Henderson has strong opening day contingent at Cheltenham


Nicky Henderson admits the opening day is crucial for him at Cheltenham.

The master of Seven Barrows has already enjoyed 39 Festival winners – by far and away more than any of his contemporaries and just one behind the all-time mark set by the great Fulke Walwyn.

The momentum he has gained from emerging young horses in recent campaigns sees him saddling perhaps his strongest ever team in 2012.

With JP McManus’ Darlan a likely favourite for the curtain-raising William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Henderson could have already equalled Walwyn’s record by the time the electric Sprinter Sacre tackles the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase.

Then there is the matter of former Champion Hurdler Binocular back in action against Hurricane Fly a little over half an hour later.

“The first three races are going to tell us an awful lot. I’m either going to be a happy Henderson, or a wounded one,” he said.

Later on in the meeting Henderson will field such horses as defending Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Long Run, Riverside Theatre as a possible favourite in the Ryanair Chase, Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase and Oscar Whisky taking on Big Buck’s in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

“The numbers are good, and I’ve got a few handicappers in there too,” Henderson went on.

“I think we’ve got good strength in depth everywhere and lots of chances, but there are lots of good horses to beat.

“With Sprinter Sacre, we are the one everyone is going to be frightened of, and I’m going to be terrified watching him too.
But in the other races, I’m frightened of something else.”