Horse RacingJump Racing

Nicky Henderson: “He does handle soft ground and this is his trip and he’s absolutely made for chasing”

December 28, 2020January 7th, 2022

It’s been a funny few days with a few ups and downs so we have decided to take a step back for 10 days or so to regroup and get our horses back one hundred percent.

I’ve spoken to pretty much every press man in the country over the last twenty four hours and there’s nothing else I can say with regards to Altior until we have conducted another Tracheal wash tomorrow morning (Tuesday); then we will have a much clearer picture where we stand and what our next move will be. It certainly wasn’t the real Altior at Kempton because he was never really travelling and was on and off the bridle, but he still put up another extremely brave performance and if you take out the winner, who is clearly an improving horse, Altior was well clear of Duc Des Genievres (giving him 6lbs) and if it wasn’t for the bare facts that he scoped dirty after the race, everyone would say what a great race he’s run. But to be fair he still didn’t go through the race with his usual zest and despite running on well to the line he should have been more than capable of winning, but sadly he didn’t and we will investigate thoroughly. In the press conference afterwards there were some outlandish questions asking if I was going to retire him – certainly not, why would we?

The weather has been absolutely foul which is never good because you need plenty of very cold days to kill the dreaded bugs and diseases and, yes, a few of mine have been coughing which is why we are going to have a few quiet days to restock.



Epatante was also not at her best and Aidan said he knew quite a long way out that she didn’t feel her usual self and not travelling as she always does and I do not think her defeat had anything to do with the mistake three out. We scoped her after the race and she was as clean as a whistle so her defeat is an entirely different one to Altior’s. She is absolutely fine and I’m pretty sure I know where I’m going with her and she’ll be back to try and retain her Unibet Champion Hurdle crown. It’s unlikely that she’ll run again beforehand but that’s certainly not set in stone and we’ll sit on it for a couple of weeks before making any rash decisions.

I was particularly disappointed with Barbados Blue who I thought would go very well in the Handicap but unfortunately she didn’t jump a twig and Nico did well to coax her around. She’s still very unexposed and has lots to learn so will have a short stay at Henrietta Knight’s who will give her lots of jumping education.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, and I was absolutely delighted with Santini who ran a great race in the King George and performed pretty much exactly as we predicted. We all know Kempton isn’t his track but he enjoyed a spin around there and we’ll look at the Cotswold or the Denman Chase for him next. Obviously Champ comes into the equation as well but he’s not quite ready yet so I shan’t be rushing into anything with him.

Shishkin was brilliant and I will not be drawn into the ‘is he the next Altior?’ conundrum. The answer is he is very good where he is at this stage of his career but has an extremely long way to go before we can even consider putting him in the same bracket at Sprinter and Altior. Let’s just enjoy him for what he is at the moment and take each day as it comes. The Kingmaker at Warwick or quite possibly even the Game Spirit at Newbury would enter the reckoning.

I was very happy with Heross Du Seuil who won very nicely for us in the Juvenile Hurdle. He’s a youngster we’ve always liked and as we are quite thin on the ground in the three-year-old department, he’d obviously be top of the ranks at the moment.



12:55 Introductry Hurdle

Cascova (Jerry McGrath)

It’s only his second run over hurdles but I think he is a very, very nice horse and I’ve been really happy with his work and schooling. This looks a competitive race but he’s got to start somewhere and it’s a nice course to get him going. I was disappointed with his only run last season so let’s hope he can build on that. 

1:30 Novices Handicap Chase

Dickie Diver (Aidan Coleman)

He’s been off for yonks but we’ve had a nice clear run with him and I’m very much looking forward to getting him going over fences. He does handle soft ground and this is his trip and he’s absolutely made for chasing.



1:10 Novices Hurdle

Arcadian Pearl (Nico de Boinville)

He’s a nice horse who works well but does still have quite a lot to learn and I think he’ll be a much better proposition further down the line.


1:45 Listed Mares’ Chase

Casablanca Mix (Nico de Boinville)

All I can say is that the trip, track and conditions are exactly what she wants but, and it’s a big but, the going is an issue because she has to have good ground. A two and a half mile Mares’ Listed race is 100% right for her but unfortunately she does not want a soft surface so I’m definitely worried on that front. That said, she’s a very classy mare and is a few pounds better of with Henry Daly’s horse.


12:55 Fillies’ Juvenile

Progressive (Nico de Boinville)

She’s probably running two weeks before I’d really like to run her but you try finding me a juvenile race for fillies, so we have to come here because they are few and far between and she knows enough having only ran in Ocotber for Roger Varian. I’ve given her two pieces of work and she’s done lots of jumping at Henrietta’s.