Henderson in trim for major weekend

Trainer's string hitting top form as Barbers Shop and Binocular focus on big prizes

He can hardly expect the entire week to work out quite so smoothly, but its first hour of earnest competition certainly offered Nicky Henderson an encouraging template. He arrived here yesterday with the odds-on favourite for both the first two races – and neither gave him any more cause for alarm than would be reasonable to expect of a horse making its debut, as they respectively did, over hurdles or fences.

It was the perfect tonic for a trainer preparing several of his best prospects for a critical examination. Henderson is likely to saddle more than a dozen of them over the three days of the Hennessy meeting, which starts at Newbury on Thursday, and also has Binocular reappearing in the WBX Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

At the best of times, Henderson is prone to fretting, and this season he is also spurred by wounded pride, having served a suspension over the summer for that excruciating breach of doping regulations. But the good fettle of his string was reflected by the remarkable performance of Zaynar at Ascot on Saturday, and he acknowledged consecutive wins for Candy Creek and You're The Top as a further boost to morale.

"It's a big week," he said. "Very big. When you look at the team we're firing into the weekend, there's a lot of very nice horses. But then it's always the same, at this time of year. Leading up to Christmas, you have to sort things out a bit."

He had begun his day by pairing two of the biggest guns, Punchestowns and Barbers Shop, in their work at Seven Barrows in Lambourn. Punchestowns, beaten only by Big Buck's last season, contests a valuable novice chase on Friday's card at Newbury, while Barbers Shop, last seen trying his luck in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, resurfaces in the Hennessy itself on Saturday. Thanks to the presence of Denman, at the top of the handicap, he gets in with just 10st 8lb.

"I'm not a genius at these things, but you don't have to be one to look at the Hennessy weights and say that it's the sensible thing to do," Henderson remarked. "I suppose an easy three miles might suit me better than a stiff three miles two. But he stays. I was watching the Gold Cup again the other day and he missed the third last quite badly, you know – and going to the top of the hill we were in very good order. Denman's going to be very hard to beat. But he is beatable, as I'm sure Paul [Nicholls] would agree. And if we have any pretensions to having a Grade One horse, we have got to be competitive on Saturday."

Punchestowns was also given an entry over three miles, on Thursday, but Henderson is adamant that two and a half miles will suit him better. "Looking at him over hurdles, there were times when you wondered whether he was getting three," he said. "But he'll get it in time, over fences. He's been working well. He's done everything I've asked of him so far, I must admit."

Henderson's winners here certainly lived up to expectations. Candy Creek, imported from Ireland after winning the mares' bumper at Aintree, made an awful mess of the third but gave Tony McCoy few problems thereafter. "She was a bit fresh, which I wasn't expecting, as she's very laid-back about life at home," Henderson said. "She wasn't concentrating at all over the first four. Tony said she'll get farther, but to give her another run over two miles first to settle her down."

You're The Top proved a chip off the old block, another bold Henderson novice skipping round one of the trainer's favourite tracks – and, remarkably, a sixth consecutive course winner for his owner, Michael Buckley. "That was as soft as he would want it," Henderson said. "We'll have to mind him during the winter. But he jumped great and he's growing all the time, in belief, confidence, everything."

Binocular is likely to face a strong Irish challenge at Newcastle, headed by Solwhit, a stylish winner on his reappearance at Punchestown, and Sublimity, who has run well on the Flat since undergoing what his trainer prefers to call a "procedure" – rather than an "operation" – on his wind. "He seems as good as ever," Robbie Hennessy said. "He's jumping brilliantly. Philip [Carberry] came over from France on Thursday to school him and he's working very well."

Donald McCain kept up his terrific run with four winners yesterday, including a double here. Whiteoak, his first Cheltenham Festival winner, seemed to discover a new lease of life on her first start over three miles in the Starlight Foundation Mares' Hurdle, and was introduced at 12-1 by Totesport for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Turf account: Chris McGrath

Nap

Silk Gallery (2.00 Southwell)

Deserves another chance after disappointing on her last visit here, having looked on the upgrade.



Next best

Master Fong (12.50 Sedgefield)

Jumping fell to pieces as he tired on his hurdling debut at Bangor but had shown plenty of promise up to that point.



One to watch

Shifting Star (W R Swinburn) lost his way during turf campaign but looked on way back when finishing well on his Wolverhampton comeback.



*Where the money's going

Barbers Shop is 6-1 from 7-1 with Totesport for the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little