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)

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreEXCLUSIVE The Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs his surreal series returns, the comedian on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
music‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do 'The Independent’s' experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary