Reason to be wary of Henderson runners over festive period

Nicky Henderson has sent out an unusually small amount of runners during the month of December.

In the month up to Boxing Day just 19 runners have departed his Seven Barrows base to go racing, a much smaller amount than in the same month of each of the preceding four years.

Henderson saddled 69 runners across the Advent month in 2014, 86 in December 2013, 70 in 2012 and 111 in 2011.

Even if each of the yard’s remaining 23 separate horses entered up to the 30th takes their chance, this year’s is still a markedly lower output, particularly for one of the nation’s powerhouse stables.

No news has reached the public domain as to the wellbeing of the beasts under the Lambourn handler’s care, however, reading between the lines it may prove prudent to exercise caution when betting on his representatives.

Henderson has an 11-strong entry across the two days of Kempton’s blockbuster King George meeting, with at least two short-price favourites.

Altior is likely to go off as 6/4 jolly for the 12:50 novices’ hurdle that opens the Saturday card, while Sprinter Sacre is a 1/2 shot to banish lingering doubts he is back to his inimitable best in the Desert Orchid chase on Sunday.

Elsewhere on the Boxing Day card both 5/1 Full Shift (13:25) and 4/1 Sugar Baron (15:45) also take high rank in the betting for their respective engagements.

For those minded to oppose Henderson’s more fancied runners given the unusually quiet December for the yard, there looks to be ammunition, particularly in the case of Altior.

Willie Mullins runs Open Eagle, who is rated 104 on the flat after smashing up the November Handicap at Doncaster by 12 lengths on the flat and open to plenty of improvement on just his third hurdles start.

Sprinter Sacre looks harder to get beaten, but his presence in the race does make 12/1 Somersby an intriguing each-way play.

The old warrior was a 14-length second to the aforementioned superstar on that one’s comeback run at Cheltenham off level weights, but races of 10lbs lower than the same rival and Sire De Grugy at Kempton.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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