Nicky Henderson has one of the most powerful stables in racing and this week he has announced plans for his three superstars, as they edge closer to returning to the track. This information is what fans were waiting for, and it is a big sign that the jump racing season is back, so it is time to get excited.
The first horse that Henderson spoke about was Altior. His main early season plan is the Tingle Creek at Sandown, which takes place in early December. However, Henderson was very positive about Altior and the work he had been doing at home, so much so that the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham in the middle of November is where he will likely begin his season. Altior is looking to continue his dominance over the two mile chasing division, and for many people he will be one of the bankers of the Cheltenham Festival meeting, when we eventually get round to the jump racing showpiece.
The second horse to talk about is Might Bite, a horse who finished second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season to Native River. He will begin in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, which takes place at the end of November. This is the logical starting point for the horse, with the £1 million bonus up for grabs again if a horse can win the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Those three races will form the rough season plan for Might Bite, and even if he is unsuccessful in the Betfair Chase, he looks sure to run in both the King George and the Gold Cup. I expect we will see him run once more somewhere else, giving him four runs for the season, and there is always the chance that he turns up at Aintree for a fifth run if he progresses through his season well.
The final horse to talk about is Buveur D’Air, who has the long term plan of winning the Champion Hurdle for the third time in a row. One criticism of the campaign given to Buveur D’Air in recent years is that he hasn’t been tested enough. However, that isn’t really a fault of Henderson, as other horses and trainers are simply avoiding meeting him. Buveur D’Air will begin his season in the Fighting Fifth once more this season, a race which takes place at the beginning of December. This is a grade one hurdle, so he can’t be accused of avoiding a big clash, so it will be interesting to see who takes him on, with the plans being out in the open for everyone to know about.
The three stable stars from Nicky Henderson’s string have had their plans revealed and that is a big sign that the jump season is upon us. All three will be strong contenders by the time we get to the Cheltenham Festival in March next year, and we know where they will be heading to start their season’s.
Interestingly enough, Henderson didn’t saddle any runners for the Grand National in April and his 2017 runner, Cocktails At Dawn, fell at the first fence. So while he might have Cheltenham sussed, it looks like he will have to dig deeper to conquer the Aintree fences for the 2019 Grand National.