Temperatures (and ulcers) as Henderson feels Festival fever
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."
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.
Latest in Sport
Chelsea 4 Tottenham 0 match report: Samuel Eto’o stoops to conquer sorry Spurs
West Brom 0 Manchester United 3 match report: Manchester United stick to the script as Robin Van Persie loses the plot
Chelsea 4 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Manager Tim Sherwood calls on Spurs to show guts following heavy defeat
Arsenal 4 Everton 1 match report: Revitalised Mesut Özil breathes life into Arsenal
Transfer news: Micah Richards could fill gap at Arsenal with Bacary Sagna's departure as Manchester City contract winds down
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 3 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 4 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
- 5 Dead woman's body found sitting in a car after six years after direct debits ran $54,000 bank account dry
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas, study finds
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...