Altior set to spearhead Henderson Cheltenham team.

Ruben Hill
February 20, 2020

Nicky Henderson starts the 2020 Cheltenham Festival just one behind all-time leading trainer Willie Mullins with 64 previous winners. His most successful meeting was in 2012 when he saddled a record seven winners, a total since surpassed by both Mullins and Gordon Elliott. Another very strong Irish challenge is expected this season but Henderson will be doing his best to keep them at bay.

Altior chasing third Champion Chase victory

The Lambourn Trainer has been kicking himself for running Altior in testing ground at Ascot in November when beaten by Cyrname. That defeat ended the gelding’s record run of 19 consecutive victories and caused Henderson to abandon plans to tackle longer distances. A confidence-boosting win at Newbury has put Altior back on course for a fifth win at the festival meeting and a third successive Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Punters certainly haven’t deserted Henderson’s stable star and he is second favourite behind the impressive Defi Du Seuil. With the Mullins-trained Chacun Pour Soi also set to line up, it promises to be one of the betting highlights of the Cheltenham Festival. You can get all the latest available Cheltenham betting offers for 2020 at Freebets.com, including Non-Runner No Bet and Money Back Specials.

Punters will also be looking to Henderson to get the meeting off to a flying start with Shishkin in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The trainer has made no secret of the fact that he rates the gelding as his best chance of a winner at this year’s festival. Shishkin fell on his hurdling debut in December but bounced back with easy victories at Newbury and Huntingdon.

Epatante one of five Champion Hurdle entries

Henderson is already the leading trainer in the history of the Champion Hurdle with seven victories. He saddles the likely favourite again this year in Epatante, winner of the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park. She was regarded as the stable banker bet last season but finished a disappointing ninth in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Henderson does not subscribe to the view that she does not act on the track.

Epatante could be joined by as many as four stable companions; Pentland Hills, Fusil Raffles, Verdana Blue and Call Me Lord. Pentland Hills won the Triumph Hurdle last season but has raced keenly and struggled to last home in his two races this season. Fusil Raffles and Call Me Lord both disappointed last time while Verdana Blue needs good ground.

Most bookmakers already offer Non-Runner No Bet terms for your ante-post Champion Hurdle bets. Epatante (100-30) and Pentland Hills (5-1) are first and second favourites and could be available at enhanced prices on the day.

Henderson favours Ballymore for Chantry House

The trainer’s faith in Shishkin for the Supreme has him leaning towards the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle for stable companion Chantry House. Both of his hurdle victories have been over two miles but the son of Yeats look sure to stay further. He will need to be very smart to lower the colours of hot favourite Envoi Allen but must have each-way claims.

Mister Fisher could run in either the Arkle Chase or the Marsh Novices’ Chase, depending on the ground. He is likely to go for the longer Marsh Chase unless the ground is extremely testing. Champ looks a worthy favourite for the RSA Chase, despite a fall in the Dipper Chase on New Year’s Day. He would certainly have won that day and remains an exciting prospect.

The climax of the meeting is the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Henderson saddling second-favourite Santini. He stayed on resolutely to win the Cotswold Chase and is very closely matched with Delta Work on last year’s RSA Chase form. The stable won the race with Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013). The Cheltenham Festival runs from Tuesday March 10th to Friday 13thwith extensive coverage on ITV.

By Harvey Mayson

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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