After securing his fourth UK Jumps Trainers Championship last April, Stan James ambassador Nicky Henderson heads into the 2017/18 National Hunt season with a plethora of equine talent at his disposal and the man who has saddled [...]
We have 16 runners heading to Sandown for the NH Finale as well as MIGHT BITE, SPRINTER SACRE and BUVEUR D’AIR all parading before racing so it will certainly be a busy day for all [...]
We all enjoyed a tremendous Cheltenham Festival, with three winners and the others running very well indeed, so you couldn’t be more pleased with how they performed. I’ve been away for the past week so [...]
We're coming to the end of what has been an absolutely fantastic week. We always say we'll be satisfied with winner but to have three on the board already is brilliant and the whole team [...]
It's been a tremendous Festival so far and I couldn't be any happier with the way things have gone. MIGHT BITE was simply extraordinary in the RSA and it was certainly heart in your mouth [...]
What a marvellous start to the Cheltenham Festival! ALTIOR was brilliant in the Arkle and there is very little more we can say except that we have an extremely talented horse with a fantastic career [...]
The greatest show on turf has finally arrived and I, like you all, simply cannot wait to hear the roar from the crowd as the runners come into line for the Supreme Novices. This is [...]
It’s been a pretty busy week for us all @sevenbarrows as the countdown to the Cheltenham Festival really hits fever pitch and some of our big guns paraded in front of the press on Wednesday and [...]
It has been a pretty topsy turvy and extremely unpredictable week but sometimes this sort of thing is going to happen at this time of year with the ground as it is and Cheltenham just [...]
We had a great start to the Open Meeting with all the horses running well and it was obviously great for OO SEVEN to win his chase debut but my condolences go to all of [...]
It’s the first big meeting of the jumps season at Cheltenham this weekend and after the rain finally decided to fall, I’m really looking forward to getting some of our big guns out. The horses [...]
After the November Novice Chase was reopened at Cheltenham on Sunday I have decided to enter Altior and if the forecast is correct it is a possibility that he may take his chance, but it [...]
It was great to get off the mark at Cheltenham last weekend and THOMAS CAMPBELL was very impressive in winning his hurdles debut and KHEZERABAD ran very well too but I wouldn’t get that carried [...]
nicky-henderson-cheltenham It's great to be back at Cheltenham this weekend as it really is the home of National Hunt racing. It signifies the beginning of the jumps season proper and the road to [...]
It's the penultimate day of the Punchestown Festival on Friday and we have no runners on Saturday so hopefully we can sign off with another winner before heading home. MY TENT OR YOURS takes his [...]
I’m just about to board a flight to Dublin for the Punchestown Festival which is one final hurrah for the jumps season before we all go into hibernation. We have assembled a decent team and [...]
It’s the last day of the season tomorrow and I hope we have assembled a really good team to end on a high. SPRINTER SACRE takes on Un Des Sceaux in the Celebration Chase at [...]
As I tweeted on @sevenbarrows earlier today, we had to pull Peace And Co out of the Stan James Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock tomorrow – it’s a shame, but he just wasn’t 100% at [...]
Here at StanJames.com, we’re delighted to bring you the first weekly blog from our new racing ambassador Nicky Henderson. And it’s a massive Saturday in store with the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury sharing top billing. Nicky saddles live chances in both in Top Notch and Bobs Worth respectively, and he gives us his thoughts on them and some of his other inmates at Seven Barrows.
First of all, we’re very much looking forward to working with StanJames.com for the jumps season. We’ll do our best to keep you posted and let’s hope we have lots of fun and we find some winners starting with this weekend. Tomorrow is a very important day.
Top Notch runs in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. We’re running him again because we want to run him again. He’s very good, he’s mighty tough and it’s a brave thing having only had your first run of the year last weekend to come back again but he’s as hard as nails and he loves soft ground. Fair enough, Irving beat him last weekend but it’s not irreversible. We’ll have to see if there’s any pace in this race as there may well not be. We had to make it at Haydock and it’s possible he might have to do it again. One day, he’ll have to have a pacemaker.
He’s come out of the race very well. He ate up everything afterwards, he’s been in good form. He set off this morning in his quest for some StanJames loot. It’s a good race. What is good is that there was always a worry the Haydock race would interfere with the Fighting Fifth but the first two have come straight back in again so it hasn’t taken anything away. Then there are a whole load of other horses in there as well which will pose threats.
It is a hard thing to come back as quickly as this. Irving’s doing it as well but he’d already had a run before Haydock so it might be that Haydock didn’t take quite so much out of him. I don’t think we had a particularly hard race because we were always going quite well but we got done for a bit of toe from going to the last. But he does stay very very well and there isn’t much else to do. The only place he could go from here probably is the Relkeel which is now in the January meeting so he’s probably got nowhere to go between now and then anyway. So we rather felt we might as well take our chance here. Daryl Jacob rides him as he always does for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede so he’s on his way.
Full Shift runs in the novice handicap chase. He was a point-to-pointer at one stage of his life and, not surprisingly, his jumping has been absolutely excellent, touch wood. He would probably like a little bit further but in this ground I think two miles will be enough for him first time. He’s got plenty of ability. We didn’t start him until the Martin Pipe last season. He’s good to go, he has schooled well and I think his jumping will hold him up. He has won in soft ground but he probably wants a bit further.
Ericht goes in the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Chase. He has always been a better horse on better ground but the trouble is, in general really, it is wet everywhere. The only places where you really have any chance of getting good ground are Doncaster, the chase course at Leicester and Musselburgh but we won’t be going up there until the 1st of February. We’ve got to accept that it’s going to be horrible everywhere and there’s more rain around, I’m told. So if they don’t run here, it’s going to be the same the next weekend and the weekend after.
I was talking with Barry (Geraghty) this morning and we were saying we could wait for Cheltenham but what’s Cheltenham going to be like in a fortnight’s time. It’s hardly going to be good ground. Ericht ran in the amateur race at Cheltenham the other day over three miles and one furlong. It probably tested his stamina a bit too much and this trip would be about perfect, but not perfect ground. He is in very very good form so I could see him running well as long as he could handle it. I know they’re calling the chase course quite a lot better than the hurdle course but I don’t think the boys thought it rode much better. And Barry thought it would be too soft for Bobs Worth.
Laurium and Ma Filleule are in good form ahead of the handicap hurdle. Laurium ran a very good race at Cheltenham behind John Ferguson’s Penglai Pavilion. He’s been beaten since and the trouble is we went up eight pounds for the pleasure of finishing second but then you don’t come back down. So he’s got himself into a crazy place but he’s in excellent shape. David Bass nearly always rides him but he’s going to Doncaster and with 11 stone 12 we needed to claim off him so we’ve got a very good claimer in Freddie Mitchell. We’ll take five pounds off him to alleviate a rise for getting hammered by the thing of Fergy’s. He’s hardly suddenly improved. The lesson to be learned is not to finish too close to highly-rated horses.
There’s an obvious point with Ma Filleule in that she’s rated 157 over fences and running off 134 here. I’ve been complaining about the handicapper but we have an obvious reason to be optimistic in that I don’t think she’s any slower over hurdles. She’s 23 pounds better off so not surprisingly we’re just having another look over hurdles to see if we can pick a decent prize. She will be going back chasing shortly but that’s bloody difficult. There was a mares’ chase at Carlisle on Sunday but Simon Munir – Anthony Bromley looks after that – is going to run another filly in that and we’ll stay hurdling with her. What we’d really like to do is try and win a Grade 1 chase with her because this will be her last year. She’ll be retiring to stud at the end of the season but she’s been brilliant. She’s won the Topham and all sorts of things and she’s a gorgeous mare. Everybody loves her. She obviously would be competitive and she does handle soft ground.
This time last year, I could have run faster than Whisper. I don’t know what happened to him, he was just nowhere. He’d been top class the season before and he’d won the Aintree Stayers’ Hurdle. We were all looking forward to going chasing with him and it was hopeless. His jumping was all right but his work was appalling. We did then get him out and run him in a novice chase over Christmas and he got beaten by a horse of Paul Nicholls but it was hardly his best. It wasn’t him and we put him away again and again and again and you have to. You have to sit and wait and wait until it all comes together.
There were signs before Cheltenham in March that things were coming together. He actually ran a very good race in the World Hurdle considering he’d have needed it and we had to use that as a prep race for the Aintree race again. And whereas Cole Harden beat him at Cheltenham, we beat Cole Harden at Aintree. So we now have Race Three, tomorrow’s Long Distance Hurdle, which will be interesting. We had a racecourse gallop at Newbury the other day for a Hennessy preview day. They wanted some horses to gallop round but Cole Harden did the same thing so Warren (Greatrex) and I are on the same track. He’s very well and we’ll see what happens.
After he won at Aintree in April, his owner Dai Walters – who we’ve had a lot of good times with especially with Oscar Whisky – said he couldn’t take any more of chasing with him and that we’d leave him over hurdles and try and win the World Hurdle. Oscar Whisky was somewhere between a Champion Hurdle and a World Hurdle horse, two miles and five around Cheltenham he was virtually unbeatable. We went chasing late in life, he did really well, we had lots of fun doing that until sadly he was fatally injured in the Tingle Creek last year and it thumped everybody. I don’t think anybody could face that again and Dai certainly couldn’t. That’s not to say he won’t have chasers but with this horse he has a golden opportunity in this three-mile hurdle division with a realistic chance of being a World Hurdle horse. There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and March but it’s the start, they have to meet, they’ve got no alternative and we’ll take it from there. But he’s been fantastic this autumn all the way through.
Bobs Worth is in great shape ahead of the Hennessy. Yes, he likes going left-handed but Barry always felt the better the ground the better he was. Even going into last year’s Lexus, Barry felt he was in quite good shape but that ground was much too soft for him that day. I fear, and Barry thought so this morning, that this ground could easily be too soft for him which would be a shame because this is the first time we have seen him in such great shape for a long time. The hurdle race at Aintree did him the world of good – it did us all the world of good to be honest. Not surprisingly, when you’ve been off that long with one of your real old stalwarts, it’s great when they do come back and even just to win a hurdle race. Even if it was him beating Simonsig which is a fair performance in itself. It’s done him so much good and his schooling over fences has been absolutely first class. On that score, we’re optimistic but we’re hardly confident. It’ll be very competitive.
He’s got the best team of owners with Malcolm Kimmins, Kimbo as we call him, and a load of mates and they just adore him. This boy wears his heart on his sleeve and he would just die for you. I think that’s where he’s been struggling over the last two years. He puts so much into it and he takes a lot out of himself. He digs so deep that it’s bloody tough. He won at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals – the Albert Bartlett, the RSA and the Gold Cup – and that’s a fair thing to do. That’s hard on any horse. You get into those battle there, you can’t come out without scars. He’s back in a really good place at the moment so we’re optimistic without really thinking we can do it but we’ll see what we can do.
We were always coming here because of the attraction of him dropping as much as he has. With Coneygree going to run, he was going to come here with a ridiculous weight and looking very well handicapped. As we know, Coneygree doesn’t run and the race’s complexion has changed quite a bit. Our 10-7 has gone to 11-2 but, on the other hand, Coneygree was always going to be the hardest horse to beat so at least he’s out of the way. Saphir De Rheu is a very good horse who’s now got top weight. With the weights going up, it’s let a whole load in at the bottom but that’s the nature of the beast so here we go.
Lough Kent is my final runner at Newbury. He was running really well at Cheltenham the other day until he gave the second last the most almighty thump. Everything flew out of the window and I think Nico (De Boinville) said somebody managed to grab him and put him back in the saddle. He had come there really strongly like he might be coming to win the race but nobody knows whether he would have won or not, it was very competitive. Anyway, he’s in good form. Two miles, soft ground, it’s a good scenario for him.
Robin’s Reef goes in the mares’ hurdle at Doncaster. I wanted to run her in the listed race at Newbury but you couldn’t do that in that ground. That would have been criminal as she’s only a young mare. She won very well the first time and she will be a good mare. I hope she could even be good enough to go to the new mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham in March sponsored by Trull House Stud which half-owned by her owners, the Kelvin-Hughes, with Ronnie Bartlett owning the other half. We’ve gone to Donny to get some ground because we want to mind her for the time being. She’s gorgeous and she’ll be top-class, I hope, one day. We do have quite a lot of mares because we like them.
French Opera runs at Leicester on Sunday. He is the oldest incumbent at Seven Barrows aged 12. He’s been with me since he was a three-year-old, poor boy. We’ve got to know each other pretty bloody well. He’s had to put up with my for nine years, or the other way round, I’m not sure. I love him, he’s never missed a year, he’s never missed anything. He’s been amazing and, fair play to him, he still retains buckets of enthusiasm.
The great thing is the ground at Leicester on the chase course is different to anywhere else. The hurdles course is always very soft but the chase course is always good. They’re actually calling good, good to firm in places which is perfect for him. It’s probably a little far for him but this is a veterans’ race where they’ve got to be 10 to run in it. He is the oldest but he’s not that old in this race. Over the years, we’ve been campaigning him as a proper two-miler and he ran in the Grand Annual six times, mainly because it’s Dad’s race. He’s in very very good form but I would have to say he nearly always needs a run. It does take him a couple of races sometimes to get him ready. It’ll be nice to see him out anyway. We’ve talked about retirement a couple of times but he doesn’t need to as he’s enjoying himself.
Brain Power was the first leg of a double at Kempton on Monday. He’s a very talented youngster. He’s out of mare called Blonde Ambition. That was a very very messy race as they went no gallop. That wouldn’t have helped him at all but he got away with it. I don’t suppose it would have suited any of the others either but, still, he’s a lovely big horse with all the scope in the world and I hope he’ll go a long way.
Vaniteux didn’t beat anything but it’s the way he did it. His jumping, I have to say, was as good as you’ll see. As long as we can stay on that route, I think two miles is fine. He’ll get further, he won a point-to-point. He’ll get two and a half but I don’t think he wants three. He’s got bags of pace. We thought about doing this a year ago but he had only had four hurdle races and a point-to-point in his life and Richard Kelvin-Hughes and I took the view that more experience was going to help him. He actually had a very productive season as far as winning prize money was concerned. He won a lot of prize money without winning a race but he was placed in some very high-class contests. We stalled chasing for a year but now we’ve decided to get on with the job.
I would think the chances are we’ll go back to Kempton for the Wayward Lad at Christmas. Good ground will help him and that’s why we went to Kempton because it’s better than most. Whether he’s Arkle or JLT I don’t know but I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t something.
Polly Peachum almost made it a quick treble. That was a shame but the program is a lot easier for her after Christmas. She just got beaten a head in the mares’ hurdle at Cheltenham. She was meant to finish second as Annie Power would have won but it looked like she’d half-gifted us the race when she fell at the last. Then suddenly another blinking thing of Willie Mullins comes along and nails her on the line. I suppose it was justice really as she would have finished second anyway.
Robert Waley-Cohen now owns half of her with Lady Tennant and she’ll just be aimed at the mares’ hurdle. There are races on the way. I didn’t really want to start her over three miles but I was rather forced to because it was the only race she could run in. There are no two and a half miles at the moment and you can’t run her in a handicap because I think she’s the highest-rated mare in England. She got beaten which is a pity but we won’t worry about that too much and we’ll crack on. The better the ground the better and Cheltenham will be her swansong. Like Ma Filleule, this will be her last year
Simonsig will almost certainly be entered for the Tingle Creek. I was talking to Barry this morning and the alternative would be the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon which, in a funny way, might just be a nicer race for him. I think if Un De Sceaux comes to Sandown they’ll go plenty quick. He’s a bit keen and Huntingdon would be a good track for him so we might for the Peterborough although we haven’t made our minds up.
As far as Sprinter Sacre is concerned, he has come out of Cheltenham in fantastic form. He looks brilliant. But if we’re looking at the Tingle Creek it’ll only be three weeks after it. He won by 14 lengths but I’m not going to tell you he had an easy race. It was his first proper race for a very very long time as everybody knows. He seems in fantastic form but we’ve got to think about it and make a decision by tomorrow really. He’s been cantering all the time but if he is going to run he’ll have to step up his work over the weekend. So we will be shortly making some sort of decision on that score.
If it was soft at Sandown, Un De Sceaux loves soft ground but Sprinter does not love ground. Yes, it was soft enough for him at Cheltenham the other day but the conditions of the race were totally in his favour. Come the Tingle Creek you’re going to have probably the winner of last year’s Arkle, and Simonsig won an Arkle, although Sprinter was better than all of them when he was at his best and we’re hoping we’re going to get there.
The only thing that matters with Sprinter is next March. It’s the only race we want. I won’t do it but I wouldn’t mind going straight there. You wouldn’t do that but you might need only one run on the way. If that’s the way we choose to go, it’d be easy. And I think just three weeks after his first run, we might be just coming back a bit quicker than we need to. So we’re 50-50 or we might be 60-40 against because of the ground.