Temperatures (and ulcers) as Henderson feels Festival fever

Lambourn

Trussed in a web of cables and microphones for his media open morning, the most prolific Cheltenham Festival trainer in history yesterday recognised his cue as he contemplated another three weeks of scrutiny and pressure. "I'm wired to the moon," Nicky Henderson announced cheerfully. "But you already knew that."

As one who notoriously lives on his nerves in the run-up to the four days that define the previous 361, Henderson could identify with one of the horses who contributed to an unprecedented haul of seven wins last year. Riverside Theatre, winner of the Ryanair Chase, has been diagnosed with ulcers since disappointing in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. "I think they'll have to put me on the same treatment after it's all over," Henderson said.

Riverside Theatre is evidently responding well, and may warrant more respect than current odds of 10-1 allow. "He'll be defending his crown but seems to have been rather forgotten about," Henderson said. "After Kempton we sent him away and I was expecting them to come up with a respiratory [problem]. But they found something completely different. Usually, you can tell if a horse has ulcers. But he has never looked like one. Luckily, they're treatable, and he's in great form. And now we know why he has always gone so well fresh. Ulcers are caused by stress, pressures, training."

Hence Henderson's particular empathy with Riverside Theatre, among a Festival team again likely to reach 35 or 40. "I wouldn't say these are the worst three weeks of the year," he said. "But they are the most taxing. Every night, after schooling or working, you go round feeling those legs, taking temperatures, scopes. There's a million different things that can go wrong. They're very fragile creatures. Some are missing already. Some, very sadly, are no longer with us at all."

Henderson is still smarting from loss of Darlan at Doncaster earlier in the month, albeit the tragedy placed in due perspective the minor hold-ups that required Bobs Worth, Simonsig and Grandouet to miss their scheduled rehearsals. And it was only five days later that My Tent Or Yours, with Tony McCoy wearing the same J P McManus silks as on Darlan, announced himself as a potential heir with that dazzling handicap success at Newbury.

Henderson and McManus are resisting suggestions that My Tent Or Yours should be fast-tracked to the Stan James Champion Hurdle, and will restore him to novice company for the first race of the meeting. "It's still hard to believe Darlan won't be there as well," Henderson said. "But the irony was that one day you were wondering how in the world you could ever replace a horse like that, and the next along comes My Tent Or Yours, looking as if he wants to step straight into his shoes. I know A P [McCoy] loves him."

McManus will instead rely on the seasoned Binocular, the 2010 winner, in the Champion, where Henderson also saddles Grandouet and Khyber Kim. The parade of big guns yesterday also included Long Run, who likewise goes to the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup as a past winner, alongside the emerging Bobs Worth. But the Seven Barrows standard is unmistakably raised by Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

"He is the one horse you'd be disappointed if he didn't win," Henderson admitted. "Every time he runs, anything but something spectacular is going to disappoint everyone. Luckily, so far he has put on a show every time. But what happened for us last year is unrepeatable. I've always gone there with the motto that you settle for one winner. Ideally, you get it on the first day. But you'll take anything, apart from that dreaded blank."

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Light Burst (3.25 Southwell)

Really found his feet at the end of summer and, freshened up, can make further progress switched to a surface likely to suit his American genes.

Next best: Suspension (4.35 Southwell)

Stable has a fine record when starting out handicappers here and it seems reasonable to expect improvement after three quick qualifying spins at Kempton.

One to watch: Dubawi Island (James Tate) perhaps burnt them off prematurely when worn down late at Southwell the other day, six lengths clear of the third even so.

Where the money's going: Oscar Whisky is 4-1 from 9-2 with Paddy Power for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test