Paul Nicholls may have waltzed off with the National Hunt trainers’ championship in all of the last seven seasons, but the time has finally come for Nicky Henderson to take over this mantle.
Ladbrokes are offering top price on Nicholls retaining again at 2/1, but he faces the steepest of uphill battles to defeat Nicky Henderson, who looks a banker at 1/3.
Interestingly last season, both trainers had 14 horses that secured over £50,000 in prize money with the most successful horse being Neptune Collonges for Nicholls in the Grand National, taking close to £550,000.
However, not since Red Rum’s back-to-back successes in 1973 and 1974 has a trainer won the Grand National in successive years, while before Ginger McCain, Fred Winter was the last to take two in a row with different horses in the 1960s.
Therefore, Nicholls is unlikely to benefit from this hefty sum this season, while the decision to retire Kauto Star will also dent his earnings.
Nicholls desperately needs some youngsters to step up and there is some optimism regarding Silviniaco Conti and Sanctuaire, while Al Ferof is capable of putting last season’s disappointments behind him.
The only horse that Nicholls can truly count on is Big Buck’s.
Henderson has far more strings to his bow, with Sprinter Sacre more than capable of mopping up in the 2m division if anywhere near as good as last season.
Simonsig is another with high expectations if taking to novice chasing, while Darlan looks set to be a serious challenger in the Champion Hurdle.
Options are also vast in the 3m ranks, with Long Run out to earn more than last year after failing to live up to expectation in both the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Henderson is certainly mob-handed for the first of these this season, with Bobs Worth and Finian’s Rainbow others in line for an appearance.
Add Grandouet, Riverside Theatre, Oscar Whisky and Binocular to the Henderson team and there is real potential, while Shakalakaboomboom and Burton Port are early horses of interest for the 2013 Grand National.
Henderson certainly looks on course to be crowned champion trainer at the Cheltenham Festival again and must be fancied to enjoy his best ever campaign in terms of total prize money, bettering 2012.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.