Nicky Henderson: Five things
Our correspondent Ian Ogg picks out five things that he learned from the latest media visit to Nicky Henderson's stables.
Could Peace And Co (l) be back to the form that saw him win the Triumph?
Give Peace a chance
Peace And Co. Remember him? He won the 2015 Triumph Hurdle and has beaten only one horse home in three subsequent starts. Well, he's back. He could be among the team Nicky Henderson takes to work at Kempton in the next few days and the Seven Barrows handler said of the six-year-old: "He is working extremely well and you could ride him in a head collar, all that lunacy has gone and I'm not saying you're going to see another Lazarus but you might do. He's working very well, he's been working with all the boys over the last few weeks.
"He had a wind operation, he had pneumonia – that helped him a hell of a lot. I don't know why but he's just come back a completely different person. Everything before was 100 miles an hour as it was on the racecourse but now everything seems great.
"He's in the Imperial Cup, then he's going to win the bonus in the County Hurdle and in between he's going to chase round Douvan for second place prize money!"
Take on me, take me on, I'll be gone
Douvan may be home for all money but there's a lot of money up for grabs for the placed horses and trainers are beginning to cast a covetous eye at it with the possibility of a very small field. Altior won't be heading there for Henderson but L'Ami Serge just might as long as he comes out of Sunday's National Spirit Hurdle in one piece.
"Just see who's going to take on Douvan, look at the second and third prize money," said Henderson. "That's the thought with him at the moment. Left-handed over fences, he's good round there. He did disappoint. I can excuse him Haydock but I don't know what happened at Cheltenham the time before because he looked to have done everything right that day. As I said to Simon [Munir, owner] afterwards, this horse looked like a two miler…….attack, attack, attack."
The A Game and Plan B
Altior is rated 1lb higher than Sprinter Sacre at the same stage of their careers and the comparisons will continue to be made and Henderson was not shying away from them.
"Sprinter wouldn't have won a mile and a half maiden on the Flat but this would," he said before adding 'actually Sprinter probably would have done'.
"He could win a Chester Cup," he agreed when asked. "But I'd have to get him three runs to be handicapped," he went on.
"He's serious, and he can cruise along at any pace you like and then just change gear."
Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig often worked together but Henderson wouldn't be drawn on Altior's work partners saying only: "You have to be very, very careful when you work two very good horses together because they can actually damage each other because they get so competitive; they're natural competitors.
"We've got to let them do the work that complements each other but he has to work with something serious as otherwise he can't do any work. Good horses make good horses, they've got to work with something."
"Un De Sceaux is going to be a serious horse to take on. He loves it soft and if it's soft ground he's going to be impossible to beat," said Henderson when discussing the Ryanair Chase claims of Josses Hill and Vaniteux but it was what he didn't say or almost said next that piqued the interest. I'll leave it to you to fill in the blanks.
"But I think what happened last year with Un De Sceaux was the ground went Sprinter's way and I know Un De Sceaux doesn't love….I don't think he enjoys coming down…..he just loves to get his toe in the ground doesn't he? Just for that race can we get good ground please."
The one that got away
It wasn't so long that Jenkins was favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle but he has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival as the trainer explains but don't forget his name.
"Everything has gone wrong, everything. We're just going to have to take it to bits, undo it and put it back together again and we will do. I think even the day you saw him at Newbury the first time…..the only annoying thing is that he did win at Newbury. If Barry [Geraghty] had toppled off at the second last or the last, we'd have seen he was going to win and he's still be a novice which obviously he's not going to be. It's just Saturday at Kempton last year we were thinking we know who the Supreme winner is. He was a seriously good bumper horse."