Nicky Henderson planning all-out assault on Champion Hurdle
David Metcalf | March 10, 2016
Henderson gunning for more Champion Hurdle glory
Trainer Nicky Henderson intends to run all five of his entrants in the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival as he bids to win the Grade 1 contest for a record breaking sixth time.
The Lambourn handler is currently the joint-top trainer in the history of the race with the now retired Peter Easterby.
He performed miracles to get the fragile and injury prone See You Then to land a hat-trick of successes in 1985/86/87, produced a shock when 22/1 outsider Punjabi prevailed in 2009 and brought Binocular back from a late injury scare to score in 2010.
Geraghty to partner My Tent Or Yours
Henderson’s main contender in this year’s Champion Hurdle appears to be My Tent Or Yours, who sports the colours of leading Irish owner JP McManus and will be partnered by Barry Geraghty.
Renowned big money punter McManus will also be represented by Hargam, who will have the services of Mark Walsh in the saddle.
Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede will be represented by Peace And Co and Top Notch, but retained jockey Daryl Jacob is yet to choose who to partner and Nico de Boinville is expected to get the leg-up on whichever horse Jacob does not ride.
Andrew Tinkler will partner the other Henderson contender, Sign Of A Victory, who wears the same Matt and Laura Morgan colours the jockey carried to victory on Call The Cops in the Pertemps Final at last year’s Festival.
Here are Coral experts’ thoughts on each of Henderson’s team…
My Tent Or Yours
Current Champion Hurdle odds: 10/1
My Tent Or Yours is yet to finish out of the frame in 14 starts under rules and has won six of his 10 starts over hurdles, so he has the shortest Cheltenham odds of Henderson’s Champion Hurdle contenders.
After finishing a fine second in the 2013 running of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, My Tent Or Yours went on to land a Grade 2 contest at Aintree before securing a brace of Grade 1 successes in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
The nine-year-old also ran a stormer to finish runner-up to Jezki in the 2014 Champion Hurdle, coming with a strong run after the last to go down by a diminishing 1/4 of a length.
My Tent Or Yours finished 2 1/2 lengths on front of The New One, and had the brilliant Hurricane Fly a further 2 1/4 lengths behind in fourth.
That is strong form, but My Tent Or Yours has not been seen since suffering an injury after finishing third in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr back in April 2014.
It is a huge ask for him to win a race of this nature on his first start in nearly two years, but Henderson is the master at bringing them back to be spot on for the big day.
Current Champion Hurdle odds: 20/1
Hargam was a smart juvenile, winning twice and finishing a fine third of 16 to Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle at this meeting 12 months ago.
The five-year-old has run well in all three of his starts this season, finishing a solid third to Old Guard in the Grace 2 International Hurdle and a keeping on 7 3/4 length third to Faugheen in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton – when last seen in action on Boxing Day.
Hargam finished just 3/4 of a length behind runner-up The New One in the latter, and may well have finished in front of that rival but for a mistake two from home.
An official rating of 157 leaves him with a bit to find to trouble the likes of Willie Mullins trained favourite Annie Power (162) and stablemate My Tent Or Yours (161), but Hargam is a tough and genuine sort and could outrun his odds.
Peace And Co
Current Champion Hurdle odds: 20/1
Peace And Co joined Henderson after winning on French debut at Clairefontaine, and looked a superstar in the making last season when winning all three starts.
After strolling to a facile success in the Grade 2 Summit Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster, the five-year-old went on to land a Grade 2 contest at Cheltenham by three lengths before rounding off the campaign with success in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle over course and distance at the Festival.
Peace And Co looked a Champion Hurdle horse in the making, but things have not gone to plan in two runs this season.
The gelding pulled like a train when bombing out on seasonal reappearance in the International Hurdle and finishing last, and could then finish only third of four when sent off odds-on for a Listed contest at Sandown last month.
Peace And Co has since undergone a breathing operation, and that may well help him get back on track.
However, judged on his runs this season it will take a huge leap of faith to back him to land the spoils in a race of this nature.
Sign Of A Victory
Current Champion Hurdle odds: 50/1
Sign Of A Victory has won three of his 10 starts over hurdles and looked an exciting prospect in the last of those at Ascot back in November 2014 when cruising home on the bridle to win a competitive 11-runner handicap .
The seven-year-old looked the type that would go on progressing and win plenty more races, but things have gone downhill since and he has failed to win in five subsequent starts.
Sign Of A Victory did manage to get his head in front on the level when winning at Wolverhampton on his penultimate outing, but was beaten out of sight when a 37 length last of five to Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle when last seen in action. He appears to be making up the numbers in the Champion Hurdle judged on that effort.
Current Champion Hurdle odds: 16/1
Top Notch is a tough and likeable sort who has won six of his 10 starts over hurdles and finished in the frame on three occasions.
Those placed efforts include a fine 1/4 length runner-up to Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago, and an excellent 1/4 length second to Identity Thief in this year’s Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Top Notch made a costly mistake two from home in the latter before rallying bravely and only getting chinned close home, and the winner has a progressive profile and is fancied by many to run a big race in the Champion Hurdle.
Although not at his best next time up when fifth in the Relkeel Hurdle, Top Notch quickly bounced back to run out an impressive 12 length winner of the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso last month.
That run showed that he is clearly in good shape heading into the Champion Hurdle and, in what is a wide open renewal, he looks a lively outsider and each-way value judged on his run behind Identity Thief, with that rival currently 6/1 joint-third favourite with Coral for the 2016 Festival day one feature.