Henderson shows faith in his beaten champions

 

These things tend to level themselves out in the end. Just as an unnervingly mild, dry autumn could not last forever, so Nicky Henderson knows that the very best horses in his care will ultimately complete a cycle rendered almost as inexorable by his past champions.

He paraded the latest generation before the cameras at Seven Barrows yesterday morning, as ragged black clouds still tumbled in the gale that had finally thrashed the trees bare. Here was Long Run, the champion steeplechaser, taught a memorable lesson by the evergreen Kauto Star at Haydock 11 days ago; and here was Binocular, a former champion hurdler, likewise beaten on his reappearance at Newcastle last weekend. But while lesser animals in the yard continue in rampant form – to the extent that he won with all seven of his runners the previous Monday – its elite will always reserve their very best for Cheltenham in March.

Both Long Run and Binocular were beaten first time out last season as well, but laid sufficient foundations to proceed to Grade One success at Kempton on Boxing Day. And Henderson, who had opened his stable on behalf of the meeting's promoters, is satisfied that they will defend their trophies – respectively in the William Hill King George VI Chase and Christmas Hurdle – with undiminished verve.

It must be said that Long Run could scarcely have endured a rougher comeback than Kauto Star gave him in the Betfair Chase. "But if he did have a hard race, he has come out of it very well indeed," Henderson said. "He seems very bright and breezy. Of course it was disappointing, to see him beaten – but it wasn't a disaster. You could go on dissecting the race as long as you like, but the fact is that he does get a bit rusty and he was too fresh in the early stages. Was his first run last season any better? It probably wasn't as good. And his jumping, until those two mistakes, was absolutely brilliant – better than ever before."

The mistakes in question were palpably provoked by the unsparing demands made by a super-fit Kauto Star, and Henderson did indicate that Long Run's rider, Sam Waley-Cohen, would ride a more patient race if the winner is again waiting for them at Kempton. Either way, he was thrilled by the way Long Run rallied for second after initially dropping away.

"Okay, the other horse made him make that first mistake," he said. "Fair enough. But then he went back for more, and got a bit of another dose. And that really knocked him back. It's easy in hindsight, but I suppose after that first mistake, you might just let it happen. I wouldn't think he'll be taking on Kauto Star that early at Kempton. But on the day Sam just found him tanking, full of exuberance, and was suddenly landing upsides. We're not going to make acres of excuses. We were beaten fair and square. But Paul [Nicholls] had got Kauto Star pretty ready for the day. We'd got pretty ready, as well, but not ready enough."

Certainly he retains every confidence in the horse's rider, whose amateur partnership with a horse owned by his father ultimately won over even the most cynical punters last season. Some, admittedly, felt that Waley-Cohen looked at least as rusty as his mount at Haydock. "But Sam's got a fantastic attitude," Henderson protested. "It's not that he doesn't care, but he's got a very cool head, and he's very positive. I know it's not the same for him as for the boys doing it seven days a week. But he's very fit, very focused, and has lots of belief – both in himself and in his horse. It certainly doesn't worry me one iota."

Just as Long Run's season works backwards from the Cheltenham Festival, so those who fancy Finian's Rainbow for the Queen Mother Champion Chase should not be too alarmed that he sits out his intended comeback at Sandown on Saturday. The horse is "not quite ready" and will probably now be targeted at Kempton on 27 December.

As for Binocular, he has now been turned over at odds-on when reappearing in the "Fighting Fifth" Hurdle three years running. "He probably thinks we ought to try something different," Henderson said wryly. "But Overturn is a very hard horse to pass, and we met him at the very top of his game. Like Long Run, Binocular will go to Kempton with exactly the same profile as last year. We're not early birds, everyone knows that. There's a long way to go."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Ngong Hills (2.0 Catterick) Faces a less exposed rival in Streamtown and nor would he want too much rain, but reliable and very fairly handicapped.

Next best

Main Beach (6.30 Kempton) Impressive round here last time and could offer value against Mottley Crewe, who looks effective on the deeper surface at Southwell.

One to watch

Tullamore Dew (Nick Gifford) is going to pop up in a decent handicap sooner or later, palpably failing to get home over the longer trip in the Hennessy last Saturday.

Where the money's going

Peddlers Cross is now 4-1 from 5-1 for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
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

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests