Nicky Henderson didn’t break records at last year’s Cheltenham Festival so much as stacked them up in a pile, threw some low-quality paraffin over them and set them ablaze.
With 39 Festival winners to his name, Henderson started one win behind the legendary Fulke Walwyn on the list of all-time most successful trainers at the Festival, but after a fairytale four days saw him take his tally to 46 winners, he is now an astonishing six clear of the Welshman and 14 clear of his closest rival still in the business, Paul Nicholls.
His haul of four winners on Wednesday in 2012 was the biggest enjoyed by any trainer from a single day at the Festival and his tally of seven wins from the four days trounced the previous record of five wins in one Festival. The master of Seven Barrows has set the bar high and with a stable jam-packed full of stars, he’s expected to go close to reaching those standards once again 12 months on.
The records could start tumbling early on in the 2013 Cheltenham Festival. Henderson is already the joint most successful winner of the Champion Hurdle alongside Peter Easterby with five wins, but he could go clear with another win. With highly-rated potential candidates like My Tent Or Yours, Grandouet, Oscar Whisky and 2012 champion, Binocular, Henderson has a strong team lined up to upset Hurricane Fly’s bid to regain his crown. Henderson is 11/4 to win the Champion Hurdle with any of his runners.
One record may well have fallen prior to the opening day’s showpiece. Henderson and seven others are tied with two wins in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and another victory would make him the most successful trainer in that particular contest. My Tent Or Yours is the 7/4 favourite for the race, but Henderson also has the exciting River Maigue in with a shout of victory along with a host of talented youngsters capable of stepping up to the mark. The 62-year-old trainer is a 5/4 chance to start the Festival with success in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Dealing with uncer-Tent-y
With uncertainty about My Tent Or Yours’s final destination, you can back Henderson’s rising star to win any race at the 2013 Festival at 11/8 or back him for a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 2013 and Champion Hurdle 2014 double at 14/1.
In what could be a start to the Festival like no other, Henderson could open up with a quickfire double. Simonsig is the odds-on favourite to inherit the Arkle Chase Trophy claimed so impressively by Sprinter Sacre last March. The seven-year-old winner of the Neptune Novice Hurdle at last year’s Festival is 8/11 for victory and after winning his two races this season by a combined distance of 84 lengths, he’s 9/4 to win by eight or more lengths.
Wednesday looks equally promising for Henderson. Sprinter Sacre is expected to cruise to the Queen Mother Champion Chase title at odds of 1/4 and again the question seems to be not ‘if he’ll win’ but ‘by how much?’. This seven-year-old superstar hasn’t put a foot wrong in winning his two races this season and he’s evens to rout the field by winning the race by 12 or more lengths.
Worth a few Bob?
Just because he might start with a bang doesn’t mean he’ll be leaving with a whimper as Henderson can be more than optimistic of his chances of landing a second Gold Cup. Bob’s Worth and 2011 winner Long Run are favourite and fourth favourite for the race respectively and a Henderson 1-2 in the race is an 11/1 chance, a price that could look pretty big depending on how events earlier in the week unfold.
It looks like being another great week for Henderson and odds of 7/4 for him to have six or more winners at the 2013 Festival illustrate the strong team he’ll be taking to the Cotswolds. It’s 50/1 that he completes a clean sweep of the big four races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, World Hurdle and Gold Cup). That’s unlikely, but after last year’s amazing success, you get the feeling it’s not completely out of the question when it comes to Henderson.