vendor, Ardlui, Balder Succes

Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle – Raya Star

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Lovcen

Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup – Medermit

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Torphichen, Sir Harry Ormesher, Secret Edge, Lovcen

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup – Kumbeshwar

 

ARDLUI (IRE)

4 b c Galileo (IRE) – Epping (Charnwood Forest (IRE))

Form: 313                                

Owner: Thomas Barr                

Breeder: Sunderland Holdings Ltd

 

Ardlui was smart on the Flat for trainer Henry Candy, achieving a rating of before joining Alan King for a juvenile hurdling campaign. He was a promising third to Nick Williams’ Urbain De Sivola at Newbury on November 25, before gaining a narrow success back at the Berkshire course on December 14. He returned from a short break at Doncaster on February 22, finishing third behind the progressive Eagle Rock, to whom he was conceding 7lb. Entered in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (10st 2lb) and the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 3; 1st: 1; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 2; Win & Place prize Money: £3,839

 

BALDER SUCCES (FR)

4 b g Goldneyev (USA) – Frija Eria (FR) (Kadalko (FR))

Form: 1111                  

Owner: Matersons Holdings Limited      

Breeder: Damien Bellanger &  Nicholas Bellan

 

Alan King said: “He is a different type to Grumeti as he has never run on the Flat. He won narrowly on his debut at Auteuil and we bought him then. We loved him from day one. We took it quietly and went to Plumpton where he trotted up. We stepped up to Ascotbut it cut up to three runners. He won well and went back to Ascot a fortnight ago where I hoped he would win and he didn’t just win – he completely routed them. How good a race it was, I don’t know. He is extremely straightforward to train. He has done all his winning on soft ground but again he is good-actioned horse and I see no reason why he won’t go on better ground. We are extremely lucky to have two very good four-year-olds for the Triumph Hurdle. They would be right up with the best four-year-olds I have had – nothing fazes them.” 

 

Balder Succes is one of the few juvenile hurdlers not to have run on the Flat, but he did win his sole start in France over hurdles atAuteuil in October, 2011. He was subsequently moved to Alan King’s yard and made a winning British hurdling debut at Plumpton on January 2, before being an even more impressive winner at Ascot 19 days later. However, he pleasantly surprised his trainer on his latest start when beating some classy older rivals at Ascot on February 18 by seven lengths, putting himself firmly in line for one of the novices’ hurdles at The Festival. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 4; 1st: 4; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £41,068

 

BATONNIER (FR)

6 ch g Spadoun (FR) – La Bazine (FR) (Dreams To Reality (USA))

Form: 13552-2321                    

Owner: Raymond Mould                       

Breeder: Olivier Delegue

 

Alan King said: “A couple of years ago we though he was our best bumper horse. He won well on his debut at Fontwell. He did not follow up and it has taken a long time to get him back. He ran well at Cheltenham on January 1 and we took him back there for a Grade Two race at the end of the month. His home work on the run-up to that race was very good  and he settled well and came through to win from a horse Nicky Henderson thinks a lot of. He has got an entry in the Coral Cup but is 99 per cent to run in theNeptune. He is very much a good-ground horse and is an interesting runner.  He has got to improve again on what he has done but he is giving every indication at home that he has certainly not gone backwards. He has gained confidence.”

 

Batonnier began his career with a very impressive bumper success at Fontwell in May, 2010. He failed to win in three subsequent bumper starts before a making a promising hurdle debut at Market Rasen in March, 2011, finishing second. He continued to progress over hurdles when stepped up to around two and a half miles, finishing second at Southwell in April, third at Ascot in a novices’ handicap and second at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day again in novice company. Evidently the form of that Cheltenham run suggested Batonnier was improving rapidly and he built on that effort when a ready winner of the Grade Two Neptune Investments Management Novices’ Hurdle on Festival Trials Day, January 28, at Cheltenham. Entered in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the Coral Cup (10st 7lb).

Race Record: Starts: 9; 1st: 2; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £19,885

 

BLESS THE WINGS (IRE)

7 b g Winged Love (IRE) – Silva Venture (IRE) (Mandalus)

Form: 644/2462-121                 

Owner: Mrs Lesley Field                       

Breeder: C Kenneally

 

Alan King said: “He is a course and distance winner and an improving young horse. He has won two of his three races over fences and will probably go for the novices’ handicap chase (Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase) on the Tuesday but has the option of the Byrne Group Plate. We will leave him in both and have a word with the owners. He jumped very well at Cheltenhamat the end of January. He was probably in front a little bit soon – three out which is plenty soon enough for him – but there was carnage around and behind him. He stayed on powerfully up the hill and seems in real good order. I don’t think he minds what the ground is like.”

 

Bless The Wings was purchased at the Doncaster sales in May, 2008, for £42,000 and made his debut for Alan King in a bumper at Huntingdon in December 2009, when he finished sixth of 17. He continued his progression in bumpers at Market Rasen and Newbury, finishing fourth on both occasions, but improved for the switch to hurdles when flashing home to finish second at Wetherby over two and a half miles in November, 2010. He returned from a short absence in February, 2011 at Leicester, but didn’t appear to enjoy soft ground there or next time out at Newbury over three miles. He made a successful start to his chase career in a novices’ handicap chase at Exeter on November 20, before finishing second at Kempton over Christmas. He won on his latest start at Cheltenham in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase on Festival Trials Day (January 28) by two and a half lengths. Entered in the Pulteney LandInvestments Novices’ Handicap Chase (11st 10lb) and the Byrne Group Plate (10st 4lb).

Race Record: Starts: 10; 1st: 2; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 0; Wins & Place Prize Money: £23,378

 

FIRE FIGHTER (IRE)

4 b g Tiger Hill (IRE) – Firecrest (IRE) (Darshaan )

Form: 312                    

Owner: Matersons Holdings Limited      

Breeder: Airlie Stud And Sir Thomas Pilkington

 

Alan King said: “He is a bit of a lad and we decided not to bring him over to show you this morning because he would cause havoc. He won at Warwick before just being beaten at Sandown the other day. He is a second string to our bow in the Fred Winter. He will probably be fitted with blinkers in the Fred Winter. He is thoroughly genuine but they will just make him focus.”

 

Fire Fighter, a 90-rated performer on the Flat for trainer Sir Mark Prescott, was purchased at Tattersalls for 75,000 guineas in October last year and sent to Alan King. He made his debut at Sandown on January 7 and ran an encouraging race to only get beaten half a length into third. He turned out again three weeks later and won comfortably at Warwick before returning to Sandown to go down by a neck to Kapga De Cerisy on February 17. Entered in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (10st 3lb)

Race Record: Starts: 3; 1st: 1;  2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Wins & Place Prize Money: £3,774

 

GRUMETI

4 b g Sakhee (USA) – Tetravella (IRE) (Groom Dancer (USA)

Form: 1F11                              

Owner: McNeill Family                          

Breeder: Catridge Farm Stud Ltd

 

Alan King said: “He won well at Kempton on Saturday – I was not sure whether to give him another run or not but he seemed to be in such good form at home that I just thought it would be good for Choc (Thornton) to have a feel of him.  We decided to take on the older horses rather than run in the Adonis as on paper it looked the easier race. He jumped extremely fluently and accurately and quickened up. He has come out of the race in grand form. He will go on any going but I think good ground does suit him as he has plenty of toe. At the Cheltenham in January the dead ground blunted him a bit. He has done very little wrong and it is unfortunate that he slipped up on his second start after jumping the hurdle pretty well. He is extremely straightforward and a pleasure to train.”

 

Grumeti won twice on the Flat for trainer Michael Bell prior to being sold for £100,000 at Tattersalls in October, 2011. He made his debut for Alan King in a novices’ hurdle at Taunton on December 30, when he won impressively by 14 lengths from subsequent winner Ted Spread. After an unlucky fall at Newbury on January 18, he lined up 10 days later in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial atCheltenham and despite finishing runner-up by a short-head to Pearl Swan was awarded the race by the stewards as he was suffered interference during their struggle to the line. The son of Sakhee achieved a third success when a ready winner of the Grade Two Dovecote Novices’s Hurdle at Kempton on February 25. Entered in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 4; 1st: 3; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 0; Wins & Place Prize Money: £29,790

 

HOLD ON JULIO (IRE)

9 br g Blueprint (IRE) – Eileens Native (IRE) (Be My Native (USA))

Form: PP/1-11                         

Owner: Mr & Mrs F Bell, N Farrell, A Marsh        

Breeder: John Goodwin

 

Alan King said: “Hold On Julio will run in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase. He was bought last season at Doncaster Sales when he was a Northern point-to-pointer and hunter chaser. We didn’t realise what we had until we started working him in the autumn – everybody who sat on him in September and October thought he was a very nice horse. He duly trotted up on his debut for us at Sandown and followed up again at the same course despite making one or two fairly serious errors. He did not meet the railway fences in a good stride and gave one or two of them a nudge. We did have a hold-up at the end of January. He should have gone toDoncaster (Sky Bet Chase) but he had a discharge two days before and a cough for a fortnight. We are just getting him back. He worked very well yesterday but there wasn’t time to send him to Kempton (Racing Plus Chase) last weekend so the logical plan was to wait and go straight to Cheltenham. In the past, this race has been a fairly lucky race for us (2004 Fork Lightning and 2011 Bensalem).”

 

Hold On Julio started his career in novices’ hurdles at Kelso and Ayr in 2008 for trainer Vicky Simpson, but was pulled up on both occasions. He returned to Kelso in a hunter chase in April, 2011, winning by 28 lengths prior to being purchased by Alan King for £28,000 at Doncaster sales in May. He made his debut for yard in a three-mile handicap chase at Sandown on November 5, when he trounced the opposition, but unfortunately a bout of ringworm prevented him from running for two months. He returned to Sandown in even better form on January 7, taking apart a good quality field to score by nine lengths. He is entered in the JLT Specialty Chase (10st 11lb).

Race Record: Starts: 5; 1st: 3; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 0; Win & Place Prize Money: £40,035

 

 

INVICTUS (IRE)

6 b g Flemensfirth (USA) – Clashwilliam Girl (IRE) (Seymour Hicks (FR)

Form: 4U301-1131                    

Owner: Richard & Lizzie Kelvin Hughes

Breeder: J O’Connell

 

Alan King said: “It looks as though he will head to the RSA. He was a reasonably good novice hurdler last season but he has made rapid progress since he saw a fence. He did win an Irish point-to-point before we bought him and we started him off in a novice handicap chase at Hereford in which he was very impressive. He really stepped up on that again when winning at Plumpton. There was a horse of Gigginstown’s that came over for that and we gave him a pretty good thrashing. He had a hiccup when beaten at Cheltenham in January – he lost his near-fore shoe pretty early according to Wayne and was quite sore on that foot afterwards. I though he was probably minding himself a little bit. We gave him a bit if time to get over that and he reappeared at Ascot the other weekend when he was the very impressive winner of the Reynoldstown – always jumping and travelling well. One or two people think Bobs Worth will turn the tables but I would be surprised if he does. Invictus is a real exciting horse. He will go an any ground but for a big horse he acts well on good ground.”

 

Winning Irish point-to-pointer Invictus joined Alan King after being purchased for £162,000 at Brightwells sale at Cheltenham in April, 2010. In five hurdles starts from January, 2011, to April, 2011, his best performance was at Ascot on April 10, when he won narrowly by a short-head. His chasing career, however, got off to a much better start with an easy victory at Hereford on November 17, before an impressive display at Plumpton which saw him readily dispatch of Irish raider Gift Of Dgab, who was subsequently placed in a Grade One in Ireland. He disappointed at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when third, but continued on his upward curve with an authoritative success in the Grade Two Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on February 18, which was his first attempt at three miles. He is entered in the RSA Chase and the Jewson Novices’ Chase.

Race Record: Start: 9; 1st: 4; 2nd: 0; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £32,207

 

IRON CHANCELLOR (IRE)

7 b g Alderbrook – Masriyna (IRE) (Shahrastani (USA))

Form: 322-33314                      

Owner: Lesley Field,J Sigler & D Anderson       

Breeder: G O’Neill

 

Alan King said: “He is heading to the four-miler (the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase) on the Wednesday. He has been placed in all his starts over fences this season and trotted up in a very weak race at Southwell two runs back. I was desperate to get one more run into him before Cheltenham. He has to go left-handed and the only place I could find was Fakenham. He did not handle the track at all – it is a tight mile around and he was totally taken off his feet but he did stay on powerfully at the end to go past quite a few horses. I don’t think the trip will be an issue. He might not have the class but I like to think he will be staying on towards the finish.”

 

KUMBESHWAR

5 b g Doyen (IRE) – Camp Fire (IRE) (Lahib (USA))

Form: 13322-28012122 

Owner: McNeill Family & Nigel Bunter               

Breeder: G E Amey

 

Alan King said: “He is a good, tough horse who was just beaten in the Fred Winter under top-weight last year. He is running well over fences this season, winning two and finishing second in several Graded races. He clearly was not going to be good enough for the Arkle so we took him out of that and he has got entries in three races. It is pretty certain he will run in the Grand Annual – a fast-run two miles is what he wants. We may pop blinkers on him. He did wear them on the Flat with David Evans and they may sharpen him. The Grand Annual looks like it will be dominated by novices. He has 10st 8lb – he is a good tough horse and has just had a little break since Doncaster. We had been fairly hard on him and had run him three times in just over a fortnight. He worked great yesterday and nothing will faze him. Groundwise, he is very adaptable again.”

 

Kumbeshwar won three of his 12 starts on the Flat for trainer David Evans and gave his sire Doyen a first success when taking a seven-furlong Chester maiden in September, 2009. He was purchased by Max McNeill and Nigel Bunter after completing a hat-trick of Southwell victories in December, 2010, and made a winning debut for Alan King when staying on well to take a juvenile hurdle at Sandown two months later. He followed up that victory with a pair of third places – in the Victor Ludorum Hurdle Juvenile at Haydock and the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton – prior to going down by a neck to What A Charm in the Grade Three Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at last year’s Festival. He continued to impress with two subsequent seconds in Grade One company, finding Zarkandar a length and a quarter too strong in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree and going down by nine lengths to Grandouet in the Punchestown 4YO Champion Hurdle. Kumbeshwar had two more starts over the smaller obstacles, disappointing in both a Listed handicap hurdle at Ascot in October and the Grade Three Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open meeting the following month, but made an impressive debut over fences with a decisive victory in a Hereford novices’ chase at the end of November. After coming home second behind Zaynar in a Grade Two novices’ chase at Ascot’s Christmas Meeting, Kumbeshwar regained the winning thread with an easy all-the-way success at Plumpton on January 2. He has finished second on his two most recent starts – in a Kempton novices’ chase on January 14 and the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on January 28. He holds entries at The Festival in the Jewson Novices’ Chase, the Byrne Group Plate (10st 9lb) and the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (10st 8lb). Jump Race Record: Starts: 13; 1st: 3; 2nd: 6; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £79,914

 

LOVCEN (GER)

7 b g Tiger Hill (IRE) – Lady Hawk (GER) (Grand Lodge (USA))

Form: 41F1                              

Owner: The Barbury Apes                     

Breeder: Georg Baron Von Ullmann      

 

Alan King said: “He has won two of his four starts this year. He only got to the second hurdle at Doncaster which is extremely unlike him. He won at Wincanton last Saturday over two miles and six furlongs in a handicap and was pretty impressive. He went up 12lb for that and I think he will almost certainly run in the Albert Bartlett. He probably wants three miles and is the most laid-back of horses. He won’t mind the ground and will be staying on at the finish.”

 

Lovcen, a winning Irish point-to-point winner, joined Alan King during the summer of 2011 and made his debut for the yard in a novices’ hurdle at Exeter over two miles and six furlongs on November 1, when he finished fourth. He improved significantly for that run when winning by 17 lengths at Towcester on November 26, but failed to get further than the second hurdle when stepped up in trip in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in January. Lovcen won on his first attempt in handicap company by six lengths at Wincanton on February 18. He is entered in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (11st 9lb).

Race Record: Starts: 4; 1st: 2;  2nd: 0; 3rd: 0; Win & Place Prize Money: £9,431

 

MEDERMIT (FR)

8 gr g Medaaly – Miss D´Hermite (FR) (Solicitor (FR))

Form: 23/121125/33174/1R12142-1322  

Owner: The Dunkley & Reilly Partnership           

Breeder: Philippe Gasdoue

 

Alan King said: “He has enjoyed a grand season. He won the Haldon Gold Cup and has been placed on every run since. He ran a smashing race the other day at Ascot when just beaten by Riverside Theatre. I don’t know whether he will run in the Ryanair or the Gold Cup. Every day I wake up, I have a different idea about where he should run. I am certain he will stay three miles but whether he will get three and a quarter in a Gold Cup is going to be a big question, especially as there looks to be a huge amount of pace in the race this year. He is in good order and worked very well yesterday. We will see which way the owners want to go. I am fairly relaxed about it. I wish they would make the decision but they want me to.”

 

Medermit made three appearances in his native France, winning a maiden hurdle at Nantes in May, 2008, on his final start, prior to joining the King stable for the 2008/09 season. He made his debut for his new connections in a novice hurdle at Exeter in November, 2008, coming home a 13-length second to the Paul Nicholls-trained Mahonia, to whom he was conceding 10lb. He built on that effort when comfortably taking a novice hurdle at Folkestone two weeks later and continued to improve on his next appearance, capturing the Grade Two Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot the following month. Sent off a 12/1 chance for the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2009, Medermit produced a career-best performance to go down by a neck to Go Native, despite being hampered by Cousin Vinny at the final flight. Medermit ended the campaign with a slightly disappointing effort in the Grade Two Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, when he came home fifth behind Noble Alan. Connections were considering giving Medermit a chasing campaign for the 2009/2010 season and intended one final run over the smaller obstacles in the Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open meeting in November. Burdened with top-weight, Medermit bounced back to form with a fine third, going down by three lengths to the winner Khyber Kim, who was receiving 3lb. Both horses re-opposed on level weights at Cheltenham the following month and Medermit was once again beaten by Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse as he came home third. Medermit headed to The Festival in 2010 as a live contender for the Stan James Champion Hurdle following a four-length success in the Grade Two Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock and he ran a creditable race to finish seventh behind Binocular. He ended his campaign at Punchestown, coming home fourth behind Hurricane Fly in the Grade One Rabobank Champion Hurdle. Medermit was sent chasing last season and he made an impressive start over fence when comfortably winning a three-runner novices’ chase at Aintree in October. He blotted his copybook on his next appearance in another novices’ chase at Huntingdon the following month when refusing at the sixth fence but returned to winning ways at Plumpton in December, 2010, as he posted an easy success. Medermit stepped up to two miles and five furlongs for the first time of his career in the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day 2011 and he produced another proficient display of jumping when going down by three quarters of a length to Hell’s Bay. He continued his rise through the ranks as he lined up for the Grade One Challengers Novices’ Chase over an extended two and a half miles at Sandown in February, 2011 as he repelled the late challenge of Captain Chris to prevail by half a length. But the Philip Hobbs-trained chaser turned the tables at The Festival as he powered to an impressive victory in the Grade One Racing Post Arkle Chase, with Medermit only able to finish fourth. Medermit also had to play second fiddle to another of Hobbs’ chasers at Aintree, this time finding Wishfull Thinking 10 lengths too strong in the Grade Two Manifesto Chase over two and a half miles. He kicked off the current season with a game victory in the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on November 1 and stayed on to take third behind Master Minded and Somersby in the Grade Two Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot 19 days later. Medermit returned to handicap company for the Grade Three Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup (run over the same course and distance as the Ryanair Chase) atCheltenham on December 10 and ran an excellent race in defeat as he went down by three quarters of a length to Quantitativeeasing despite being hampered three fences from home. He stepped back up to Grade One company for the Betfair Ascot Chase on February 18 and he once again ran superbly in defeat when chasing home Riverside Theatre. Both horses could meet again in the Grade One Ryanair Chase although Medermit also has the option of stepping up to beyond three miles for the first time in his career in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Race Record: Starts: 24; 1st: 8; 2nd: 7; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £271,044

 

MIDNIGHT APPEAL

7 b g Midnight Legend – Lac Marmot (FR) (Marju (IRE))

Form: 3/74777/81111-2321                    

Owner: David Sewell                            

Breeder: William Wilkinson

 

Alan King said: “This horse only came into our Cheltenham team last week. He was an impressive winner at Sandown  and he is going the Kim Muir route. He wasn’t even sighted in a hurdle race let alone won one but he has been successful five times out of eight over fences and placed on every other occasion. We popped a pair of blinkers on him  at Sandown and it seemed to transform him. He jumped and travelled very smoothly and was pretty impressive at the end. I think he is up to 136 or 137 so he has made quite amazing progress in the last year as he won his first race off a rating in the high 90s. He won’t mind good ground and will be ridden by Robbie Henderson.”

 

Midnight Appeal failed to get off the mark in seven starts in bumpers and over hurdles, but he has been transformed since going chasing. The seven-year-old won on  his chasing debut at Huntingdon in handicap (February 11, 2011), and subsequently took three more races at Wincanton, Newton Abbot and Bangor. He started this season off in good form when finishing second to Roudoudou Ville in a Sandown handicap chase on November 5, before coming third behind Qianshan Leader at Kempton 16 days later. He returned to Kempton over Christmas and finished second to Fruity O’Rooney before getting another victory on the board at Sandown over three miles on February 17. He is entered in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (11st 4lb).

Race Record: Starts: 15; Wins: 5;  2nd: 2; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £27,210

 

MONTBAZON (FR)

5 b/br g  Alberto Giacometti (IRE) – Duchesse Pierji (FR) (Cadoudal (FR))

Form: 212-3211                        

Owner: David Sewell                            

Breeder: Pierre Julienne

 

Alan King said: “He is heading for the Supreme Novice on the Tuesday. He was a high-class bumper horse last year. He has won his last two races. He had a confidence-booster at Plumpton and then he won well at Newbury. He had just come to take it up there when Colour Squadron fell. I think he is learning all the time and the more experience he gets the better. He worked very well yesterday and he is certainly a horse who wouldn’t mind the good ground which is forecast. There is very little rain forecast forCheltenham.”

 

Montbazon was purchased at Doncaster in May, 2010, for £28,000 and made his debut for the yard at Kempton on February 11, 2011, when he finished second behind subsequent Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian. He improved for that outing when running away with the DBS Spring Sales Bumper on March 5, before finishing second to Steps To Freedom in a Grade Two contest at Aintree. He returned this season with a solid effort in a Listed bumper at The Open in November, before finding subsequent Grade One placed Colour Squadron too good on his hurdling debut at Newbury. Montbazon then won very impressively at Plumpton in January before beating a top-quality field at Newbury that included Vulcanite and Colour Squadron on February 17. He is entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 7; Wins: 3;  2nd: 3; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £48,607

 

RAYA STAR (IRE)

6 b g Milan – Garden City (IRE) (Shernazar)

Form: 1/2F1F4-21313                            Owner: Simon Munir                    Breeder: Patrick Fennessy

Alan King said: “He has enjoyed a very good season. He ran well in the Gerry Fielden and then won the Ladbroke at Ascot before Christmas We gave him a break after that and he ran another sound race at Newbury 10 days ago when third. He keeps creeping up the weights – he went up 3lb for that. He only has the one entry – in the County Hurdle – we did think about two and a half miles but rather than confuse the issue did not enter him for anything else. I think the stiff track at Cheltenham will help him. The surprising thing in both the big handicaps we have run him in this season has been the lack of pace. I am sure he wants a strong-run race and feel the hill will suit. He might not be handicapped to win a County Hurdle but I would be disappointed if he was not in with a shout going to the last. He was extremely highly strung but he has got better. He is one horse who has certainly benefited from earplugs which have calmed him down no end.”

 

Raya Star made a winning start to his career with a comfortable success in a Uttoxeter bumper in March, 2010. After taking second in another bumper at Bangor later the same year, he made an inauspicious debut over hurdles when falling at the penultimate flight in a novices’ hurdle at Fontwell in January, 2011. He made amends on his next start at Doncaster the following month but his jumping errors resurfaced as he fell at Kempton in March, 2011 before ending the season with a  fourth in a Hereford novices’ hurdle later the same month. Raya Star started the current campaign in May with a second in an Aintree handicap hurdle and he returned from a break to comfortably take a similar contest at Wetherby on October 28, when he conceded weight to all 11 of his rivals. He built on that effort with a fine third behind the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Rock On Ruby and Empire Levant in the Listed Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury on November 26 and posted the biggest success of his career to date with a storming success in the Listed Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on December 17. Raya Star headed back to Newbury for another lucrative handicap, the Betfair Hurdle, on February 17 and he ran another superb race to come home third behind leading Stan James Champion Hurdle contender Zarkandar and Get Me Out Of Here. Raya Star is among the leading contenders for the Grade Three Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (10st 8lb).

Race Record: Starts: 11; Wins: 4; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £112,825

 

SECRET EDGE

4 b g Tobougg (IRE) – Burton Ash (Diktat))

Form: 213133                                      

Owner: Nigel Bunter & David Anderson             

Breeder: Mrs S M Lee

 

Alan King said: “He has multiple entries. Looking at the weights yesterday, because of his weight for age allowance –  he looks pretty unlikely to get in the Martin Pipe. I would be very nervous of the two miles of the Fred Winter for him. I will have a word with Nigel (Bunter – owner) and would to love to run him somewhere at The Festival. It could well be the Neptune but we will keep our options open.”

 

Secret Edge made nine starts on the Flat for Alan King, with the highlight of a modest career on the level proving to be a game neck victory in a two-mile maiden at Goodwood in August, 2011. He took second on his hurdling debut at Chepstow in October but improved for that effort to win a Listed juvenile hurdle at Wetherby later the same month. Secret Edge then headed to Cheltenham and ran a sound race to finish third behind Hinterland and Hollow Tree in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at The Open on November 12. He appreciated a drop in class on his next start as he easily won a Fontwell juvenile hurdle on December 6 and came home third in the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on December 27. Secret Edge’s latest start also yielded a third place as he kept on in the closing stages to come home behind stable companion Batonnier and Broad Back Bob in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on Festival Trials Day, January 28, at Cheltenham. He holds four entries at the Festival – the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, the Grade Three Coral Cup (for which he has been given 9st 12lb), the Grade Three Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (10st 13lb) and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (10st 11lb).

Jump Race Record: Starts: 6; Wins: 2; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £19,857         

 

SMAD PLACE (FR)

5 gr g Smadoun (FR) – Bienna Star (FR) (Village Star (FR))

Form: 621310-12                      

Owner: Mrs Peter Andrews                               

Breeder: Eric & Maryse Aubree

 

Alan King said: “He was good juvenile hurdler last season despite the fact he was never really right and we had a lot of trouble healthwise/lungwise last year. He summered extremely well and I was pleased with him in October but then he threw a splint in October  and it took quite a while for him to come right again. His seasonal debut was delayed until Ascot in January. He went back to Ascot a fortnight ago and just failed to give Donald McCain’s horse 29lb. He has been raised again for that I cannot really see him winning a Coral Cup with 11st 12lb. If he goes to Cheltenham, he will go to the World Hurdle. It will be his first try at three miles but I think  is probably crying out for a step-up in trip. My slight concern would be  the ground if it was fast – he needs a bit of rain. He is going to be high-class novice chase prospect next season.”

 

Smad Place showed little promise in two starts on the Flat in the French provinces for his owner/trainer/breeder Eric Aubree but displayed  better form in two starts over hurdles including when chasing home Taikanous at Chateaubriant in July, 2010. He made a winning debut for Alan King in a Newbury juvenile hurdle in November 2010, as he recorded a facile 27-length success over the Paul Nicholls-trained 1/4 favourite Dolatulo. Buoyed by that victory, connections aimedSmad Place at the Grade One Coral Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in January, 2011, and he ran well to finish third behind Marsh Warbler. He readily captured a novices’ hurdle at Wincanton the following month and finished a creditable 10th, beaten 11 lengths, in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival last year. Smad Place made an impressive start to the current season as he ran on strongly to easily take the Grade Two Holloways’ Hurdle over just shy of two and a half miles at Ascot on January 21. He returned to the Berkshire course for his latest start in a handicap hurdle and ran admirably in defeat as he went down by three and a half lengths to the Donald McCain-trained Bourne, who was receiving more than two stone. Smad Place could step up to three miles for the first time in the Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle (St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15) or could take his chance in the Grade Three Coral Cup over two miles, five furlongs (Ladies Day, March 14), for which he has been allotted joint top-weight of 11st 12lb.

Jump Race Record: Starts: 8; Wins: 3; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £47,497       

 

VALDEZ

5 ch g Doyen (IRE) – Skew (Niniski (USA))

Form: 1-(1)                              

Owner: Riverdee Stable                        

Breeder: David & Julie Andrews

 

Alan King said: “He is unbeaten – two from two – and he goes to Newbury this weekend. We will see how he gets on and then he has the option of going to the Cheltenham bumper.”

 

Valdez could line up in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper following a pair of cosy victories. The Doyen gelding opened his account with a facile eight-length success over Thomas Crapper at Warwick in March, 2011 and maintained his 100 per cent record with swooping neck victory on the Polytrack of Kempton Park on February 10.

Race Record: Starts: 2; Wins: 2; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £2,944          

 

VENDOR (FR)

4 gr g Kendor (FR) – Village Rainbow (FR) (Village Star (FR))

Form: U2-F42F1                       

Owner: Thurloe 52                                            

Breeder: Marie-Therese Caron

 

Alan King said: “He is Fred Winter bound. He came from France where he had good form around Auteuil over hurdles – he never ran on the Flat. He would have been placed in a Grade One at Auteuil but for falling at the last. We have only given him the one run when he won at Newbury. He missed the last and landed very awkwardly and did well to catch the other horse – one of Venetia’s who went on to finish fourth to Grumeti. I think but for that he would not have come off the bridle. I couldn’t quite believe it when the handicapper put him in with 122 following that run and we decided not run him again – take the mark. He has gone up since standing in the stable to a mark of 129 but I would be very disappointed if he is not a whole lot better than that. His work is extremely good. He has not raced on good ground  but he is good-actioned horse and I would be surprised if he did not handle it. He might actually improve for a bit of better ground. He shows plenty of speed and I think he is an exciting prospect whatever happens at The Festival. He is a real high-class horse.”

 

Vendor heads the market for the Grade Three Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle after making an eye-catching debut victory for Alan King in a Newbury juvenile hurdle on December 31. The Kendor gelding slipped on landing after the final flight but still managed to comfortably beat Tango De Juilley by a length and a half. Vendor had previously remained a maiden in six starts over hurdles in France for his handler Emmanuel Clayeux, although he had shown a decent level of form including a clear second at Auteuil in October. He has been allotted 10st 4lb for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14 and still remains engaged in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16.

Race Record: Starts: 7; Wins: 1; 2nd: 2; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £23,021       

 

WALKON (FR)

7 gr g Take Risks (FR) – La Tirana (FR) (Akarad (FR))

Form: 121121//200-134 

Owner: McNeill Family                          

Breeder: Marquise Soledad De Moratalla

 

Alan King said: “He is being aimed at the RSA but I would be concerned with the ground with him if there was no rain. He has had problems in the past. We just have to be a little bit careful on that front. He was a high-class hurdler and  he made an excellent chasing debut at Exeter in November. He has got beaten twice around Newbury since. I just feel he is crying out for a step up in trip, hence the RSA if he does run at The Festival. I did read yesterday that he might be a horse who does not like Newbury – he has been there four times and been beaten on every occasion. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t like the place – it is a big galloping track. He is in good order.”

 

Bred by the Marquesa de Moratalla, Walkon started his career on the Flat under the care of French handler Keven Borgel, winning four of his seven starts before being purchased for the McNeill Family in the summer of 2008. He made a winning start to his hurdling career for Alan King at Huntingdon in November, 2008, and emerged as one the leading juvenile hurdlers that season, winning the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow and the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in January, 2009. After finding only Zaynar three quarters of a length too strong in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at the 2009 Festival, Walkon ended a superb first season in Britain with a stunning 13-length victory in the Grade One Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting. Walkon was forced to miss the whole of the 2009/2010 season after injuring himself in that race and he finally returned to action in the Grade Two Holloways’ Hurdle at Ascot in January, 2011, when he ran a superb race to go down by half a length to Tiger O’Toole. After such a promising run, Walkon was sent off favourite for the Grade Three totesport Trophy at Newbury the following month but he could only finish 10th in the fiercely competitive handicap hurdle. He ran a slightly better race on his final start of the 2010/2011 campaign as he came home seventh in the Grade Three Coral Cup at the Festival. Walkon was sent chasing this season and he made a winning debut over fences when easily accounting for his 2009 Festival nemesis Zaynar in an Exeternovices’ chase on December 2. A couple of late mistakes cost Walkon any chance in a novices’ chase at Newbury on December 31 but he produced a more proficient round of jumping on his return to the Berkshire course to come home fourth in the re-arranged Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on February 17. Walkon holds an entry in the Grade One RSA Chase or he could line up in the Grade Three JLT Specialty Chase (11st 3lb) – a race Alan King has won with Fork Lightning (2004) and Bensalem (2011).

Jump Race Record: Starts: 12; Wins: 5; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £121,394

 

THE FESTIVAL 2012

 

First Day – Tuesday, March 13, 2012 (Old Course)

1.30 William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One)              2m 110y  £100,000

2.05 Racing Post Arkle Chase (Grade One)     2m  £130,000

2.40 JLT Specialty Chase (Handicap) (Grade Three)    3m 110y £75,000

3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade One)    2m 110y  £370,000

4.00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase (Handicap)  3m 7f  £40,000

4.40 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (for the David Nicholson Trophy) (Grade Two) 2m 4f £70,000

5.15 Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) 2m 4f 110y £50,000

          Total  £835,000

 

Second Day – Wednesday, March 14, 2012 (Old Course)

1.30 Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase (Amateurs)   4m  £75,000

2.05 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One) 2m 5f  £100,000

2.40 RSA Chase (Grade One)      3m 110y £130,000

3.20 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade One) 2m  £320,000

4.00 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade Three)   2m 5f  £70,000

4.40 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade Three)  2m 110y £60,000

5.15 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade One)   2m 110y £55,000

          Total  £810,000

 

Third Day – Thursday, March 15, 2012 (New Course)

1.30 Jewson Novices’ Chase (Grade Two)    2m 4f  £90,000

2.05 Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed)    3m  £70,000

2.40 Ryanair Chase (Grade One)      2m 5f  £260,000

3.20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade One)    3m   £260,000

4.00 Byrne Group Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade Three)   2m 5f  £75,000

4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateurs) 3m 1f 110y £50,000

5.15  St Patrick’s Derby (Charity Flat Race)     1m 5f  –

          Total  £805,000

 

Fourth Day – Friday, March 16, 2012 (New Course)

1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade One)      2m 1f  £100,000

2.05 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade Three)  2m 1f  £70,000

2.40 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One)    3m  £100,000

3.20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (Chase) (Grade One)   3m 2f 110y £500,000

4.00 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (Amateurs)  3m 2f 110y £35,000

4.40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle   2m 4f 110y £45,000

5.15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (Handicap) (Grade Three) 2m 110y £75,000

          Total  £925,000

TOTAL PRIZE MONEY 2012 – £3,375,000 (average of £125,000 per race)

 

I’m grateful to Racenews for the information

 

 

NJ Henderson profile, past festival winners, and comments on this year’s runners

This is the full press release from Cheltenham on the Nicky Henderson media day

                                                                 

NICKY HENDERSON

Nicky Henderson has remained at the top of his profession after almost 34 years with a training licence and he looks set to lay down his strongest challenge for the trainers’ championship in a bid to end the six-season dominance of Paul Nicholls.

Henderson was born in Lambeth, London, on December 10, 1950, and his late father Johnny founded Racecourse Holdings Trust, the Jockey Club subsidiary (and forerunner of Jockey Club Racecourses), which saved Cheltenham Racecourse and now has 14 courses under its umbrella.

He was educated at Eton and the Royal Agricultural College and spent time working for city stockbrokers Cazenove in London and Australia, where he gained experience riding work at Randwick, before devoting himself full-time to racing.

Henderson first made his name in Britain as an amateur rider, finishing runner-up three times in the non-professional championship. His main wins came on Happy Warrior in the 1977 Fox Hunters Chase at Aintree and on Acquaint in Sandown’s Imperial Cup in the same year.

His 50th win as an amateur was Strange Love at Folkestone on October 3, 1977, and his final ride was aboard the victorious Rolls Rambler in the Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford in June, 1978, his 78th success.

He had become assistant trainer to Fred Winter in 1974 and received his own training licence in July, 1978, taking over from Roger Charlton at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn. He soon established himself as one of the leading members of his profession and landed the jump trainers’ title in both 1985/6 and 1986/7.

In 1992, Henderson moved his string to Seven Barrows stables, just to the north of Lambourn, in a straight swap with fellow trainer Peter Walwyn. That same year saw him added to the royal trainers’ list with the Queen Mother sending him three horses, including New Zealand Grand National winner Nearco Bay. The Queen is still among his owners.

Henderson is the most successful current trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 39 successes and second on the all-time list, just one win behind the great Fulke Walwyn.

He enjoyed two winners at The Festival in 2011 including a first success in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, thanks to the Robert Waley-Cohen owned Long Run, who was partnered by amateur Sam Waley-Cohen.

He took the Thomas Pink leading trainer award at The Festival last in 2010 with three victories and was the most successful or joint most successful trainer also in 2000 (4); 1993 (2); 1992 (2); 1990 (2); 1987 (2); 1986 (3) and 1985 (3).

Alongside Peter Easterby, he is jointly the most successful trainer in the history of the Stan James Champion Hurdle with five wins (See You Then 1985, 1986 & 1987, Punjabi 2009 and Binocular 2010).

Henderson’s other major winners at the Cheltenham Festival include Remittance Man in the 1992 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as Rustle (1989) and Bacchanal (2000) in what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Soldatino’s victory in the 2010 JCB Triumph Hurdle was Henderson’s fifth in the race after First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999) and Zaynar (2009).

At The Festival in 2006, Henderson landed an emotional triumph in the race named to commemorate his father, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, with Greenhope.

There have been many other major Jump race successes and he has also done well on the Flat, with victories in the Betfred Cesarewitch (2003 Landing Light, 2008 Caracciola), Queen Alexandra Stakes (2009 Caracciola) and Ascot Stakes (2011 Veiled) at Royal Ascot, plus the Goodwood Stakes (2010 Ghimaar).

Mick Fitzgerald was his long-time stable jockey until retirement in 2008, when Barry Geraghty took over. Geraghty splits his time between Britain and his home in Ireland, and has continued in as successful a vein as his predecessor.

Henderson had his best ever total of 153 winners in the 2010/11 campaign, which saw Long Run develop into Britain’s best chaser, and accrued just over £2.2 million in prize money, another personal best, as he finished runner-up in the trainers’ championship (decided on prize money) for a third successive season.

He celebrated his 2,000th Jump winner when Punchestowns triumphed in a graduation chase at Kempton on February 11, 2011.

He currently lies a close second behind Paul Nicholls in the trainers’ championship, with close to £1.4 million in prize money.

This season has already yielded Grade One success courtesy of Binocular in the William Hill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, while Riverside Theatre landed a repeat victory in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase in February on his seasonal reappearance.

Grandouet collected the Grade Two StanJames.com International at Cheltenham in December, while on the same card Quantitativeeasing took the Grade Three Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup.

Finian’s Rainbow, runner-up in last year’s Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase, landed the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park, while the latest superstar on the block is Sprinter Sacre, who is still a novice but was a facile winner from seasoned rivals in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 17. Sprinter Sacre, owned by Caroline Mould, has won all three of races over fences.

Long Run was runner-up behind Kauto Star on both the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park but returned to winning ways last time out when giving 10lb to his stable companion Burton Port in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on February 17.

Henderson best seasonal tally was 153 British winners in 2010/2011, while this season he has sent out 128 scorers up to the start of racing on Tuesday, February 28.

NICKY HENDERSON’S 39 WINNERS AT THE FESTIVAL

JCB Triumph Hurdle

1985 First Bout, 1987 Alone Success, 1999 Katarino, 2009 Zaynar, 2010 Soldatino

Stan James Champion Hurdle

1985, 1986 & 1987 See You Then, 2009 Punjabi, 2010 Binocular

Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase

1991 Remittance Man, 1993 Travado, 2000 Tiutchev

sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase

1992 Remittance Man

William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

1986 River Ceiriog, 1992 Flown

Cathcart Chase

1990 Brown Windsor, 1994 Raymylette, 1999 & 2000 Stormyfairweather

Ladbrokes World Hurdle

1989 Rustle, 2000 Bacchanal

Byrne Group Plate

1985 & 1986 The Tsarevich, 2005 Liberthine, 2006 Non So

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase

1990 Master Bob, 2002 The Bushkeeper, 2005 Juveigneur

Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle

1993 Thumbs Up, 1997 Barna Boy

JLT Specialty Handicap Chase

2000 Marlborough

RSA Chase

2005 Trabolgan

Ryanair Chase

2006 Fondmort

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase

2006 Greenhope

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

2009 Andytown

 

Coral Cup

2010 Spirit River

Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup

2011 Long Run

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

2011 Bobs Worth

 

LONG RUN (FR)

7 b g Cadoudal (FR) – Libertina (FR) (Balsamo (FR))

Form: 21211113/1211113/311-221  Jockey: Robert Waley-Cohen Breeder: Marie-Christine Gabeur

Nicky Henderson said: “He did a bit of work this morning. He will have one session with Yogi (Briesner) next Wednesday and he will not see a fence between now and then. He will wear earplugs in the paddock at Cheltenhamand going to the start but he won’t wear them in the race. That was what we did at Newbury. That was the first time we had taken them out at the start. If you start in them, you have to finish in them. It is just to take the parade out if you like. Then he can have a rush of adrenalin. It was a good gallop at Newbury though not what Kauto (Star) was going at Haydock and Kempton. Haydock is a very different track to anything else at the moment – it favours speed which did not suit him. Kempton is better for him and Newbury even better than that. I don’t think there is any doubt that this is a different Kauto to the one we were playing with last season when we were two-nil up. Now it is two all so it is going to be a very interesting battle. I have a nasty feeling that public opinion will go to the old favourite and I will be sat in a little corner and be very unpopular if we happen to beat him. Last year we hoped for a great race and it was. It is building up to be the same thing this year. There is all to play for and there isn’t much between the two horses. I do think Kauto has to be better than he was last season. He was going through a little patch then and no doubt that was why there were a lot of people baying for Kauto’s retirement at the end of last season – the only thing I can say is that I wish Paul (Nicholls) had done so – it would have made life a lot easier!”

Long Run began his career with French trainer Guillaume Macaire, initially racing in the colours of breeder Marie-Christine Gabeur who, with her husband, Benoit, is based in the Mayenne region of north west France. He finished runner-up to Viotti, beaten three lengths, in a Listed hurdle at Auteuil on his career debut in May, 2008, and got off the mark later that month when defeating the smart Mr Thriller by two lengths in a Listed hurdle over two and a quarter miles at the same venue. That is when the offers started to flow in.

Long Run was beaten a length by Viotti on his next start on June 17 and on September 4 he carried the colours of Robert Waley-Cohen (after a deal brokered by Highflyer Bloodstock) for the first time when returning to the winner’s enclosure. Benoit Gicquel was the jockey for the first four starts and then David Cottin took over. The gelding won the following month’s Grade Two Prix Georges de Talhouet-Roy (an 18-furlong hurdle) by six lengths, while his first Grade One triumph came on November 9 in the Prix Cambaceres .

Long Run had a four-month break before returning to action with victory in a Grade Three hurdle in March, 2009.  Sam Waley-Cohen, the owner’s son and amateur rider, partnered the gelding for the first time on a racecourse when third in another Grade Three on April 7 which turned out to be his final start over hurdles. Cottin was back in the saddle for the first chase win on May 3 and Long Run went on to finish runner-up in the Grade One Prix Ferdinand Dufaure on May 24, going down by half a length to Rubi Ball,

The chaser returned to action in the autumn with a four-race winning streak. He took a Grade Two chase by six lengths from Rubi Ball on his seasonal debut in October and the following month again defeated the same rival in the Grade One Prix Maurice Gillois Grand Steeple Chase 4 Ans. He raced 12 times in France, on each occasion at Auteuil, the country’s main jump racing venue and his French record was eight wins, three seconds and a third.

He moved to Nicky Henderson’s Lambourn yard shortly after that Grade One triumph and made a stunning British debut with a 13-length drubbing of Tazbar in the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase over three miles at Kempton in the December of 2009, with Sam Waley-Cohen on board.

Long Run dropped back to two miles for the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick in February, 2010, and easily landed the spoils by 12 lengths, despite some less than fluent jumping. Similar errors cost him at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival as he made several mistakes when third behind Weapon’s Amnesty and stable companion Burton Port in the Grade One RSA Chase over an extended three miles.

Long Run started his 2010/2011 campaign with a first foray into handicap company in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November when, despite being sent off the red-hot 2/1 favourite, he could only take third behind Little Josh in the two mile, four and a half furlong race.

The introduction of earplugs alongside sessions with a Harley Street chiropractor and jumping lessons from Yogi Breisner meant that Long Run lined up for Kempton Park’s rearranged King George VI Chase on January 15, 2011, a revitalised horse. Always tracking the leaders, he moved up to take the advantage three fences out and soon powered clear of his rivals for a stunning 12-length success over Riverside Theatre, with defending champion Kauto Star a further seven lengths back in third.

Long Run struck a further blow for the younger generation in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 18, 2011. as he became the first six-year-old to triumph in chasing’s Blue Riband since Mill House in 1963. A couple of early errors looked set to cost the young pretender but he moved up to take the lead from Denman approaching the final fence and powered up the famous Cheltenham Hill for an emphatic seven-length success. Long Run also recorded the fastest time in the race’s history, winning in 6m 29.70s to eclipse the previous best set by Looks Like Trouble in 2000, while Sam Waley-Cohen became the first amateur in 30 years to win the Cheltenhamshowpiece.

He missed a possible tilt at the totesport Bowl at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting and ended the 2010/11 season as the top-rated chaser in training with a rating of 182 – a mark only surpassed in the past 10 years by Kauto Star (186 – 2008/09) and Master Minded (186 – 2007/08).

This season began at Haydock Park on November 19, when he lined up in the Grade One Betfair Chase. Long Run started 6/5 favourite as he took on six rivals including Kauto Star. Long Run did not with any great fluency and after a series of mistakes was always playing catching with Kauto Star, who made all to score by eight lengths. To his credit, Long Run rallied well to get as close as he did to Kauto Star in second place.

Next time out he was fancied to overturn placings with Kauto Star as the pair met again in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. For the second time, it was the Paul Nicholls-trained veteran who came out on top, as Long Run was once again let down by his jumping. He did get closer to Kauto Star this time though, as he rallied close home to go down by a length and a quarter. He completed his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup preparation in the rearranged Grade Two Betfair Chase at Newbury on February 17. Having undergone a further schooling session with Yogi Breisner, Long Run jumped with far greater fluency as battled well to come home half a length ahead of Burton Port (received 10lb).

Race Record: Starts: 21; Wins: 13; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £1,209,737

BINOCULAR (FR)

8 b g Enrique – Bleu Ciel Et Blanc (FR) (Pistolet Bleu (IRE))

            Jump Form: 1121/113/5311/3114-3211   Owner: J P McManus    Breeder: Elie Lellouche

Nicky Henderson said: “He is just in very good form. We were going to Newbury to have a gallop, because I thought he would need it, but we went to Wincanton for a race and did not look like he needed a run at all. Maybe we don’t need to do too much more with him. He looks slick and happy – he enjoyed his race the other day and seemed back to himself. Hurricane Fly is there and is there to be beaten. We thought we were going into the Champion Hurdle with three horses and now we have one which shows how fickle this game is. If you think the next fortnight is going to be fun, you must be joking. With what we saw at Wincanton, maybe one will do. I hope so. I know he is not everybody’s favourite but I love him. He is pretty unlucky not to have had a higher Cheltenham profile – I would have thought he would have won three Champion Hurdles by now but life hasn’t been easy for him or me.”

Bred by French trainer Elie Lellouche, Binocular is from the family of Derby winner Kris Kin and other top-class Flat performers Warrsan, Luso and Needle Gun. Binocular commenced his career with Lellouche on the Flat with a pair of nine-furlong victories at the end of his two-year-old season. He raced five times as a three-year-old in 2007, with four of his five starts coming in Listed races and displayed a good level of ability with two runner-up efforts in that grade over 10 furlongs at Longchamp in May and Chantilly in July. That latter effort was his last before his sale to owner J P McManus and a switch to Nicky Henderson’s Lambourn yard. He won his British Jump debut in a soft ground two-mile novice hurdle at Ascot in January, 2008. He captured the following month’s Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton and was then runner-up to Captain Cee Bee in the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March, 2008. On only his fourth start over timber, he landed the Grade One Anniversary 4YO Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree by seven lengths from Celestial Halo. He opened the 2008/09 season with victory at Haydock in November and then impressed with a four and a half length win over Celestial Halo in the rescheduled Grade Two StanJames.com International at Ascot the following month. He finished third in the 2009 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle, just half a length behind stablemate Punjabi. Much was expected ahead of the 2009/10 season but he was only seven lengths fifth to Go Native on his seasonal return in the Grade One stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November. He posted a better effort when third to the same rival in the Grade One williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and cruised

 

lineto success when 1/7 favourite in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, 2010. Connections reported 11 days after that win that Binocular was unlikely to run again that season due to a muscular problem but his condition improved dramatically and he was allowed to take his chance in the 2010 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He posted an impressive victory as he took the lead two out and raced clear for a three and a half length triumph over Khyber Kim, with stablemate Zaynar a further six lengths adrift. The 2010/2011 season again started with defeat in the stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle, which was run at Newbury, as he faded in the closing stages to come home third behind the Donald McCain-trained Peddlers Cross. Binocular again showed the benefit of his seasonal return as he produced an excellent performance to take the williamhill.comChristmas Hurdle at Kempton in January, 2011, when he beat another of McCain’s top hurdlers, Overturn, by three and three quarter lengths. He made a quick reappearance with a second successive start in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, but was forced to miss The Festival last year after a substance used to treat an allergy two weeks before the Stan James Champion Hurdle remained in his system. Binocular instead lined up in the Grade One John Smith’s  Aintree Hurdle the following month but failed to stay the two and a half mile trip and came home fourth behind stable companion Oscar Whisky. He returned to two miles for the Grade One Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May and came third to reigning Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars. Binocular started the current campaign with a third successive appearance in the Grade One stanjames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 26 and he once again met with defeat, this time going down by four and a half lengths to Overturn. As with previous years, Binocular produced a better effort on his next appearance as he retained his crown in Kempton’s williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle on December 26 with a thrilling neck verdict over Rock On Ruby. Binocular underwent a minor wind operation shortly after that success and warmed up for Cheltenham in the Grade Two Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on February 18 after stable companion Grandouet was scratched from the race. Binocular produced a faultless display as he cruised up to take the lead from Celestial Halo nearing the final flight before going away for a facile six-length success.

Jump Race Record: Starts: 19; Wins: 11; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 4; Win & Place Prize Money: £719,808

BARBERS SHOP (GB)

10 b g Saddler’s Hall (IRE) – Close Harmony (Bustino)

Form: 1/3122U/124121/217/0430P/0P-11 Owner: The Queen Breeder: Queen Elizabeth

Barbers Shop could is set to try and give Her Majesty The Queen a first success at the Cheltenham in the year she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. The Saddler’s Hall gelding was bred by the late Queen Mother and made his debut for the Queen in a very competitive Wincanton bumper in March , 2006, defeating Denman’s full-brother Silverburn by a short-head. He made his hurdling bow at Newbury that November, finishing third to Sizing Europe. Victory followed at Ascot the following month but, despite twice going close, he was unable to win any of his three subsequent starts that season. A success over hurdles at Southwell in June, 2007 preceded a switch to fences in December when he finished runner-up to Big Buck’s. His next outing produced a fourth place finish in the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton and he returned to that venue for a beginners’ chase success over an extended two and a half miles in February, 2008. That race primed him for the 2008 Festival and a tilt at the Listed Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase. The Queen narrowly missed out on a first Festival success as Barbers Shop went down by a neck to Finger Onthe Pulse. He made some amends by rounding off the season with a Newbury success the following month. The 2008/09 season commenced at The Open in November with a runner-up finish in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup. In a light campaign, Barbers Shop proved his stamina with a Listed success over an extended three miles at Sandown in December and took seventh place behind Kauto Star in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at the 2009 Festival. Barbers Shop contested the Grade Three Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November, 2009, when he finished fourth behind Denman and he also ran a good race to take third behind Kauto Star in the Grade One King George VI Chase the following month. But he failed to build on those two promising efforts on his two subsequent appearances of the season as he came home seventh in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at the 2010 Festival and was pulled up in the Grade One Punchestown Gold Cup in May, 2010. The 2010/2011 campaign provided two more disappointing performances as Barbers Chop was a distant seventh in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, 2010 and was pulled up in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup a month later. He has lined up in two hunters’ chases so far this season, easily winning at Fakenham on February 17 and battling to a half-length success at Fontwell on February 26. Those two wins qualified Barbers Shop for the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase (Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16).

Race Record: Starts: 23; Wins: 8; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £143,049

BOBS WORTH (IRE)

7 b g Bob Back (USA) – Fashionista (IRE) (King´s Theatre (IRE))

            Form: 21/1111-132                    Owner: The Not Afraid Partnership                     Breeder: Mrs L Eadie

Nicky Henderson said: “He is doing all right. Take out Grands Crus from the RSA and it is a very open race. Bobs Worth looks 10 times better than he did before the Reynoldstown. Yogi (Briesner) is coming next Wednesday for a Long Run session and I do want this horse to have a go too. He was jumping a bit to the left at Ascot but at least Cheltenham, the last time I was there, is left-handed. So in all probability he will be better going left-handed and he won around there last year.  The breathing operation knocked him back a bit but he looks so much better now. I did not think I was going to get him to The Festival but he is on course for the RSA.”

Bob Worth was purchased by Nicky Henderson’s future stable jockey Barry Geraghty and his brothers for 16,500 euros at the Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt in November, 2006, before being sold by them to Henderson and Highflyer Bloodstock for £20,000 at Doncaster sales in May, 2009. He made a pleasing debut when going down by a length and a half to stable companion Prince Of Pirates in a Kempton bumper in February, 2010, and returned to the same course three months later for a comfortable seven-length victory. Bobs Worth also started the 2010/2011 season at the Sunbury course as he made an impressive debut over hurdles to take a two-mile novices’ contest by nine lengths on in November. He went on to win at Cheltenham, scoring over an extended two and a half miles on New Year’s Day and landing the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over the same trip on Festival Trials Day in January, 2011. He stepped up to three miles for the first time in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival last year and relished the extra half-mile as he stayed on well to comfortably account for stable companion Mossley.  Bobs Worth made an impressive start to his chasing career at Newbury on November 25 as he rallied well to beat the more experienced Cue Card by a short-head in a Grade Two novices’ chase over two and a half miles. He stepped back up three miles for the Grade One williamhill.com Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton on December 26, but failed to deal with Grands Crus and Silviniaco Conti and came home third, beaten five and a quarter lengths. Bobs Worth was given a wind operation after that display and headed to Ascot for the Grade Two Sodexho Prestige  Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase over three miles on February 18 but a bad mistake two fences out cost him momentum and he stayed on to finish second, three lengths behind the Alan King-trained Invictus.

Race Record: Starts: 9; Wins: 6; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £105,451

BURTON PORT (IRE)

8 b g Bob Back (USA) – Despute (IRE) (Be My Native (USA))

            Form: 113342/1211121/2-2         Owner: Trevor Hemmings          Breeder: Tom Meagher

Nicky Henderson said: “He has never been very big but he has been in good form all season. He got 10lb from Long Run but ran very well at Newbury. He has got to improve to win the Gold Cup and can improve. He has to beat the dreaded bounce after running well after a long time off. The bounce factor does happen and this is the horse I am worried about. He looks fantastic – he is an amazing horse – a bit like Bobs Worth – you would not know he was here – he does not flash around. When he won most of his races, he did not show us he was a very good horse, rather a very nice person who got on with the job. He was second in the Hennessy and then had his time off when he went back to Gledhill , Trevor’s (Hemmings – the owner) stud and Mick Meagher did a lot of work with him there before he came back to us. His work this season has been very much superior to anything he had done before. I don’t why but he seems to have improved at home. It was a very good run at Newbury and he looks tremendous.  Trevor has said this is a good horse and we are going to win the Gold Cup.”

Bred by Tom and Magette Meagher at Kedrah House Stud, County Tipperary, Burton Port initially raced in point-to-points in Ireland, winning on his fourth start for trainer Colin McKeever at Summerhill in April, 2008. He was subsequently purchased privately by owner Trevor Hemmings and made a winning debut for Nicky Henderson when comfortably taking a Hereford bumper in December, 2008. Burton Port made a winning start over hurdles at the same course in January, 2009, and reached the frame in his four subsequent starts over the smaller obstacles, including a fourth in the Grade Three EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown. He opened his account over fences at the first time of asking with a confident display in a Bangor beginners’ chase in November, 2009, but switched back to the smaller obstacles to take second behind Diamond Harry in a valuable “fixed-brush” handicap hurdle at Haydock later the same month. Burton Port returned chasing and racked up an impressive hat-trick of wins – following up an easy victory in a Grade Two contest at Lingfield with a cosy Southwell success before staying on strongly to take the Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February, 2010. The last of those victories persuaded connections to let Burton Port take his chance the Grade One RSA Chase at The Festival and he ran a superb race to take second behind Weapons Amnesty, a short-head in front of his better-fancied stable companion Long Run. Burton Port ended his first season over fences with another Grade Two victory as he stayed on strongly to take the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting. He made just one appearance in the 2010/2011 campaign – coming home second behind Diamond Harry again in the Group Three Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury – with a setback ruling him out for the rest of the season. Burton Port also filled the runner-up spot at Newbury on his first start for more than 14 months as he went down by half a length to reigning Betfred Cheltenham Gold victor Long Run, who was giving his stable companion 10lb, in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase on February 17. Both horses are set to re-oppose in this season’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, highlight of Gold Cup Day at The Festival, on Friday, March 16.

Race Record: Starts: 15; Wins: 7; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £204,187

DARLAN

5 br g Milan – Darbela (IRE) (Doyoun)

            Form: 1-111F                            Owner: J P McManus                Breeder: M G Kilroe

Nicky Henderson said: “He has done great but it was a horrible fall at Newbury. He schooled on Friday and you would not know  anything about it. For a five-year-old to come out and just blink and put that fall to the back of his mind is really admirable. He has just done a little bit this morning and will do a bit of work this weekend. We will then see if he needs another gallop. He is a lovely horse – gorgeous. He will be a better horse in a year’s time. I don’t know what would have happened at Newbury – I don’t know if A P (McCoy) does either. A P  thought at some point of the race that he had a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle horse. Certainly schooling has gone well. Nobody will know what would have happened at Newbury. I felt very sorry for his owner J P because if that was going to win he has thrown it away. His other horse finished second and probably without Darlan getting in the way he would have won.”

Darlan made a winning debut for owner J P McManus and Nicky Henderson in a bumper at Haydock in April, 2011, winning by 27 lengths. He returned this season with an effortless success at Kempton in November, before winning by the shortest of margins at Cheltenham three weeks later. He gained a third victory over hurdles when scoring on the bridle at Taunton on January 9, before taking a heavy fall at the penultimate flight in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 17 when travelling strongly. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 5; Wins: 4; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £16,416

ERICHT (IRE)

6 b g Alderbrook – Lady Orla (IRE) (Satco (FR))

                        Form: 2116-3320           Owner: Bridget Hanbury                       Breeder: Mrs M McDonagh

Ericht is set to return to Cheltenham after coming home sixth in last season’s Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper, for which he was sent off the 5/1 favourite. The six-year-old started his career with a good second in anAscot bumper in November, 2010, and gained a pair of convincing bumper victories, easily scoring at Huntingdon in January, 2011, and readily taking the Grade Two Winter Bumper at Newbury the following month. After his appearance at last year’s Festival, Ericht returned to Cheltenham for his hurdling debut in the Grade Two Opus Energy Novices’ Hurdle at The Open on November 11 and he ran well to take third behind Steps to Freedom, one of the favourites for the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and Prospect Wells. But he failed to build on that pleasing effort in lesser company on his two subsequent starts as he was turned over in a Newbury maiden hurdle on December 14 and in a novices’ contest at Huntingdon on January 13. On his latest start, Ericht raced prominently before fading to finish down the field in the fiercely competitive Grade Three Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 17. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle & the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 8; Wins: 2; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £11,910

FINIAN’S RAINBOW (IRE)

9 b g Tiraaz – Trinity Gale (IRE) (Strong Gale)

            Form: 1/1315/11121-12 Owner: Michael Buckley                        Breeder: J O’Keeffe

Nicky Henderson said: “Barry (Geraghty) came last weekend and schooled him. He worked on the grass this morning. He and Oscar Whisky live out together and are quite good mates.”

Formerly trained by Adrian Maguire in Ireland, Finian’s Rainbow was unlucky not to win a point-to-point at Inch in March, 2008, as he fell at the final fence with the race at his mercy. He was bought through former trainer John Edwards by owner Michael Buckley and sent to Nicky Henderson shortly afterwards but missed the first half of the 2008/09 season with a series of small setbacks. He made his British debut in a Kempton bumper in March, 2009, and easily accounted for nine rivals to win unchallenged by six lengths. Sent hurdling for the 2009/2010 campaign, Finian’s Rainbow posted an even more impressive performance to win a Newbury novices’ hurdle in November, 2009, as he strolled to a 15-length victory. He returned to the Berkshire course the following month to contest the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle, in which he ran a fine race to take a close third behind Reve De Sivola and Restless Harry. Finian’s Rainbow returned to the winner’s enclosure at Ascot in February, 2010, as he dropped down in grade to win a novices’ hurdle on the bridle. He contested the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2010 and ran an excellent race after being slightly hampered by the fall of Quel Esprit at the second flight,  to finish fifth behind the victorious Peddlers Cross. Finian’s Rainbow enjoyed an exciting start to his chasing career in the 2010/2011 campaign, posting a pair of effortless victories in Newbury novices’ chases in November, 2010, and January, 2011. He also recorded a comfortable success in the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick the following month and ran an excellent race in the Grade One Racing Post Arkle Chase as he produced a bold display of jumping in front, only to be reeled in by Captain Chris after the final fence to come home second. Finian’s Rainbow ended last season on a high as he made all of the running to capture the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting. He started the current campaign with victory in the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on December 27, although the manner of his success was far from straightforward as he blundered badly four fences from home only to fly home to beat Wishfull Thinking by three quarters of a length. Finian’s Rainbow had his final start prior to this year’s Festival in the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on January 21 and looked set for another major success but was worn down by Somersby to go down by a length and a quarter to the Henrietta Knight-trained chaser.

Race Record: Starts: 12; Wins: 8; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £180,682

FRENCH OPERA

9 b g Bering – On Fair Stage (IRE) (Sadler´s Wells (USA))

      Jump Form: 1/222/1F22356/11121/01651-2 Owner: Judy Wilson & Martin Landau Breeder: N P Bloodstock Ltd

French Opera failed to shine in five Flat starts for former trainer Jamie Osborne, with a fourth place in a 10-furlong Bath maiden proving the highlight, but made a winning debut for Nicky Henderson when taking a Taunton juvenile maiden hurdle in March, 2007. He was second on all three hurdling starts in the 2007/08 season but returned to the winner’s enclosure in an Aintree handicap hurdle in October, 2008. He got no further than the third fence on his chasing debut at Kempton the following month but produced a far better effort to chase home Original on his next start at the same course in the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase in December. He continued to impress over fences and hurdles without winning, most notably when coming home third in the 2009 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at The Festival. He had two major victories at Cheltenham in the 2009/2010 campaign in the paddypower.com Handicap Chase at The Open and Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase at The International. He returned to The Festival in 2010 for another crack at the  Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, in which he produced another excellent effort to go down by a length and a quarter to Pigeon Island. He ended the 2009/2010 campaign with a deserved Grade Two success in the Future Champions Novices’ Chase at Ayr in April. French Opera started the 2010/2011 season with a rare below-par run in a Sandown handicap chase in January, 2011, but bounced back with an impressive success in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury the following month. After taking sixth behind Sizing Europe in last season’s Grade One Sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival, French Opera stepped up to two and a half miles for the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree and again proved himself to be a very talented, if just shy of top-class, chaser by coming home sixth behind Master Minded. He ended last season with another deserved Grade Two victory as he made most of the running to take Sandown’s Celebration Chase. French Opera has made one appearance this season in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 17, but he was unable to successfully defend his crown as he came home second, six lengths behind brilliant stable companion Sprinter Sacre.

Jump Race Record: Starts: 22; Wins: 8; 2nd: 7; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £190,245

KID CASSIDY (IRE)

6 b g Beneficial – Shuil Na Lee (IRE) (Phardante (FR ))

            Form: 13/132-1F11        Owner: J P McManus    Breeder: Greenville House Stud & M Morgan

Kid Cassidy won a junior bumper at Newbury in March 2010, before finishing third in a more competitive affair at Punchestown a month later when under the ownership of Sue Magnier.  He made his hurdling debut for J P McManus at Newbury in November, 2010, winning easily by 15 lengths. The gelding ran well in defeat back at the Berkshire course when third behind Rock On Ruby a month later, before suffering an electric shock at Newbury’s abandoned Betfair Hurdle meeting. That traumatic experience was blamed for his odds-on defeat Sandown in late February, 2011, however he returned to his best at Punchestown in May, beating a large field by 13 lengths in a novice hurdle. He started his career over fences at Lingfield on November 22, 2011, but fell  at the third last which left him winded for a few moments. Fortunately that hasn’t appeared to have affected his confidence, and he subsequently won a novices’ chase at Ludlow on January 19 and a Grade Two at Doncaster on January 28, when be he beat consistent yard stick Kumbeshwar by three and three quarter lengths. Entered in the Racing Post Arkle and Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase.

Race Record: Starts: 5; Wins: 4; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £16,416

LYVIUS

4 b g Paolini (GER) – Lysuna (GER) (Monsun (GER))

                                    Jump Form: 1  Owner: Trevor Hemmings          Breeder: Gestut Hof Ittlingen

Nicky Henderson said: “Lyvius will run at Newbury on Friday. When First Bout won the Triumph Hurdle in 1985 he went to Plumpton on the Monday as favourite for the Triumph and won by 20 lengths but the handicapper said he would not be high enough rated to get in so I had to run him at Newbury on the Saturday before to get him high enough and he won by 20 lengths again. I then said to the handicapper, is that enough and he replied I think he will get in now. I said thank you very much and First Bout duly won the Triumph Hurdle. Lyvius went to Kelso and now he is going to Newbury – I don’t say he is good enough  to win the Triumph but we will find out more on Friday. I like him.”

Lyvius was purchased for 32,000gns at Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale at Newmarket in October, 2011. The Paolini gelding had previously raced in Germany for trainer Peter Schiergen, for whom he won a Hamburgmaiden in June and a 10-furlong handicap at Baden-Baden in October. Lyvius made his debut for Nicky Henderson and Trevor Hemmings at Kelso on February 15, easily winning a novices’ hurdle, and he could warm up for his potential engagement in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle (Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16) by lining up in a juvenile hurdle at Newbury on Friday.

Jump Race Record: Starts: 1; Wins: 1; 2nd: -; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £2,274

MOLOTOF (FR)

5 gr g Smadoun (FR) — Memorial (FR) (Homme De Loi (IRE))

            Form: 2220-111             Owner: Simon Munir                  Breeder: Ludovic Picard & Antoine Lamotte D’Argy

Molotof joined Nicky Henderson in February, 2011, after running two nice races over hurdles at Pau in December and January, finishing second on both occasions. He filled that spot behind subsequent JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar in the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle in late February, before finishing down the field in the juvenile showpiece at The Festival. Molotof has returned this season in tremendous form, winning a novices’ hurdle easily at Wincanton on November 5, prior to a Listed success at Haydock on November 18. He can completed the hat-trick over hurdles on December 16 with a hard fought Grade Two success at Ascot, where he got the better of the highly-regarded pair Peckhamecho, and Hazy Tom over two miles. Entered in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Coral Cup and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Race Record: Starts: 7; Wins: 3; 2nd: 3; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £48,824

MOSSLEY (IRE)

6 b g Old Vic – Sorivera (Irish River (FR))

                        Form: 11152P-12P        Owner: Michael Buckley            Breeder: Pipe View Stud

A faller on his only start in an Irish point-to-point at Punchestown in April, 2010, for owner Wilson Dennison and trainer Colin McKeever, Mossley was subsequently bought privately by owner Michael Buckley and made a winning debut for trainer Nicky Henderson in a Worcester bumper in June, 2010. He scored by five lengths on his hurdling debut at Huntingdon that October and seamlessly progressed to Grade Two company when beating Join Together by a length and a quarter in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham two months later. Mossley was well beaten when only fifth to Court In Motion in a Warwick novices’ hurdle on heavy ground in January, 2011, but he bounced back with an excellent second behind stable companion Bobs Worth in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival last year. He was pulled up in the Grade One John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree the following month but made a winning start to his chasing career with a 10-length verdict over Canni Thinkaar in a Kempton beginners’ chase on November 21. He filled the runner-up spot in the Ryman Stationer Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on December 10, finding Join Together 12 lengths too strong, and was pulled up on his latest start in the Grade One Betfair Novices’ Chase at Newbury on February 17.

Race Record: Starts: 9; Wins: 4; 2nd: 2; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £47,826

OSCAR WHISKY (IRE)

7 b g Oscar (IRE) – Ash Baloo (IRE) (Phardante (FR))

Form: 1/1114/1131-F11(1)          Owner: Walters Plant Hire Ltd                Breeder: Stephanie Hanly

Nicky Henderson said: “A lot of people say do I wish he was still in the Champion Hurdle and the bottom line is no. Dai (Walters – owner) and I have talked about him. Oscar stays two and a half miles well so we are going to try the impossible and take on Big Buck’s. He has the one horse to beat and is in very good form. It all went well this morning. Let’s see what happens at Cheltenham but I would expect him to go over fences next season. We have to find out what his trip is. It is quite unusual going into a race like the Ladbrokes World Hurdle untried over the distance. But that was always the point. The only other way of doing it was to try Big Buck’s before this but we went the two and a half mile route. I have always said this – I wish there was a Ryanair Hurdle because that would be very handy. I think we have a great chance of being there at the last in the World Hurdle to have a fight with Big Buck’s. This horse would have some speed if he had the stamina. He must have a chance – as good a chance as any horse that has taken Big Buck’s on for a while. Big Buck’s is probably the best three-mile hurdler I have seen. He has dominated by a very long way and been in a different league. I love horses who can switch off like Big Buck’s does and just doodle around for two and three quarter miles and then switch on to win.”

An 80,000 euros purchase from former jockey Norman Williamson at the 2008 Goffs Land Rover Sale, Oscar Whisky made his debut for owner Dai Walters, the driving force behind Ffos Las Racecourse, in a junior bumper at Newbury in March, 2009. Sent off the even money favourite for the extended mile and a half contest, he didn’t come off the bridle and recorded a facile nine-length victory over Sophies Trophy. Oscar Whisky returned to Newbury and posted another comprehensive bumper success in November, 2009, before making his hurdling debut at the same course the following month, when beating Spirit Of Adjisa in a canter by seven lengths. Following another convincing success in a Sandown novices’ hurdle, Oscar Whisky ran an excellent race in the 2010 Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March when fourth behind Menorah, Get Me Out Of Here and Dunguib. He returned to Cheltenham for the extended two and a half mile Cheltenham & Three Counties Club Hurdle on New Year’s Day, 2011, and posted an effortless seven-length victory over Any Given Day. He then headed to Ffos Las in February for the Welsh Champion Hurdle, giving his owner a cherished win in the race with an effortless victory. Oscar Whisky lined up in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at last year’s Festival and ran an excellent race in defeat as he stayed on gamely to take third behind Hurricane Fly and Peddlers Cross. He stepped back up in trip and gained a deserved first Grade One success the following month in the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles as he resisted the late challenge of Thousand Stars to prevail by a neck. A rare mistake cost Oscar Whisky almost certain victory on his first start of the current campaign as he fell at the final flight when challenging for the lead in the Grade Two Ascot Hurdle on November 19, but he regained the winning thread with a cosy success over Get Me Out Of Here in the Grade Two Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 10. He returned to the same course for another easy win in the Cheltenham & Three Counties Club Hurdle on New Year’s Day but had to miss the Welsh Champion Hurdle after the meeting was lost to frost. With no suitable hurdle races in the build-up to The Festival, Oscar Whisky instead headed to Kempton Park for a “jumpers’ bumper” on Polytrack and he proved a different class to his rivals as he cruised to a three-length success. Connections have decided not to take on Hurricane Fly again this year and Oscar Whisky is set to step up to three miles for the first time as he bids to prevent Big Buck’s from winning a record fourth success in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15.

Race Record: Starts: 13; Wins: 10; 2nd: -; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £220,762

QUANTITATIVEEASING (IRE)

7 ch g Anshan – Mazuma (IRE) (Mazaad)

            Form: 111250/0112-021             Owner: J P McManus               Breeder: Sheila Moore

A full-brother to multiple Grade One winning hurdler Asian Maze, Quantitativeeasing made an impressive racecourse debut in a bumper at Punchestown in April, 2009, scoring by eight lengths under J P Magnier in the colours of his mother Sue. He returned to action at Newcastle in November, 2009, in the ownership of J P McManus and won a two-mile maiden hurdle by five lengths and scored easily again the following month at Newbury before finishing second in a similar event at Kempton in February. He finished fifth in the Coral Cup at the 2010 Festival and went on to be seventh in a Grade One novices’ hurdle at Punchestown. Sent chasing for the 2010/2011 season, Quantitativeeasing recorded a pair of novices’ chase wins in small fields at Fontwell and Market Rasen before running an excellent race at The Festival, finding only Divers two and three quarter lengths too strong in the Listed Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase. He headed to Fairyhouse for the Irish Grand National in April and ran well on only his fifth chase start to finish 10th behind Organisedconfusion. Quantitativeeasing kicked off this season with an excellent effort in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open on November 12 as he stayed on well to come home second, seven lengths behind the impressive Great Endeavour, despite racing from 2lb out of the handicap. He returned to the same course for the Grade Three Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup at The International on December 10 and produced a superb display as he stayed on gamely to defeat Medermit by three quarters of a length. He holds an entry in the Grade Three JLT Specialty Handicap Chase on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13.

Race Record: Starts: 13; Wins: 6; 2nd: 3; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £130,021

RIVERSIDE THEATRE

8 b g King’s Theatre (IRE) – Disallowed (IRE) (Distinctly North (USA))

            Form: 13/12114/3115F/121-1      Owner: Jimmy Nesbitt Partnership         Breeder: Goldford Stud

Nicky Henderson said: “Riverside was very good the other day. He is not a huge, heavy horse and was probably fairly fit at Ascot but you would like to think there was a bit of improvement in him. He will go for the Ryanair and we are exactly where we were last year. Some people say he does not like Cheltenham – I hope they are wrong. It is only because he ran in the Arkle and got completely outpaced but he is much sharper now. He only missed six months with his pelvis problem and I would be disappointed if he bounced.”

Riverside Theatre, who races in the colours of actor Jimmy Nesbitt, ran on strongly to take a Kempton bumper on his debut in February, 2008. He was third behind Diamond Harry in a valuable bumper at Newbury the following month, but scored in a lesser contest at Ascot that November. He took second on his hurdling debut at Newbury later that month and followed up with a cosy victory in a novices’ hurdle at Kempton in January, 2009. After posting another facile success at Newbury, he stepped up to Grade Two company for the John Smith’s Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, where he ran an excellent race to come home fourth behind El Dancer. He ended his campaign with another pleasing effort to take third behind Hurricane Fly in the Grade One Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle. Sent chasing for the 2009/2010 season, Riverside Theatre made an impressive start over fences as he produced a faultless display of jumping to take a Newbury beginners’ chase by 28 lengths at the end of November. Having been victorious on both his appearances at Kempton, he returned to the Sunbury course for the Grade Two William Hill Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase the following month and maintained his faultless record there with a cosy 12-length success over El Dancer. He headed to last year’s Festival for the Grade One Racing Post Arkle but looked like he would be pulled up as he struggled at the back of the field, only to storm up the hill to finish fifth behind Sizing Europe. He also failed to shine on his final start of the campaign as he fell five fences from home in the Grade One Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown. Connections decided to step Riverside Theatre up in distance for his second season over fences and he made an impressive return at Kempton in November, 2010, as he recorded an authoritative victory in an extended two and a half mile graduation chase. He showed improved form to finish second, 12 lengths behind his stable companion Long Run, in the Grade One William Hill King George VI Chase over three miles at Kempton Park in January, 2011. Riverside Theatre stepped back to an extended two miles, five furlongs for the Betfair Ascot Chase the following month and gained a deserved first Grade One success as he easily accounted for his six rivals. A hairline fracture of the pelvis ruled Riverside Theatre out of his intended engagement in the Ryanair Chase at last year’s Festival and he made a belated seasonal return in the Betfair Ascot Chase on February 18. Despite not having run for 364 days, Riverside Theatre produced an excellent display of jumping and ran on well to comfortably beat Medermit by three lengths. He is currently among the favourites for this year’s Ryanair Chase, one of the feature races of St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15.

Race Record: Starts: 16; Wins: 9; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £283,429

SIMONSIG

6 gr g Fair Mix (IRE) – Dusty Too (Terimon)

Form: 1121                   Owner: Ronnie Bartlett              Breeder:  Simon Tindall

Nicky Henderson said: “I don’t know where he is going yet at The Festival. He worked very well this morning and will be schooled on Friday and work again on Saturday. I chatted to his owner Ronnie Bartlett last night and we will try and make a decision at the weekend. We have been flicking between one race and the other. At two o’clock in the morning he was going two miles and at four o’clock in the morning I was favouring two and a half miles. I don’t know. It is nothing to do with the opposition, it is simply what is his trip? It is hard to get away from the pace and the speed he has. He is a hugely talented horse. He is very, very well and he worked great this morning. He could win on the Flat with his speed. He is in good form but was quite rusty at Kelso. Barry (Geraghty) schooled him last week and we will have another pop on Friday. Ian Ferguson said to me when Simonsig came if you are not sure whether to give him a gallop then don’t. You cannot believe he won’t stay – he has won a point-to-point – but he just has so much speed for a horse that does stay.”

Simonsig was bred by publisher Simon Tindall and he started his career in the colours of his breeder in point-to-points in Ireland under the care of Ian Ferguson, who trained Zemsky to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at The Festival in 2011. The son of Fair Mix made a winning debut at Kirkstown in February, 2011, but fell on his second start at Castletown Geoghegan in April. He bounced back with a 20-length success at Limavady six days later and was purchased privately by Ronnie Bartlett shortly afterwards. Simonsig made his debut under rules in the Fairyhouse Champion Point-To-Point Bumper on April 25 and recorded an easy 13-length success. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary had offered €100,000 for the winner of the race, but Bartlett spurned his advances and sent Simonsig to Nicky Henderson. He made an exciting debut for his new trainer with a facile success in an Ascot novices’ hurdle over just shy of two and a half miles on November 18, 2011. Stepped up to Grade Two company for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on December 2, Simonsig ran well in defeat as he found subsequent Grade One winner Fingal Bay two and three quarter lengths too strong. He returned to winning ways with a straightforward victory over seasoned campaigner Knockara Beau in the two and a quarter mile Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on February 15 and holds entries in the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Champion Day, March 13, and the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on Ladies Day, March 14.

Race Record: Starts: 4; Wins: 3; 2nd: 1; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £44,929

SPRINTER SACRE (FR)

6 b/br g Network (GER) – Fatima III (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR))

Form: 11/2113-111        Owner: Caroline Mould              Breeder: Christophe Masle

Nicky Henderson said: “Sprinter does not take a lot of work. We might jump a fence with him on Friday – Barry (Geraghty) might say he wants to but I may say he does not need to. He is the most lovely horse – some say he won’t come up the hill at Cheltenham and Mr Tizzard says he is going to go too fast for him. We will just do our own thing.”

Sprinter Sacre produced an scintillating display of jumping and class to take Grade Two Game Spirit Chase run as the Betfair Super Saturday Chase at Newbury on February 17 when he comprehensively slammed a field of seasoned chasers, beating stable companion French Opera by six lengths on the bridle. The six-year-old has made a superb start to his chasing career – winning his three starts over fences by an aggregate of 46 lengths – and is the red-hot favourite for this year’s Grade One Racing Post Arkle Chase. He started his career with a pair of bumper victories at Ascot and Ayr in 2010 and was second on his hurdling debut at Ascot in November, 2010. Sprinter Sacre recorded wide-margin success at Ffos Las and Ascot in February 2011 before coming home third to Al Ferof in the Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last years Festival, when he briefly led the field three fences out before keeping on in the closing stages. He made his eagerly-awaited debut over fences in a novices’ chase at Doncaster on December 9 and he easily outclassed his rivals with a sound display of jumping to score by 24 lengths. An even more impressive effort followed in the Grade Two williamhill.com Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on December 27 as he made virtually all of the running to beat the 2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up Peddlers Cross by 24 lengths. Following his recent stunning Newbury success, Barry Geraghty commented: “I’m not sure I’ve ever ridden anything like that – he’s electric”.

Race Record: Starts: 9; Wins: 7; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £64,667

UNE ARTISTE (FR)

4 b f Alberto Giacometti (IRE) – Castagnette III (FR) (Tin Soldier (FR))

                                    Form: 0311114  Owner: Simon Munir      Breeder: Emmanuel & D Clayeu

Une Artiste began her racing career under the care of trainer Emmanuel Clayeux in France and the Alberto Giacometti filly posted a comfortable bumper success at Fontainebleau on her third start on October 26. She followed up with a pair of victories at Pau – scoring in another bumper on December 10 before making an exciting debut over hurdles with an effortless 12-length win on January 5. Une Artiste joined Nicky Henderson shortly afterwards and scored for her new trainer and owner Simon Munir with a cosy length and three-quarter victory in the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle at Haydock on February 18. She was tailed off behind Baby Mix on her latest start in the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton seven days later and has the option of the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle (Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16) or the Grade Three Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14) at The Festival.

Jump Race Record: Starts: 7; Wins: 4; 2nd: -; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £40,381

NICKY HENDERSON’S CURRENT ENTRIES AT THE FESTIVAL

Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13

William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Keys, Tetlami, Ericht, Darlan, Molotof, Simonsig

Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase – Kid Cassidy, Sprinter Sacre

JLT Specialty Handicap Chase – Aigle d’Or, Loose Preformer, Master of The Hall, Mossley, Quantitativeeasing

Stan James Champion Hurdle – Binocular

Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase – State Benefit, Loose Preformer

Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase – Cucumber Run, Minella Class, Owen Glendower, Skint, Triolo d’Alene

Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14

Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle – All The Aces, Mono Man, Nelson’s Bridge, Keys, Simonsig, Molotof

RSA Chase – Bobs Worth, Mossley

sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase – Finian’s Rainbow

Coral Cup – Celtus, Minella Class, Molotof, Problema Tic, Soldatino, Spirit River, Veiled

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – One Lucky Lady, Otto The Great, Ozeta, Soliwery,Une Artiste

St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15

Jewson Novices’ Chase – Minella Class, Solix

Ryanair Chase – Jack The Giant, Riverside Theatre, French Opera

Ladbrokes World Hurdle – Oscar Whisky

Byrne Group Plate – Aigle d’Or, Giorgio Quercus, Jack The Giant, Triolo d’Alene

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup – Be There In Five, Forzy Origny, Loose Preformer, Master Fiddle

Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16

JCB Triumph Hurdle – Une Artiste, Lyvius

Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle – Celtus, Crystal Rock, First In The Queue, Heather Royal , Higgy’s Ragazzo, Lifestyle

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Barenger

Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase – Long Run, Burton Port

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – All The Aces, Celtus, Crystal Rock, Cucumber Run, Ericht, Joseph Lister, Kells Belle, Molotof, Mush Mir, Open Hearted, Oscar Nominee, Problema Tic, Speed Master, Thanks For Coming, Top of The Range, Tour d’Argent, Veiled

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – Anquetta, Bellvano, Eradicate, French Opera, Giorgio Quercus, Kid Cassidy, Tanks For That

THE FESTIVAL 2012

First Day – Tuesday, March 13, 2012 (Old Course)

1.30 William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One)   2m 110y  £100,000

2.05 Racing Post Arkle Chase (Grade One)     2m  £130,000

2.40 JLT Specialty Chase (Handicap) (Grade Three)    3m 110y £75,000

3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade One)    2m 110y  £370,000

4.00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase (Handicap)  3m 7f  £40,000

4.40 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (for the David Nicholson Trophy) (Grade Two) 2m 4f £70,000

5.15 Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) 2m 4f 110y £50,000

Total  £835,000

Second Day – Wednesday, March 14, 2012 (Old Course)

1.30 Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase (Amateurs)   4m  £75,000

2.05 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One) 2m 5f  £100,000

2.40 RSA Chase (Grade One)      3m 110y £130,000

3.20 sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade One) 2m  £320,000

4.00 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade Three)   2m 5f  £70,000

4.40 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade Three)  2m 110y £60,000

5.15 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade One)   2m 110y £55,000

Total  £810,000

Third Day – Thursday, March 15, 2012 (New Course)

1.30 Jewson Novices’ Chase (Grade Two)    2m 4f  £90,000

2.05 Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed)    3m  £70,000

2.40 Ryanair Chase (Grade One)      2m 5f  £260,000

3.20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade One)    3m   £260,000

4.00 Byrne Group Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade Three)   2m 5f  £75,000

4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateurs) 3m 1f 110y £50,000

5.15  St Patrick’s Derby (Charity Flat Race)     1m 5f  –

Total  £805,000

Fourth Day – Friday, March 16, 2012 (New Course)

1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade One)      2m 1f  £100,000

2.05 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade Three)  2m 1f  £70,000

2.40 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade One)    3m  £100,000

3.20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (Chase) (Grade One)   3m 2f 110y £500,000

4.00 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (Amateurs)  3m 2f 110y £35,000

4.40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle   2m 4f 110y £45,000

5.15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (Handicap) (Grade Three) 2m 110y £75,000

Total  £925,000

TOTAL PRIZE MONEY 2012 £3,375,000 (Average of £125,000 per race)

Scotland’s premier Cheltenham preview night, full details

My good friend and top racing man Paul Costello has been organising Festival Preview nights in Scotland for a few years now.  the quality of these evenings has been reflected in the HOUSE FULL signs for the past couple of years.

Paul has sent me the details for this year – reproduced below.

Cheltenham Festival Preview Night Saturday 10th of March

Sponsored by STAR SPORTS BET
In association with Imperial Racing & Abbott Racing

Almada Suite
Hamilton County Buildings
Almada Street
Hamilton
ML3 0AA

Doors open 6:45pm Preview Starts 7:20pm Finish 11:30pm Last Orders 11:30pm

Hosted By: Gordon Brown of Attheraces

Guest Speakers include:

Leading Trainer/Jockey – TBC
Mark Howard – Author of One Jump Ahead and RUK Expert
Iain Turner – Racing Manager for Grumeti, Walkon, Kumbeshwar, Olofi ect
Ian Taylor – AKA Garry Owen Horseracing editor of the Daily Record
Ian Robinson – Owner of Imperial Commander and Imperial Racing
Trevor Harris– Head of Antepost Horse Racing Star Sports Bet

Phone interviews with David Pipe and a leading jockey
The Top 10 – 10 of the best Tipsters, Trainers, Bookies & Jockeys will be recording there nap of the festival for us to play on the night.

Entry is £12 and includes a free £25 match bet with STAR SPORTS BET

Due to last years event being sold out tickets will be sold on a first come first served basis and may not be available on the night.

On the night STAR SPORTS BET will be offering enhanced odds

For further information or to buy tickets:

Phone – Paul Costello on 07877 618120
Email – paul@imperial-horseracing.com lanzaroteabbott@yahoo.co.uk
Website – http://www.imperial-horseracing.com/racehorse-ownership-syndicates-blog.html

Also follow @abbottracingnow and @Imperial_Racing on Twitter for top information on the lead up to the festival.

London Racing Club Ascot preview evening – transcript courtesy of @rob_hayward

London Racing Club Ascot preview evening

6th June 2011

 

Panellists: Tony Calvin, Betfair (TC); Angus McNae, RUK (AN); Nick Smith, Ascot (NS); James Willoughby (JW)

 

Queen Anne

–          (TC) Surprised that Canford Cliffs is currently favourite (6/5), but ‘punters gravitate towards the unknown’.

–          (TC) Potential angle in taking on the market and laying the front two, effectively giving the field at 13/2; plenty of potential improvers in behind, with ~5lb to find on Timeform ratings.

–          (JW) CC ‘doesn’t really stay a mile, but Hughes rides him brilliantly’; Cape Blanco a live threat (Irish Champion Stakes a good formline) could be a back-to-lay play as he’ll have to go from the front.

–          (NS) Rio de la Plata as a potential Godolphin chance, ‘but can’t really see anything troubling the big three’; agree on Cape Blanco chance but believe CC is a worthy favourite as everything geared towards Breeders’ Cup for Goldikova.

 

King’s Stand

–          (JW) Star Witness twice ran Black Caviar to 4l in October/November; unsettled before the start last time out and ?forgiven that run, but some in Aus believe he’s trained off.

–          (NS) Holiday for Kitten a live chance for Wesley Ward: ‘could run well but may not be quite good enough’.

–          (JW) Bridgetown (Todd Fletcher) ‘blazingly fast’, could lead if good draw.

 

St James’s Palace

–          (NS) ‘The only thing that can beat Frankel is Frankel’.

–          (JW) ‘Frankel is one of the most fascinating horses to analyse in my lifetime’; ‘some trainers were convinced after the Guineas that he’s now a tearaway and cannot be restrained’, but if he can run even fractions to 142 ‘he’ll be 10l clear of everything’.

–          (JW) Excelebration ‘wildly impressive’ in German Guineas.

–          (NS) Temps Au Temps likely to be French representative (not Tin Horse)

 

Prince of Wales

–          (NS) Planteur is a ‘solid yardstick but absolutely beatable’; currently a question mark over plans for Workforce as Twice Over ‘will run’, ‘but Khalid Abdulla never afraid to have more than one runner in the race’.

–          (NS) Rewilding very impressive in Dubai but doubts over step down in trip.

–          (TC) So You Think is ‘the hype horse of the meeting’, currently trading at 4/7 but expects it to go off much shorter, perhaps 2/5; Planteur form from Prix Ganay worked out very well with Sarafina, Cape Blanco, Silver Pond in behind.

–          (JW) SYT ‘creates a very unusual impression, very heavy-topped but in running could be 15hh’; ‘very excited about this horse: he’s absolutely extraordinary on Aus form, and will likely end up rated even higher’.

–          (NS) Ballydoyle ‘cannot believe what they have’ in SYT; ‘I’d rather back him than Frankel’; Melbourne Cup 3rd ‘remarkable’ after pulling hard for ¾ of the race.

 

Gold Cup

–          (JW) Rite of Passage ‘a very strong stayer’; project horse in Geordieland, ‘waited on hand and foot’ by Jamie Osborne, trained well since March and could go well fresh at a big price [but TC, ‘he travels well but then doesn’t find anything’].

–          (TC) Duncan, question marks over attitude but on Prix Foy form, and win over Blue Bajan on reappearance should go close – maybe a doubt over stamina.

–          (NS) Interested in Duncan, Askar Tau, Kasbah Bliss (‘knocking on a bit but laid out for this race’)

 

Golden Jubilee

–          (TC) Delegator currently trading favourite at 5/1, but money for Hinchinbrook (16s from 25)

–          (NS) Very unlikely Star Witness will double up here, more likely to be aimed at July Cup

–          (TC) Live outsider in Hitchens, ‘there’s often not much between an improving handicapper and the best of these’, currently trading at 40s.

–          (JW) Elzaam, ‘very good last time out at Newbury, seemed to quicken clear and then find yet another gear’, ‘an exciting horse in a tricky and open race – a great race for punting’.

–          (JW) Also Kingsgate Native, ‘very good down the centre at Haydock’, won this in 2008; ‘Ascot form is a massive plus on the straight track’.

 

Coronation

–          (NS) ‘Misty for Me is the best horse in the race, but not sure she’ll go here’.

–          (TC/JW) Sharnberry a live chance for En Dunlop at a double-figure price.

–          (panel) Also chances for Maqaasid (if she gets a mile), Memory, Barefoot Lady, More Than Real (but Breeders’ Cup the probable target).

 

Coventry

–          (TC) Four of Timeform’s top 15 juveniles trained by Wesley Ward: Italo likely to go here, Gentlemans Code to the Windsor, Judy the Beauty to Queen Mary/Albany, Everyday Brave to Norfolk.

–          (JW) Crown Dependency a live chance here; also Gatepost.

 

Queen Mary

–          (AN) Pyman’s Theory (named after James Pyman’s theory that progeny of Exceed And Excel run well at Ascot) has a chance at 16/1.

–          (TC) Also Judy the Beauty (see above).

 

Handicaps

–          Hoof It in the Wokingham

–          Leviathan in the Hunt Cup

–          Havane Smoker in the Jersey

–          Zain Al Boldan in the Ribblesdale

 

Naps

–          Nick Smith – Star Witness

–          Tony Calvin – Planteur (e/w)

–          Angus McNae – Hoof It [later selected by the panel as their £50 charity bet]

–          James Willoughby – Sharnberry

 

I’m indebted to Rob Hayward for sending me the transcript. You can follow Rob on twitter here