Thursday 6.00pm Tad breezy out there today! Not that it bothered me, the entries for the Cheltenham handicaps were out at midday!! 961 entries over 10 races, weights next Thursday. Just can’t wait. I hope some of you followed the Staying Chase Ante Post blog I put up on the 16th Feb. We got Leg 1 last Saturday with Vieux Lion Rouge and the other two run this weekend with possibly Favourite’s chances!! Shotgun Paddy was put up at 10/1 and is currently an 8/1 market leader having today got the rain we were hoping for at Newcastle. The third and final leg is Double Shuffle in the Betbright Chase at Kempton and we said get on that 14/1 at PP and I know at least one of you did!! He is now as short as 5/1 at the top of the market, there are only 13 runners and we have got four places!! It was a 1432/1 treble, prayer mats out please.
Friday Lucky 15
Looks like we need to visit Mr William Hills!
Warwick 2.00 GLOBAL STAGE 13/8 general
Exeter 2.45 GRACEFUL LEGEND 5/1 WH 9/2 general
Exeter 3.50 AUDACIOUS PLAN 14/1 general
Warwick 4.45 MUCKLE ROE 11/2 WH 9/2 general
and here’s why
Warwick 2.00 GLOBAL STAGE I like the horse and the connections, Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan, but the price is a bit skinny but we’ll be happy to kick off with a winner. Global Stage has kept some serious company in his racing to date, indeed just ten lengths behind Finians Oscar at levels when they both made their hurdling debut. Coo Star Sivola will struggle to give him 7lbs and Monsieur Co has a big ask for a 4yo and interesting trainer Paul Nicholls puts up the red hot Stan Sheppard and claims 5lb.
Exeter 2.45 GRACEFUL LEGEND This young lady is in fine form having won three out of her last five and if there is one thing she loves is a scrap with the word “gamely” often appearing in her post race analysis! Obviously up in grade could make her vulnerable but the ground and trip are spot on and her weight is competitive. Three last time winners oppose to mean it’s no gimme but if she is beaten they will know they have been in a race!
Exeter 3.50 AUDACIOUS PLAN A furlong shy of four miles round Exeter in February is going to take some getting but there are still at least half a dozen in here who would be quite happy to go out for another lap! The selection needs to get back to his form of eighteen months ago but the trip, grade and ground are all fine, Jonathon Moore takes off 3lbs and he’s back with Rebecca Curtis whose yard seems to have benefitted for a three week break. Crucially he’s run well from around this mark OR126 before. I think this is a cracking each way single at 14/1 ¼ 1,2,3,4.
Warwick 4.45 MUCKLE ROE The form book suggests this one may have had a wind op last autumn as he went from being a weak finisher prone to late (tired) jumping errors to a horse who is seeing out three miles well! So I will take him to defy a 9lb rise for the Twiston-Davies clan as young Willy goes in pursuit of those chasing wins to get his ride in the Grand National.
Thursday Lucky 15
Frustrating when a meeting is called off but Doris couldn’t be avoided!
Huntingdon 2.00 SIR ANTHONY BROWNE Non Runner
Thurles 3.00 MOULIN A VENT 2nd 15/8F
Halved in price and I thought this was in the bag turning for home with the leader covered and Mr Walsh piling the coals on back in third BUT never underestimate Ruby and he got a tune out of Tin Soldier to outstay the selection.
Huntingdon 3.10 ACTINPIECES Non Runner
Huntingdon 4.55 BOAGRIUS Non Runner
Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Stable Tour February 22 2017, 16:22
I’ll run three in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, Brain Power, Buveur D’Air and My Tent Or Yours and it’s just a question of where we’ll finish them off now. Nothing will run beforehand and there are various gallops planned. Because he didn’t run at Sandown I was toying with running Brain Power at Kempton on Saturday but decided against it. He worked well on Monday and Buveur D’Air did likewise on Tuesday. Brain Power cantered around Newbury after the Betfair Hurdle. My Tent Or Yours is in good shape, really good shape. He was second in the Champion last year and has been something of a forgotten horse. He wasn’t quite sparkling earlier in the season and will go to Kempton on Tuesday for a gallop. He’ll love the Champion. He wants a really fast-run race, which he hasn’t had it all year. We should have made the running in the Haydock race which turned into a silly affair. It’s so far so good with them, they’re all intended runners. Barry Geraghty hasn’t given me any indication what he’s going to ride, I haven’t spoken to him about it. I hope David Mullins will ride Brain Power. I’d imagine it’s between Buveur D’Air and Yanworth for Barry, or he could surprise you and ride Tent. I should think there’s a possibility Noel Fehily would ride Buveur D’Air if Barry didn’t. He rode him all last season and Barry virtually sat on him for the first time in his life at Sandown last time. The good thing is it isn’t a problem from my point of view. If Barry rides our horse, great, if he doesn’t I don’t think we have a problem. I think Brain Power has done everything right and looks really well, he’s been great, the one thing you could say is there is a ground situation here. Buveur D’Air would love it soft and Brain Power good. We all know on day one it’s going to be good to soft or softer. The softer the better for Buveur D’Air – that helps him and goes against Brain Power and My Tent Or Yours. If you take it strictly on what he did at Sandown, Buveur D’Air wouldn’t deserve to be favourite for a Champion Hurdle. He beat Rayvin Black and Irving who didn’t’ really perform there or at Wincanton the next time where they were beaten even further. We’ve just got to do our own thing though. I’ve always thought he was a Champion Hurdle horse even though he was very good over fences. The switch back wasn’t entirely down to what was happening with the Champion Hurdle. Yes Annie Power missing out made you think but I said to Barry before racing at Cheltehham that day that this horse needs to come back into the Champion whatever happens to Faugheen tomorrow. Half an hour later Faugheen was out of the Sunday race but I was adamant before that my horse had to come back into a Champion Hurdle. We’ve seen horses come through handicaps and look very good but it’s always a big gap. However, rated 163 Brain Power has nowhere else to go. He has a very high cruising speed, you need that, you have to be able to travel through the race, and I’d expect they’ll go a good gallop with The New One and Petit Mouchoir in the field.
Altior We’re a long way from another Sprinter Sacre but he’s creeping up the road. We took the same route as Sprinter did in the Game Spirit and now he’s got to come out and win the Arkle. If it happens and he doesn’t do something silly there will be comparisons with ratings and the like. You wouldn’t believe you could put away one as great as that and replace him with another. And this is a two miles horse and two miles only. It can’t have been the wrong thing to do [go over fences this season] as there are that many people trying to convince us to go in the Champion Chase. If he’s capable of taking on Douvan we must be thinking we’ve got something right. This horse could jump with Douvan. A lot of horses can’t because a) they aren’t fast enough and b) they can’t jump quick enough. So far that’s what he’s been able to do. After Sandown we said we’d stay down this road (novice chasing).
Beyond Conceit It’s between the Sky Bet Supreme and Neptune for him and if it came up very soft I’d definitely be keen to go to the Supreme. On good ground we might go over two-and-a-half. He pulled very hard over that trip at Ascot on Saturday and did well to win. It looked as though stamina won the day there but I wouldn’t be sure. Barry rode him the first day at Newbury and said he didn’t want any further. He’s an older horse and travels well and I’m thinking two miles but we don’t know.
Charli Parcs I don’t think he minds anything [ground-wise]. If he gets soft ground on Saturday at Kempton he’ll run because he has to and I don’t think it will worry him. I’d like to run him in the Triumph I must admit. He’s very smart, a proper four-year-old. He’s got to go and do it on Saturday. If you go into the Supreme you get allowances… we’ll have to see. JP McManus has got a lot of horses in a number of categories. He’s a lot of horses in the Supreme as well, I’ve got Consul De Thaix of JP’s that could easily come in there, then there’s Paul’s horse who was second in the Betfair, Movewiththetimes, and a number in Ireland as well. They’ll have to put the right horses in the right place and that’s probably not my call.
Consul Du Thaix He’s another who belongs to JP McManus and will come in somewhere. Where I’m not sure at this stage.
Daphne Du Clos We might even hit the bumper this year which would be very, very strange for me. She’s forward and mature for a four-year-old filly. The history books tell you that isn’t possible but that looks open this year. I know poor Willie (Mullins) has lost his best one and she looked very good the other day and she gets all the allowances – I think she’s got 10-4. I love bumpers but that as a race for young horses, if they’re not up to it they get such a brutally hard race and our bumper horses aren’t trained like that. They have a run and then they have a second run and they get put away for novice hurdles. Some guys probably have four of five trips to the racecourses and they’re well prepared for it. You come down that hill flat to the boards with young horses and they will get hard races. They’ve got to be very good and I think she’s different [to our usual bumper horses]. We were second in it with Trabolgan and he turned out to be a very good staying chaser.
Different Gravey We were going to go back over hurdles – he’s in the National Spirit at Fontwell on Sunday [and he had that entry] with a view to going back over hurdles including the Aintree Hurdle and missing Cheltenham. But, his jumping has come back the last 10 days. He’ll either run in the Pendil on Saturday with a view to running in the JLT or he’ll go to Fontwell and miss Cheltenham. I think the Pendil is the probability as his jumping has just come back, whereas three weeks ago he was just awful.
Domperignon Du Lys & Divin Bear The Fred Winter is the handicap I like this year. It’s normally not a race for us, you either have a Triumph horse or you don’t have anything, but these two fit the bill here. Between them I think it’s a race we have a very, very good chance in. They are slightly exposed, Divin Bear is rated 137 which is normally not where the winner comes from, Domperignon is 133 which is usually more realistic. They are both in good shape.
Josses Hill (and Vaniteux) He’s been excellent this year. He wasn’t that good at Kempton but he’s in good shape now. He goes for the Ryanair and some good ground would be nice. I think Un De Sceaux likes to get his toe in so good ground for that race please. Vaniteux is also in good form and goes for that race.
L’Ami Serge He might go for that race at Fontwell on Sunday [National Spirit Hurdle]. Or is he still in the Champion Chase? Just see who’s going to take on Douvan, look at the second and third prize money. That’s the thought with him at the moment. Left-handed over fences, he’s good round there. He did disappoint. I can excuse him Haydock but I don’t know what happened at Cheltenham the time before because he looked to have done everything right that day. As I said to Simon [Munir, owner] afterwards, this horse looked like a two miler…….attack, attack, attack.
Lough Derg Spirit He’s looked very good. He won a good trial at Musselburgh last time on good ground which would help him. He might just be an Aintree horse rather than Cheltenham but we’ll see, we could go either way.
Might Bite Might Bite goes into the RSA. It was horrible at Kempton but he had a nice run around Doncaster. He’s been very good. Someone said to me the other day ‘will you be happy with him on an undulating track as he’s only ever been around flat tracks?’ Well, there are plenty of horses that have gone to Cheltenham having only run on flat tracks. It’s not a worry. His jumping has been good. It would be nice for Might Bite not to have to make it. He must have a powerful engine. It was going to be a staggering performance [in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase].
Peace And Co The horse who is going to come back and who I might take to Kempton this week is Peace And Co and I might take him to Kempton this weekend. He is working extremely well and you could ride him in a head collar, all that lunacy has gone and I’m not saying you’re going to see another Lazarus but you might do. He’s working very well, he’s been working with all the boys over the last few weeks. He’s in the Imperial Cup, then he’s going to win the bonus in the County Hurdle and in between he’s going to chase round Douvan for second place prize money! He had a wind operation, he had pneumonia – that helped him a hell of a lot. I don’t know why but he’s just come back a completely different person. Everything before was 100 miles an hour as it was on the racecourse but now everything seems great.
River Wylde He runs in the Sky Bet Dovecote at Kempton on Saturday and could run in the Supreme. That’s a race you need the right horse for, if it’s a year too soon get out of it, it’s not where you want to be.
Top Notch He’s extraordinary because at the start of the season we said we’d give him a couple of runs in novice chases around the smaller tracks to give him confidence as he wouldn’t have the scope for chasing. Then we could bring him back over hurdles and maybe try him over three, see if he made a Stayers’ hurdler. He was a nowhere-to-go horse really. He was getting the hang of it in small-field novice chases and learning to jump and getting his confidence up. He grew and grew and grew and grew until we get to Sandown and he’s the best jumper there is in the Scilly Isles. He loved it. He loves soft ground. Two-and-a-half helps him too. He’ll have a tough task with Yorkhill and Whisper could be in the mix too.
Verdana Blue She looked very good yesterday (at Taunton). She will almost certainly turn up in the Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle. She looked very good.
Whisper Whisper I think goes for the JLT. He could move up to three, I want to talk to Davy Russell and Dai Walters about that. He stays three and it’s a possible. He just went for a bit of a wander in the park for a year or so, we’ve all done it. He got beaten at Exeter by something not spectacular but he’s put it together now and he gets on very well with Davy. He’s a great style of riding a horse and he just tells him to get on with it and I love it. It suits him down to the ground.