Nicky Henderson has a healthy lead over rival Paul Nicholls
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Nicky Henderson insists the battle for the jumps trainers’ championship is far from over despite title rival Paul Nicholls in effect conceding the race after an excellent Aintree for the Seven Barrows team.
Henderson came out of Aintree’s three-day spectacular holding a commanding lead of £320,336, with Buveur D’Air beating stablemate My Tent Or Yours in the Aintree Hurdle and Might Bite bagging the Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Defending champion Nicholls on Sunday claimed the gap has become insurmountable. But as he assessed his runners returning from Merseyside and began to formulate plans for the remainder of the season on Monday, Henderson was having absolutely none of it.
“No, I don’t think it’s all over and I don’t think Paul does either,” Henderson said. “There’s a long way to go and we all still have plenty to do, so we just have to finish the season off well.
“There are a lot of big meetings still to come, with a very good meeting at Cheltenham and then Ayr and Sandown as well. There is a lot of work still to be done.”
Altior: one of Henderson’s leading lights this season
PICTURE: Getty Images
Henderson, who was crowned champion trainer in 2012-13 for the first time since back-to-back successes in the mid-1980s, said a fourth triumph would be special.
“It would be great to win the title for the whole team,” he said. “Everybody wants it and they have worked their socks off all winter for it. There are no prizes for finishing second, so it would be nice to get it. It doesn’t matter what you do, driving motor cars or playing golf, you would always rather finish first than second.”
Henderson expects to be represented by large strings at both Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting on April 21 and 22, as well as Sandown’s Jump Finale meeting on April 29 as he bids to seal the title.
Leading the way at Sandown will be Altior, who remains on course for a clash with Champion Chase hero Special Tiara in the Celebration Chase on the day Henderson looks likely to officially pick up his fourth championship.
Arkle winner Altior has been one of the shining lights of Henderson’s season along with Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air and Might Bite, now among the early market leaders for next year’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. That trio are responsible for six of his seven Grade 1 winners this season, but the trainer believes the key to his success this term has been the talent among the rest of his team.
“Those three are at the top of the pile and they’ve been brilliant but there’s been great strength in depth across the yard,” Henderson said. “If you look at horses like Top Notch and Whisper and My Tent, they’ve all done wonderful jobs for us.”
Henderson’s biggest money spinners in 2016-17
- Buveur D’Air – £371,070
- Altior – £181,094
- My Tent Or Yours – £170,001
- Might Bite – £167,985
- Brain Power – £119,187
- Top Notch – £105,433
My Tent Or Yours may not be done for the season just yet, with Henderson suggesting he may head to Punchestown for that meeting’s Champion Hurdle, a race stablemate Brain Power is all set to take part in.
“Brain Power is definitely going to Punchestown and My Tent could still be on the shortlist, we’ll just have to see how he is,” said Henderson.
“There are quite a few others who could go but the ground will be the key thing. It’s drying out pretty quickly in England so if there was better ground at Punchestown we might end up moving a few of them over there.”
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