Unibet HendersonUnibet Ambassador and top trainer, Nicky Henderson OBE Offers huge updates on a plethora of star runners and gives his thoughts on Saturday's performers.

“..I hope to have five in the Unibet Champion Hurdle..”

The Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching and we’re starting to shuffle the pack with regards to who go to Prestbury Park and in which race. We still haven’t decided whether Chantry House will run in the Supreme or Ballymore but suffice to say I was extremely pleased with his win at Newbury last week where, to be honest, it was very peaceful to watch. He went around without fuss, jumped very well and travelled and quickened up like a very good horse, so we’re all very excited about what he can do.

We haven’t even discussed Cheltenham yet but I must admit my first reaction when talking to AP (McCoy) on the way back to the winners’ enclosure was that I thought he could do with another half mile as I’m sure he’d get it, but we haven’t got to decide for a while, as he’s in both races and we’ll obviously do what’s right for the horse. There will be discussions aplenty but ultimately the decision will be up to JP McManus.

@sprintersacred tweeted me asking about Buveur D'Air and I’m pleased to report that he’s recovering well and the good news is that he’s been given the all clear to fly back to Ireland where he’ll head home to JP’s Martinstown Stud and enjoy plenty of TLC and recuperation. There’s still a long way to go and there is still a considerable gap between the two sides as the hoof grows over but it will repair in time and I’m told the recovery will speed up for some time out at grass, so all is looking good and it will be great to have him back here at Seven Barrows for the start of next season.

Speaking of the sick, lame and injured, I went to see Angels Breath with Dai Walters last week at Charlie Vigors’ Hillwood Stud and I’m delighted to say that he is doing extremely well, much better than we thought in fact. I was amazed how well he has done and while I can’t possibly give you a time scale as long as everything goes to plan there is still a good chance that he’ll be able to race again.

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Unfortunately it is not good news where Never Adapt is concerned and I’m sad to report that she fractured her pelvis in the Betfair Hurdle last Saturday and is currently about two boxes down from Buveur D’Air at Donnington Grove vets in Newbury. It’s a terrible shame but she is in the best place and will obviously be off for quite some time.

The ground has gone against Fusil Raffles which is why he wasn’t declared for the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, so he will instead join our team of gallopers at Kempton a week on Tuesday. The Unibet Champion Hurdle is still very much the target and all being well, he’ll be joined by Epatante and Verdana Blue, who subsequently both worked very well this morning, plus Call Me Lord and Pentland Hills too, so I hope to have five in the race all being well!

On the subject of Pentland Hills, I’d like to make you all aware that he underwent a small wind procedure (cauterised his soft palate) after running in The New One Unibet Hurdle at Haydock. It wasn’t done because he was making any noises, but it just occurred to us that it is something he can benefit from and it wouldn’t do any harm.

At Cheltenham I just thought he needed the race but in a funny way he came there again at Haydock travelling like the best horse in the race and looking as though it was all going to be very straight forward, but he didn’t finish his race as well as he should have done and got caught, albeit on bad ground, but often you find it possible that horses have problems in something like their soft palate, which no one can see (or hear) even when they are scoped, so we have decided to do it. It might help, it might not, but it will do him no harm whatsoever so it’s worth a try and we’ll find out if it has worked when he runs in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.


1:15pm - Novices’ Hurdle

Pipesmoker (Nico de Boinville)

His run behind Chantry House at Cheltenham last time was very good and there’s no doubt he will have improved plenty for that experience. The step up in trip will suit and he’s a horse we like a lot so hopefully he’ll put up a decent performance, although this does look a very hot novice.

1:50pm - G2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase

Pym (Nico de Boinville)

He has really developed into an extremely smart novice chaser and the form of his Cheltenham win has worked out very well. I think he’s been even better for the step up to three miles and we know he likes the track so you’d have to be extremely hopeful. Ideally he wouldn’t want the ground too testing but it is what it is and it’s the same for everyone. He’s in very good form and I’m extremely happy with him.

2:25pm - Listed Handicap Chase

Valtor (Daryl Jacob)

We took advantage of his novice status over hurdles at Ascot in November and he’s run two decent races over fences since. The Handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds and he stays this trip well on the ground. It’s a wide open race but he’s working well, has a great record at the track and should put up a good display.

3:35pm - G1 Ascot Chase

Janika (Daryl Jacob)

He was very impressive in the Haldon Gold Cup on his first run back but there isn’t really anywhere else to go with him so we are forced to run in races like this because of his rating. Obviously Cyrname is the one to catch and Riders Onthe Storm has looked very good on his last two starts but hopeful Janika can run a solid race and pick up some decent prize money.


1:30pm - 3 Uniboosts Per Day At Unibet Chase

Caribean Boy (James Bowen) 2nd pref

He came over to us from France having been off for absolutely yonks but put up an excellent effort when third at Doncaster on his first run since April 2018. He takes on The Big Bite again and at the weights there’s no reason why that form should be reversed but our horse will definitely have come on for that first run and should be much sharper this time.

3:50pm - Handicap Hurdle

Welsh Saint (Jerry McGrath)

He’s also in a qualifier at Exeter tomorrow, but that looks doubtful so we’re getting him out while we can. The Pertemps is where we want to end up but this looks a good opportunity and his Cheltenham form behind Protekorat is pretty smart. The step up to this trip will help and I expect him to go well.


2:12pm - Handicap Chase

Caribean Boy (James Bowen) 1st pref

He came over to us from France having been off for absolutely yonks but put up an excellent effort when third at Doncaster on his first run since April 2018 and this is his first preference because hopefully the ground will be better here. He’s certainly come on for his first run at Doncaster and this looks a good opportunity.

Article by Trainer and Unibet Ambassador Nicky Henderson and used with kind permission by the Unibet Blog.

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