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Trainer Profile : Nicky Henderson

hendersonTrainer Profile: Nicky Henderson

Based: Lambourn, Berkshire

Stable jockey: Barry Geraghty

Best horse ever trained: See You Then

Number of Cheltenham Festival winners: 50

One word to describe him: Legendary

No man in the history of horse racing has trained more winners at the Cheltenham Festival than Nicky Henderson, who has also won the leading trainer award an unprecedented nine times. He is synonymous with the place.

When it comes to readying a horse for one of the Cheltenham prizes, Henderson is simply the boss. He has mastered the craft, no other trainer comes close to the feel and relationship the Seven Barrows maverick has with his horses.

How did he fare at the 2013 festival?

Henderson was surprisingly beaten to the top trainer award by Irish master Willie Mullins but few would have declared 2013 unsuccessful for the Lambourn handler after he saddled four winners across the four days, including winning the feature race on the Wednesday and Friday.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase was a special occasion and dominated headlines on the second day as Sprinter Sacre duly delivered a performance that everyone expected, sauntering clear in stunning fashion to win the first of what will be many Cheltenham Festival races over the next five years.

Bobs Worth, rather fittingly, gave Henderson his 50th winner at National Hunt racing’s main event by landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the Friday.

In winning Henderson his second Gold Cup, the horse became the first horse since Flyingbolt in the 1960s to secure three different Cheltenham Festival events in consecutive years after claiming the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2011 and last year’s RSA Chase.

Bobs Worth and Sprinter Sacre were the headline acts but wins for Rajdhani Express in the Centenary Chase and Simonsig in the Arkle, both of whom are big prospects for 2014, gave Henderson a festival to remember despite not ending as the top man.

Memorable Cheltenham Festival winner?

See You Then – 1987 Champion Hurdle

Some horses look like donkeys in the stables but come alive at the racetrack, which was the case with See You Then, who despite etching himself into Cheltenham folklore by winning three Champion Hurdles, was widely known to be a very problematic horse to handle.

Not many trainers could have worked the magic with See You Then that Henderson managed.

To even win one Grade One with a horse that was made of glass and was a fiery and aggressive customer to deal with was an achievement in itself, but to send him to three consecutive Champion Hurdle titles was a monstrously brilliant accolade.

Known by the press as “See You When” due to his lightly raced profile that revolved around the Cheltenham Festival, Henderson somehow galvanised the horse to recover from fragile forelegs in 1987 to bring his A-game to the table.

Jockey Steve Smith-Eccles, who rode See You Then to all his triumphs at Prestbury Park, stalked their great rival Barnbrook Again throughout the race and jumped every hurdle with a slickness that only See You Then could deliver. Smith pushed the button over the last and the horse quickened clear to win and catapult Henderson’s career into the limelight.

What races at the festival does he have a fruitful record in?

Henderson’s ability to nurture a young novice to the top over fences is sublime and should come as no surprise to see that of those 50 wins, five of those have been provided by the Arkle Chase.

His record though is consistent across all disciplines. Whether a Grade One or a handicap, Henderson is capable of readying a horse for the big day.

Best ante-post bet for 2014 festival?

Bobs Worth, Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre could all come back and leave the bookmakers reeling again in 2014 but the best ante-post bet in the Henderson squad at the time of writing is West Wizard for the Supreme Novices Hurdle.

He looks very classy and the 16/1 won’t last long into the winter.

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