RACING: Henderson upbeat on Sacre health
Sprinter Sacre makes an appearance at Nicky Henderson's pre-Cheltenham press day at the Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn today
NICKY Henderson believes the strength of this year's Stan James Champion Hurdle is so great My Tent Or Yours could perform to his peak and still finish out of the places.
Unbeaten in two senior starts, the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle, JP McManus' classy gelding avoided any of the soft ground trials and took an unconventional route to the Festival by winning a jumpers' bumper at Kempton a week last Sunday.
McManus' retained jockey Tony McCoy has now nailed his colours to My Tent Or Yours, rather than the owners other challenger, Jezki.
"I'm very happy with him, and Kempton was a job perfectly executed," said Henderson at his pre-Cheltenham stable visit at the Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn today.
"AP will come and school him on Thursday, but he won't do anything else."
Looking at the Champion, for which he is 4-1 third-favourite with William Hill behind The New One and dual winner Hurricane Fly, the trainer said: "You could finish fifth and run the race of your life.
"There's The New One and don't underestimate Melodic Rendezvous. Then there's obviously Ireland. I've a sneaking feeling about Our Conor, especially the way he won the Triumph last year, and then there's Willie Mullins.
"You've got to start with Hurricane Fly, but it depends what he runs - he could run Annie Power as well."
Should My Tent Or Yours prevail, he is likely to stay hurdling, but Henderson warned: "If he doesn't win, then I think we're running for next year's Arkle."
With a few stars now unavailable for selection, the performances of My Tent Or Yours and Bobs Worth in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup suddenly become more important if Henderson is to narrow Paul Nicholls' advantage in the trainers' championship and retain his title.
"We haven't got Sprinter Sacre or Simonsig and we're not running Long Run, but we've still got some very good horses," he said.
"You want everything you've got. If you're running the A-team it's going to be an exciting week but that's not important. As long as we can find something to brighten it up.
"Paul will be strong and Willie's so strong, it's going to be very tough but we've got plenty of horses that have got good chances.
"It's good that two of our best chances are in two of the biggest races, the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup. We've still got a chance in the Champion Chase as well."
Sprinter Sacre was to be the feature name until he was scratched from the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase but the sidelined star still put in a brief appearance at Lambourn today.
On looks alone, the top-rated jumper would appear to have been in peak condition as he posed for a quick photograph before disappearing to the gallops for a canter with jockey Nico de Boinville.
But after his well-documented episode at Kempton on December 27, when Sprinter Sacre was pulled-up with what was found to be an irregular heartbeat, he has not quite reached a level at which Henderson would have been happy to let him loose at Cheltenham.
Instead, he will continue at Seven Barrows before another appointment with noted equine heart specialist Celia Marr in Newmarket.
"He looks mighty fine - he's not dead," said Henderson.
"I think Celia will take over from here. I just want to make sure I can get him to where he wants to be for the future."
Instead, Henderson's Champion Chase representatives will be Kid Cassidy, who was lucky to escape alive after the electrocution incident at Newbury in 2011, and Captain Conan.
"Neither one is in because Sprinter Sacre came out," Henderson said.
"Kid Cassidy beat Sire De Grugy, who has been the best horse, at Cheltenham earlier in the season, although I know he was getting 10lb.
"Captain Conan is the same, he didn't run his race at all in the Tingle Creek and came back with a very low potassium level.
"I'd imagine Barry (Geraghty) will jump on Captain Conan and AP (McCoy) will go on Kid, unless he wants to ride Alderwood instead."
Henderson has pinpointed Silviniaco Conti and Last Instalment as dangers to Bobs Worth when his star bids to retain his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup crown next month.
The nine-year-old, who is unbeaten in five visits to Prestbury Park, left behind a very disappointing reappearance in the Betfair Chase by collecting the Lexus Chase over Christmas.
The nine-year-old is set to be joined by a high-class quintet of stablemates at Newbury on Sunday as he builds towards the defence of his crown.
It is one of Henderson's traditions to take a handful of Festival contenders to his local course, and the exercise is likely to take place near dawn with his jockey Barry Geraghty required back in Ireland during the afternoon.
"Bobs Worth will go to Newbury on Sunday with Captain Cutter, Triolo D'Alene, Royal Boy, Ma Filleule and I'm toying with Vaniteux," said Henderson.
"He worked very well this morning and will have a canter around Newbury.
"The Gold Cup is very open. By and large it's the same faces, although the horse who won the other day (Last Instalment) is interesting and beat First Lieutenant by further than we did.
"Silviniaco Conti is the obvious horse. He would have been close if he hadn't fallen last year. With the Irish, I think we know where we are with them.
"Yes, Silviniaco Conti beat us at Haydock, but we're better than that.
"You know if he's in contention as they run to the second-last, there's a pretty good chance he'll finish his race off."
Others from what could be more than 30 Cheltenham runners, including JLT Novices' Chase contender Oscar Whisky and one of Henderson's remaining BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase hopes Captain Conan will head instead to Kempton for a Polytrack gallop on Friday morning.
Triolo D'Alene, who has not been risked on soft ground since winning the Hennessy, also has a Gold Cup entry but is unlikely to take it.
Henderson said: "The Grand National is his prime objective. He needs a run but has to go to Cheltenham now. I'd like him to have the least aggressive race and that might be the Byrne Group Plate.
"Hunt Ball has stayed in the National as well and could go for that race as well or the Festival Handicap Chase, but we'll see what happens.
"Royal Boy goes for the Neptune, I'm toying with the Supreme for Vaniteux, while Captain Cutter could go for the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett. He'll probably go for the Albert Bartlett as it can sometimes be an easier race."
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