Racing: Henderson tempted to aim high with Trabolgan

The start of a champion's title defence is always an occasion of note, and Kicking King is reported by his trainer, Tom Taaffe, in rude health ahead of his return to the fray at Punchestown tomorrow. But contenders for the staying-chasers' crown he took so decisively with his victories in the King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup are starting to peel off their sweatshirts and jogging pants.

Trabolgan, for instance, last season's best home-trained novice in the division, did his first serious piece of work yesterday morning. The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old, winner of the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham, is one of the thrusters in the mix for top honours.

Henderson and Trabolgan's owner, Trevor Hemmings, face a dilemma, though. The Captain Sensible route is to start their young star's campaign half-way up the ladder, in an intermediate chase at Sandown at the start of December, a route the trainer has tried and tested with Bacchanal and Calling Brave. But there is a siren call distracting them, the bonus of a cool £1m to the horse who can win the new Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, the King George, to be run at Sandown this year, and Gold Cup.

Kicking King, obviously, has it in his sights; so do the Best Mate team and every other three-mile chaser with more than three legs. "These bonuses are great," said Henderson yesterday. "£1m is a wonderful carrot, a trainer's dream. But sometimes they're a trainer's nightmare, leading you to do something you should not.

"I know Trabolgan will have to take on Kicking King in the King George, but I'd rather he had a less ambitious prep, particularly one that will give him experience at that track. To start off against the big boys is a huge ask, and I'd like to protect him. But he has to meet them sometime, and Trevor is a big fan of Haydock, his local track. We've discussed it, but not reached a decision. This carrot makes it difficult."

Trabolgan won the Cheltenham novices' feature, his owner's first Festival success, on only his fourth start over fences, and the 11th of his life. "He's always been an unfurnished sort of horse," added Henderson, "which is why he's had only a few races each season. But he's come back from his summer break looking bigger and stronger than I've seen him before, and I hope that will give us the chance to do a bit more with him this time."

Henderson is also perched on a pair of horns as far as Hemmings's other young chaser, Juveigneur, is concerned. The eight-year-old was bought from France as a long-term Grand National prospect, but after winning the Kim Muir at Cheltenham flopped in the Topham Chase at Aintree. "The Hennessy Gold Cup would be absolutely his race," said the master of Seven Barrows, "but if he is to have the National as his target, he should run in the Becher Chase the week before Newbury to get practice over those fences. And he can't do both."

Juveigneur came close last term to landing Henderson another of those pesky carrots, the £250,000 on offer to any Cheltenham winner who could take the Betfred Gold Cup. "He landed over the last in the lead, and I was doing my sums and coming up with nearly £400,000. Then that thing from Ireland [Jack High] shot past and all of a sudden we were back to £30,000."

If Henderson goes down the Sandown route with Trabolgan, he is likely to come up against My Will, from the Paul Nicholls yard, and possibly Comply Or Die, nominated by his owner, David Johnson, as his best prospect among his second-season staying chasers. The six-year-old was second in the Royal & SunAlliance. "I know he's young, and maybe we did a bit too much with him last season," said Johnson, "but I think he'd be my King George horse. Our Vic might have been, but he never showed on the track what he showed us at home and that fall he had at Cheltenham [in December] really shook him. He's rated only 123 over hurdles, though. Now there's a thought."

The first of the princes to have a go at Kicking King will be War Of Attrition, one of Ireland's best last-term novices, at Punchestown tomorrow. The monarch is ready, though. "He's in super form," said Taaffe yesterday. "He wouldn't be 100 per cent, but I think he's further forward than when he won first time out last year. If all goes well it will be on to Haydock." Let the games begin.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Multakka

(Bath 3.00)

NB: Brave Fight

(Nottingham 3.20)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee