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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Born on December 10, 1950, Nicky Henderson was destined for a racing career, with his late father Johnny being the founder of 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 started out as an amateur rider, while working as a stockbroker, with his main wins among 78 successes being on Happy Warrior in the 1977 Fox Hunters Chase at Aintree and on Acquaint in Sandown’s Imperial Cup in the same year. He became assistant trainer to Fred Winter in 1974 and remained in that role until taking out his own training licence in July, 1978. It did not take long for Henderson to establish himself as one of the leading members of his profession, landing the jump trainers' title in both 1985/6 and 1986/7 from Windsor House in Lambourn. He moved to his present year of Seven Barrows in 1990.

Always one to be followed at the big meetings, he has trained 31 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including capturing three successive Champion Hurdles with See You Then (1985, 86 & 87) and was leading trainer at the 2000 Festival with four successes. He was also the leading or joint-leading trainer in 1993 (two wins), 1992 (two wins), 1990 (two wins), 1987 (two wins), 1986 (three wins) and 1985 (three wins). Other high-profile successes at The Festival have come with Remittance Man in the 1992 Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as Rustle (1989) and Bacchanal (2000) in what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Away from The Festival, his numerous other big-race wins include the Paddy Power Gold Cup (2003 Fondmort), the Boylesports.com Gold Cup (2002 Fondmort, 2003 Iris Royal), the Melling Chase (1992 Remittance Man), the totesport Trophy (1998 Sharpical, 2000 & 2004 Geos, 2001 Landing Light), the bet365 Gold Cup (1989 Brown Windsor) and the John Smith's Topham Chase (1990 Wont Be Gone Long, 2006 Liberthine), On the Flat, his biggest successes have come in the totesport Cesarewitch (2003 Landing Light, 2008 Caracciola) at Newmarket.

This season the Seven Barrows yard has been in fantastic form and at the start of Monday, December 8, has registered 42 successes with a terrific strike-rate of 27 per cent. Highlights so far this season have come with Punjabi (Fighting Fifth Hurdle), Chomba Womba (Elite Hurdle, Ascot Hurdle), Barbers Shop (Future Stars Intermedia Chase, 2nd Paddy Power Gold Cup), Binocular (Betfair Hurdle) and My Petra (Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot, Listed Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby).

Following the retirement of long-standing stable jockey Mick Fitzgerald, Barry Geraghty is now the stable’s principal jockey with Tony McCoy, Felix De Giles, Andrew Tinkler and Marcus Foley also riding regularly.

Friday, December 12
12.45pm Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) - Caracciola
1.55pm Boylepoker.com Handicap Chase - Trabolgan
2.30pm CFR Group (Electrical + Mechanical Services) Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase - Zanzibar Boy, Shouldhavehadthat
3.05pm Boylesports Fon-A-Bet 0800 44 00 00 Handicap Hurdle - Chantaco, Schiehallion
3.40pm E.B.F./Boylesports.Com 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (Qualifier) - Dreamy Sweeney, You’re The Top,

Saturday, December 13
12.45pm Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase - My Petra, Boomshakalaka
1.20pm Relkeel Hurdle - Punchestowns
1.55pm Boylecasino.Com Novices' Chase - Au Courant
2.30pm Boylesports.com Gold Cup - My Petra
3.05pm Boylesports.com International - Binocular, Chomba Womba
3:35pm Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - Dreamy Sweeney

4 b g Enrique - Bleu Ciel Et Blanc (FR) (Pistolet Bleu (IRE))
Owner: J P McManus Breeder: Elie Lellouche
Form: 1121-1 Win & Place Prize Money: £151,922

A useful performer on the Flat in France, where he was placed at Listed level, Binocular has won four of his five starts over hurdles and is currently the 100/30 favourite with Boylesports for the 2009 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

His hurdling debut came at Ascot in January, 2008, when he cruised to a six-length victory. Stepped up to Grade Two level, his next outing was at Kempton on February 23 in the Adonis Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle. Binocular had to work harder this time, but proved a length and a quarter too strong for Pierrot Lunaire, On the basis of that effort, he was sent to The Festival where he contested the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Starting the 8/1 co-favourite, he travelled well and took up the lead just after the second last. Still in front after the final flight, he was beaten two lengths to Captain Cee Bee. Last season ended in fine style for Binocular who put up a tremendous performance to claim the Grade One John Smith´s 250th Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices´ Hurdle at Aintree where he defeated JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Celestial Halo by seven lengths.

His season began at Haydock on November 22 with a very easy success in a conditions hurdle. Binocular’s next intended start is in the £200,000 Boylesports.com International at Cheltenham on Saturday, December 13, for which he is the 13/8 market leader with Boylesports.

Nicky Henderson said today: “His jumping has always been very efficient. You can tell very early on with these horses who have come off the Flat whether their jumping will be any good. For some of them it is very easy while we have to spend quite a long time teaching others.

“You probably saw him jumping the other day at Haydock, it is just terribly easy for him. He has got a very good technique and is very quick like a proper hurdler. That is not to say he won’t jump a fence but he doesn’t need to at the moment.

“Binocular has always enjoyed it and he does his work well. The day he won at Ascot the first time out, I thought he was good but I didn’t realise he would be this good.

“He had a very good summer too. He went back to Martinstown Stud, where all JP’s (McManus the owner) go back for the summer. He came back here looking absolutely fabulous and he is stronger.

“The day we realised he was very good at Aintree. AP (McCoy) just sat on the other horse’s tail at Aintree and we knew he had another gear. It is quite handy if you can do that but it is obviously a different ball-game around Cheltenham.

“I accept Haydock is a speed track too but I am not worried about the track at Cheltenham at the moment. It is going to be a very, very good race. The Boylesports.com International is a genuine pre-Christmas Champion Hurdle on its own - it is not a trial at all rather a very valuable top hurdle.

“I don’t think the race will tell us who will win the Champion Hurdle because that is too far away. This is the race we have been after - Katchit has got to defend his title and we have got to prove that we are worthy contenders on Saturday.

“AP no doubt will hang on to Binocular a bit longer (than he did in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in March). The hill is not in the back of my mind. Binocular came up it OK last season.

“We have been happy with Binocular since Haydock last month.- we really appreciate that race being put on and I hope it is there next year.

“I don’t think the ground matters to him - the hurdle course at Haydock was quick but he has run in soft ground. I am not worried about the ground but I could be standing there on Saturday and saying he does not go on the ground. The main thing on Saturday is that we will find things out.”

Stable companion Chomba Womba is also likely to run in the £200,000 Boylesports.com International at Cheltenham on Saturday. She is a 4/1 chance with Boylesports.

“She might as well have a shot at a race like this. I am lucky enough to be able to run both. Chomba Womba is entitled to run - she is tough and hardy. We want to find out if she is a realistic Champion Hurdle horse - there is only one way to find out.

“She is not slow and she has, at this stage in life, got nothing to lose. She goes to stud next year and has already won a Grade One.”

7 b m Fourstars Allstar (USA) - Miss Muppet (IRE) (Supreme Leader)
Owner: Mr & Mrs Richard Kelvin Hughes Breeder: Brittas House Stud
Form: /1113-11 Win & Place Prize Money: £224,822

Chomba Womba began her career in Ireland under the care of Mags Mullins for whom she was successful in two bumpers and in three novice hurdles, as well as finishing runner-up in the Grade Two Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles in March, 2007.

At the end of the 2006/07 season, Chomba Womba was sent to the Brightwells Sale at Cheltenham where she was sold to current connections. She quickly proved to be a sound buy, winning her first three races last season in a Kempton handicap hurdle, a Listed event at Sandown and in a Grade Two contest for mares at Doncaster. She then headed to The Festival and ran well to finish third in the Grade Two David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle.

Chomba Womba retired to stud at the end of last season but she failed to conceive and so the decision was taken to put her back in training. That decision has certainly paid dividends. This season began with a comfortable success over Takeroc and the reigning champion hurdler Katchit in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on November 8. She then went to Ascot on November 22 and proved a length too strong for Crack Away Jack in the Grade Two Ascot Hurdle.

Entered in the Boylesports.com International on Saturday. (see above for Nicky’s quotes).

5 b m Midnight Legend - Lac Marmot (FR) (Marju (IRE))
Owner: Mr & Mrs Richard Kelvin Hughes Breeder: William Wilkinson
Form: /3122P0-11 Win & Place Prize Money: £103,802

A winner of one of her nine runs on the Flat, a 12-furlong fillies handicap at Windsor, My Petra won her first three starts over hurdles at Huntingdon, Newbury and Kempton in late 2006 when trained by Alan King. In her first season over hurdles, she finished 11th behind stable companion Katchit in the 2007 JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Sold to her current connections during the summer of 2007, the five-year-old joined Nicky Henderson last season and was switched to fences. She showed a good level of form, winning at Hereford and running a fine race when second to Tiger Cry in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase at The Festival.

On her first outing this season, she was switched back to hurdles and recorded a comfortable success in a Listed mares event at Wetherby on November 1. Three weeks later, My Petra recorded the biggest victory of her career to date in the Grade Two Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot where she came home six lengths clear of Oceanos Des Obeaux.

Entered in the £150,000 Boylesports.com Gold Cup, for which she is a 10/1 chance with the sponsors, and the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson said today: “I think we ought to run her in the Boylesports.com Gold Cup. She is a mare who seems to be improving. I would be a little bit worried about the ground but they have promised they will dry it out by Saturday!

“She is in the two-miler as well (the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase) but she won over two miles and three furlongs at Ascot last time and she was very impressive. She won a good mares race at Wetherby earlier in the year and you have got to have a crack at these big prizes.

“I am not convinced about stamina but Mick (Fitzgerald) was never worried about it. She seemed to stay at Ascot.”

5 ch g Morespeed - History (FR) (Alesso (USA))
Owner: Judy Wilson Breeder: Gerard Ferte
Form: 113-1 Win & Place Prize Money: £26,021
Punchestowns was successful on the Flat in France before joining the Nicky Henderson stable.

He won two of his three starts in novice hurdles last season. After comfortable victories at Sandown and Uttoxeter, he headed to Cheltenham’s April Meeting and rounded off the campaign by finishing third to the useful and more experienced Elusive Dream.

The five-year-old was most impressive on his seasonal reappearance when taking the Cotswold Style Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at The Open on November 16, when he defied top weight of 11st 12lb to score a facile three and a half length success.

Entered in the Grade Two “Relkeel” Hurdle on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson commented: “Punchestowns will run in the Relkeel on Saturday. He has to go chasing next year.

“This race on Saturday is an obvious one for him, being for last season’s novices. He was impressive the other day at Cheltenham and the handicapper said that was the end of his handicapping career by putting him up 18lb.”

11 b g Lando (GER) - Capitolina (FR) (Empery (USA))
Owner: Piers Pottinger Breeder: Frau I U A Brunotte
Form: 00004- Win & Place Prize Money (Jumps): £102,602

Caracciola has been a real stable stalwart at Seven Barrows for many seasons and he has a combined total of 13 victories on the Flat, over hurdles and fences after starting off his career in Germany

At the age of 11, he recently gained the most valuable victory of his career when making a mockery of his 50/1 starting price in the totesport Cesarewitch at Newmarket on October 18.

Entered in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) on Friday.

Nicky Henderson added: “He won on the Flat over two and a quarter miles so you would think that three miles might suit him over hurdles. It is a bit funny to be experimenting with an 11-year-old but possibly the trainer has been getting it wrong for about seven years!.

“We will give him a run over three miles on Friday and, if he did stay, he will then go back on holiday with the intention of returning to racing in March at The Festival.

“He likes faster ground so the going at Cheltenham will be very slow for him. He likes to be a fresh horse too. He is in really, really good form but the question is whether he gets three miles on soft ground.”

Nicky Henderson’s 31 Festival Winners

JCB Triumph Hurdle
1985 First Bout, 1987 Alone Success, 1999 Katarino
Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle
1985, 1986 & 1987 See You Then
Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase
1991 Remittance Man, 1993 Travado, 2000 Tiutchev
Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase
1992 Remittance Man
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
Racing Post 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
William Hill Handicap Hurdle
2000 Marlborough
Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Chase
2005 Trabolgan
Ryanair Chase
2006 Fondmort
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase
2006 Greenhope


Cheltenham today revealed that The Sun newspaper is to sponsor the Best Mate enclosure for the 2008/09 Season. The Sun’s Saturday racing pull-out, The Favourite, has set the standard for weekend racing coverage and will be promoted on site at Cheltenham this weekend.

The arrangement also includes ticket promotions in The Sun, event marketing activity at key fixtures during the season and branding opportunities on the racecourse, as well as in-paper coverage for Cheltenham.

Peter McNeile, Director of Sponsorship at Cheltenham, said: “This is a great relationship, linking our best value enclosure, named after the most popular chaser of recent times, with The Favourite, part of the nation’s most popular newspaper. Not only will it result in more coverage for Cheltenham, it will also help to boost ticket sales and promote the delights of the Best Mate enclosure to a new audience.”

Allan MacCaskill, Head of Brand Marketing for News Group Newspapers, said: “The Sun is very proud of this increased association with Cheltenham Racecourse and The Best Mate Enclosure. Every year our readers love our coverage and our association with Cheltenham. We are delighted that The Sun will now have an even stronger brand presence at the track and also that we will able to offer our readers even greater coverage and offers around Cheltenham than ever.”

For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink Archive

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