RACING: Nicky's winter poser
NICKY Henderson admits he is facing a severe headache in keeping all his Champion Hurdle prospects apart during this wet winter.
While the Seven Barrowx trainer showed off three horses as possibilities for the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton as part of a press visit to his Lambourn stable, Binocular appears the only one of the trio to be a certain runner there.
JP McManus' slick gelding has landed the Grade One twice in a row, beating Rock On Ruby last Boxing Day before finishing fourth to him in the Champion itself.
"He'll definitely go straight to Kempton - he's in good form and might have a racecourse gallop," Lambourn handler Henderson said.
From there, it gets tricky for a handler who has taken the Cheltenham crown five times already.
Another of owner JP McManus' stars Darlan, who was second in the Supreme and then a winner at Aintree, has missed one possible outing because of the deep going at Cheltenham's Open meeting, and may lose out again in Saturday's StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
"I was talking to AP McCoy and we don't think he likes soft ground so we'd be loathe to run him at Newcastle," Henderson said.
"Even if it was called off and moved to Newbury, as they have done before, it would be heavy ground there too.
"I'm not sure JP would want to run them both at Kempton either. It's an impossible situation."
The trainer has pencilled in Grandouet for next month's StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham, scene of his most recent outing and victory almost 12 months ago.
"Grandouet worked really well this morning and will go to Cheltenham," Henderson said.
"He injured a near-hind joint, but Barry Geraghty sat on him last week and said he felt great. If he runs at Cheltenham, he wouldn't go to Kempton."
Henderson pitched another smart hurdler into the mix in Cash And Go, who was second in the valuable handicap at the Open on his debut since leaving Edward O'Grady.
"I think he might be worth another run in a good handicap, so will go for the Ladbroke at Ascot, I suppose," he said.
Oscar Whisky will again run in the Relkeel Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham meeting.
Henderson is biding his time before unleashing top hurdler Simonsig over fences.
The trainer had suggested the runaway Cheltenham Festival winner could make his chasing debut at Newbury, but Simonsig is not quite primed for the task.
Henderson said: "He's not quite ready for this weekend, we'll see him in about a fortnight."
Captain Conan, who impressed on his recent debut over fences at Cheltenham, will take his next step up the ladder in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown next weekend.
A belated reappearance from injury-hit 2009 Champion Hurdler Punjabi, also expected to go chasing, should come soon.
"I had him entered this week but I wasn't going to risk him on this ground," the trainer said.
Hennessy Gold Cup favourite Bobs Worth's participation in Saturday's big race will not be confirmed until trainer Nicky Henderson has walked the course at Newbury and spoken with connections.
The trainer was inspecting the Berkshire track on Tuesday afternoon as he is worried about potentially heavy ground and wanted time to mull over his thoughts.
A dual Cheltenham Festival winner, Bobs Worth has not been seen since beating First Lieutenant in the RSA Chase last March.
"We're nervous about it (the ground) and I can't just make a decision," he said.
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