As his Seven Barrows stable is one of the leading yards in British jumps horse racing, Nicky Henderson runners can often be fancied to win at the Chel
As his Seven Barrows stable is one of the leading yards in British jumps horse racing, Nicky Henderson runners can often be fancied to win at the Cheltenham Festival every year. All being well, the 2020 edition will be no different.
Ahead of the four-day National Hunt sports extravaganza starting on Tuesday, 10 March, which horses look to be his best chances of further winners at this showpiece meeting that has been kind to Lambourn handler Henderson down the years?
Named after modern jumps jockey legend AP McCoy, Champ posted Grade 1 winning form as a novice hurdler last season and is looking to make a similar splash over fences this term. Owned by JP McManus, a legendary gambler himself, Champ has a clear route planned to the Cheltenham Festival.
After winning back-to-back races at Newbury, the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase around Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day is his next target. That will hopefully get Henderson’s yard off to a flier in 2020 and then Champ returns to Cheltenham for the RSA Chase at the Festival.
Connections are trying their level best to keep him unexposed over the three-mile trip. Champ stayed that far over hurdles, so it’s no surprise to see him among Cheltenham betting tips and odds of 7/2 with Paddy Power for the Festival mean he’s already a clear favourite for RSA glory.
Although he will be a 10-year-old in 2020, Altior remains one Henderson horse that bookmakers really fear. Why? Well, he has won at the last four Cheltenham Festivals and recorded a 19-race unbeaten streak which only recently ended when stepping out of his comfort zone and up in trip against Cyrname in the 1965 Chase at Ascot.
That right-handed course and intermediate distance of two miles and five furlongs were firmly in his rival’s favour. One loss doesn’t suddenly make Altior into a bad racehorse, and the bookies certainly still treat him with the utmost respect.
He remains a standout 4/1 favourite with 888Sport for a third consecutive Queen Mother Champion Chase come the Festival. Dropping back in trip after he finished tired at Ascot is probably a wise move for Altior and he may well skip the Christmas period to be a fresher horse for Cheltenham.
Henderson is blessed to have a number of smart mares in the yard. Verdana Blue could have a hand in the Champion Hurdle if the ground came up good at the Festival, while Epatante will have her credentials tested at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
The novice mare Floressa is a less lauded but no less likeable type that could turn up in the Grade 2 Dawn Run on the third day of the big Cheltenham meeting. A winner on two of her three hurdles starts so far, victory in a Listed contest during the Winter Carnival at Newbury advertised her Festival claims.
Although the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has been dominated by Irish raiders since being added to the Cheltenham programme in 2016, Floressa looks a solid each-way bet at top odds of 10/1 with BetVictor. Henderson is sure to have other hopefuls entered across the four days and 28 Festival races too, so follow his stable closely.