Nicky Henderson has been speaking to At the Races ahead of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and the Seven Barrow’s main man has got some interesting insights into his Cheltenham runners including Altior, Santini in the Gold Cup, Epatante and more of his stars.
Altior is the undoubted star of the Henderson yard and is at the head of the betting odds for the Champion Chase on Wednesday at Cheltenham. The trainer goes into detail about his defeat to Cyrname and how he is ahead of the Festival.
You can watch the full video below and see his main thoughts ahead of the four days at Prestbury Park.
“That race with Cyrname absolutely bottomed him” was Henderson’s overall thought on Altior’s first ever defeat earlier this season.
He bounced back to winning ways after a break and now heads to the Champion Chase to defend his crown. Henderson said he shouldn’t have run Altior but he didn’t have a choice, with the ground bottomless.
“We shouldn’t have run, but you couldn’t have come out of it because the world would have killed us because they had been such hype about this great match”.
Altior got his confidence back at Newbury but Henderson is still worried about the ground at Cheltenham. It is unlikely the ground will be anything better than soft and that will give the advantage to Defi De Seuil.
Henderson accepts that this is a very competitive renewal and thinks Defi is the biggest threat. He tried to get JP McManus to run Defi in the Ryanair.
Talking more about Defi De Seuil and the match-up in the Champion Chase, he said “he’s looked very good all year, he’s a horse that loves soft ground and the ground could be a big factor. Altior is a much better horse on good ground. In very soft ground….the balance would switch I think according to the ground”.
The current Champion Hurdle favourite is “in very good form and working great” according to Henderson. She hasn’t been seen since Christmas but she is set for a racecourse gallop before Cheltenham.
Henderson thought she was one of their best chances of the week in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle last year, but she ran poorly (as did a few of the Henderson horses). He puts this down to the flu outbreak 12 months ago and the requirement for the yard to revaccinate.
Talking about the Champion Hurdle tips 2020, Henderson seems bullish about the chances of Epatante, as does AP McCoy who appears on the video…
Henderson: “she’s a good filly there’s no doubt about that”.
McCoy: “you’d have to say her win at Christmas at Kempton is the most impressive 2m form we’ve seen this season”. “From what I’ve seen visually this year if you were to pick a ride as a jockey in the Champion Hurdle, there’s no doubt you’d pick her.
The next race looked at is the Cheltenham Gold Cup on day 4 and Henderson has one of the leading fancies in this race in Santini. he was brilliant in the Cotswold Chase and shortened in the betting odds for the Gold Cup.
There was excuses for his poor show at Cheltenham last season and Henderson says “he was lame up to the day of the race” before his RSA run last season. This year has seen a much better prep, “fingers crossed no problems he comes in with a good chance” to the Gold Cup.
He also thinks the course used on the Friday will suite Santini better than what is used for the RSA Chase and he is telling him he is right at the moment. The only concern for Santini would be the ground, with Henderson saying “he prefers nice ground” and that is probably enough to put people off backing him.
The favourite for the 1.30pm Cheltenham race on day 1 is Shiskin – Henderson sounds hopeful of a good run looking back at his earlier races “both Novice Hurdle’s he has been very professional. he has got gears, you can just press a button”. “He’ll stay, there’s no doubt he’ll stay”.
At the current odds of 11/4 with Coral, he looks short enough in the betting for the race and it would be interesting to see what price he is on the day. You can see more of our day 1 Cheltenham Festival tips including an up to date prediction for the 1.30pm race.
Last time out Champ fell and Nicky Henderson has said he is going to go to a racecourse and jump some fences to see how he is. “I’d like him to go and jump some fences on a racecourse”. He hasn’t run since falling at Cheltenham but the trainer doesn’t seem too concerned about his jumping. “He’s schooled alright here….he’s done everything right so far but we haven’t even been 3m over fences with him so far”.
Henderson says he knows he gets the 3m trip and he does stay, with them keeping him at 2 and a half miles on purpose, but he expects “the step up to 3m to help him”.
There are also thoughts from AP McCoy in the video of Nicky Henderson’s Cheltenham runners which you can see in full below.
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