WATERFALL jockey Jerry McGrath is looking forward to another season with the all-conquering Nicky Henderson yard at Lambourn.
Henderson has trained 62 Cheltenham Festival winners, including Gold Cup heroes Long Run and Bobsworth, Champion Chasers Remittance Man, Finians Rainbow, Sprinter Sacre, and Altior.
He won his first Champion Hurdle with See You Then in 1985 and his eighth title last year with the brilliant mare Epatante.
Team Henderson have a massive team of quality horses for the upcoming season and McGrath runs through the key divisions starting off with Beware The Bear who memorably won the Ultima Novice Chase under McGrath at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
McGrath explains: “Everything is in full swing over here at this stage and the new season is up and running. Beware The Bear is in great order and runs in the big Ladbroke Trophy which takes place at Newbury next weekend.
“He’s been placed in the race before and is a 25/1 chance for the race. This is such a competitive handicap and was famously won by the mighty Denman who won it a couple of times.
“Of the novice hurdlers that have run, Dusart looks a very exciting prospect. The owner, Ronnie Bartlett, previously owned Simonsig so he has been waiting a while for another good one. He won well the last day at Newbury and is by Flemsfirth.
“Whatever he does over hurdles will be a bonus as he will be a lovely chaser. Bothswell Bridge won nicely at Warwick and will run over two and a half miles this year.
“Flinteur Sacre is another from our yard who is a full brother to Sprinter Sacre. Obviously, his pedigree will make him popular while he is owned by JP McManus. He looks like a candidate to line up for the Supreme at Cheltenham.
“After winning the Supreme at last year’s festival, Shiskin will go novice chasing this season. He isn’t spectacular with his homework and seems to keep his best work for the track. He has schooled well over his fences and the boss loves these two-mile horses.
“Chantry House is another horse who is very exciting and will be campaigned over two and a half miles this year. He was bought by Mr McManus to be a chaser and this year will probably see him be a major player in all the top novice chases.
“Epatante is really pleasing everyone with her work. Her season will revolve around defending her Champion Hurdle crown. She is in great order and will probably run at Newcastle next weekend. The boss has indicated she will run a couple of times before Cheltenham.
“The Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton worked out well last season and the boss has a habit of sticking to a successful formula.
“Buveur D’air is back in training after missing out last season through injury. He was back in Martinstown Stud in Limerick to recover and is making good progress since coming back over here to England. Buveur D’air certainly won’t be rushed anyway.”
Reading through any of the stable tours, one horse that always crops up for the Henderson team is the brilliant Altior, who has won at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals before injury intervened in March.
“Altior just looks a picture and you can write off last season. It just never happened after the race with Cyrame at Ascot. He picked up an injury before Cheltenham and wasn’t able to run. Altior has had no interruptions since then and will go to the Tingle Creek before a tilt at the Champion Chase.
“He has a serious record so hopefully an uninterrupted season will see him win around Cheltenham again. Altior is a 7/1 chance for that race in March which looks a very fair price to me.”
Henderson has won the Gold Cup on two occasions and was just denied a third when Santini just failed to reel in Al Boum Photo in a pulsating finish last March.
Henderson has made no secret of the fact that Santini will be primed for one race only and that is the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
McGrath says: “Santini is a very relaxed horse and is probably a bit too switched off at times. The boss will have him primed for the Gold Cup. Champ has been the forgotten horse really and must be a player in the Gold Cup.
“A lot of the previews for the season are forgetting that Champ won the RSA last year. Obviously, there is every possibility that he might go to Ireland over the winter considering JP owns him. He’s a very good horse and might be the each/way value in the Gold Cup.
“Champ has been criticised for his jumping but if we can get enough experience into him over the winter, he will be a big player next March. The boss will definitely enter him in all the big races like the King George and the Savills Chase in Leopardstown at Christmas.
“Maries Rock looked a very talented filly before picking up an injury on route to the Mares Novice Hurdle at the festival. She has always been highly rated by the team at Seven Barrows. Maries Rock will be targeted at the Champion Hurdle and has an entry for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle next weekend. She is a very good filly who probably lacks a bit of experience.”