Henderson hoping to notch in JLT

Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls: old rivals will clash at Cheltenham

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Top Notch the top chance for Henderson
By James Burn 8:12AM 16 MAR 2017

WHEN Paul Nicholls suggested last month Nicky Henderson, and not Colin Tizzard, was the biggest threat to his champion trainers' title, his old rival dismissed it as mischievous mind games.

But after a fine start to the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, Henderson, for the first time this season, tops the table with £1,990,203 in prize-money to Nicholls' haul of £1,870,924 and Paddy Power and Betfair rate the new leader the 4-6 favourite to capture a fourth crown.

Bet365 see things differently and make Nicholls, who is 5-4 with the other firms, their 8-11 favourite with Henderson evens.

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Both will be busy on day three of the Cheltenham Festival today when there is more than £1 million up for grabs.

Henderson has ten runners in five of the seven races with Top Notch the shortest-priced of his challengers in the £156,760 JLT Novices' Chase.

The Seven Barrows trainer, on the board with Altior, Buveur D'Air and Might Bite this week, also runs 25-1 shot Kilcrea Vale in that race and said: "Neither have done anything wrong. Top Notch has been a revelation again. He's just the most likeable of horses and you can set your watch by him. He's Mr Reliable and has been great all year. I thought he was terrific at Sandown, and while this ground might be quick enough I think he's versatile enough to cope. Kilcrea Vale travels and jumps. He enjoys it and he's good at it, although ideally he would have run in the novice handicap, for which he was 2lb too high."

Henderson also runs Vaniteux and Josses Hill in the Ryanair Chase, which at £300,000 shares richest billing with the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.

Nicholls is represented by Zarkandar in that, but his best chance of getting off the mark appears to also lie in the JLT with Politologue.

The ten-time champion trainer said: "He's had a good season, winning three, and we're looking forward to him running. Hopefully the ground will be okay. He's run on soft all winter but I think he might just appreciate it. The biggest thing for me is that he just keeps the lid on himself as he can get a bit wound up beforehand, so I just hope the occasion doesn't get to him – that's my one concern."

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