Henderson’s Heroes – Nicky’s Top Team For Cheltenham

Cheltenham festival

The Cheltenham Festival continues to move ever closer, and the countdown is now on to jump racing’s greatest show. Horse racing has its fair share of famous festivals throughout the calendar year, but Cheltenham stands head and shoulders above the rest in the jumps sphere.

Trainers are busy putting their star horses through their final paces and one such trainer that will be more excited than most is the veteran handler, Nicky Henderson. The young-at-heart 73-year-old has seen it all before when it comes to Cheltenham, but this year’s renewal could prove to be extra special for the trainer as he possesses a star-studded equine team to go to war with.

Stable Stars

Constitution Hill

Arguably the best racehorse in training today, Constitution Hill is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest horses of all time. Still only a 7-year-old, he is unbeaten in eight starts on the racecourse, and scary as it may sound for his rivals, he seems to be still improving as he gets older.

Last year’s Champion Hurdle winner at the Festival, Constitution Hill is a red-hot 1/3 favourite to retain his crown in the horse racing betting odds, and it is hard to see him being beaten if at his best. A belated return to action this season was seen as a negative for Henderson’s star, but he put any doubts to bed by winning by an easy 9 lengths in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

When it comes to rivals in this year’s Champion Hurdle, most racing tips are putting forward State Man as the biggest danger to Constitution Hill’s unbeaten record. Trained in Ireland by record Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, Willie Mullins, State Man chased home his rival in last season’s big race, and that is likely to be the case again in 2024.

Shishkin

Before there was Constitution Hill, Nicky Henderson could rely on the brilliant Shishkin to be his stable star. In his first twelve appearances on the racecourse, the striking bay horse was untouchable, winning four Grade 1 contests along the way.

Since then, the wheels have slightly come off of Shishkin’s career, although he has shown signs of rejuvenation now he has been stepped up to a distance of three miles over fences. Henderson’s 10-year-old won both the Ascot Chase and Aintree Bowl last season, giving fans hope that he may finally be back to his best.

This season, however, could not have gone much worse for the former Supreme Novices Hurdle winner. He would shock everyone, including his trainer, when he refused to race at Ascot in November, and he has since fallen in the King George VI Chase, although he had run a brilliant race up to that point.

This season’s Cheltenham Festival will see Shishkin line up in the coveted Gold Cup for the first time, and he will go into the race as an underdog. Last year’s winner, Galopin Des Champs, is once again the favourite for jump racing’s biggest race, but Shishkin certainly possesses the ability to challenge him if at his very best.

Jonbon

But for Constitution Hill’s existence, his stablemate, Jonbon, would have been the best novice hurdler two seasons ago. He would have to chase home his fellow Nicky Henderson inmate in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2022 but has since gone on to take his form to a new level over the bigger obstacles.

The big 8-year-old has won seven of his eight starts over fences thus far, with his only defeat coming in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham 12 months ago. El Fabiolo was the horse to finally stop Jonbon’s winning run, and the pair are set to take each other on again in the Champion Chase this year.

His rival is currently the 5/6 favourite for the race, but Jonbon is a much stronger horse this year, and he could well turn the tables on his foe.

Other Henderson Hopefuls

The three Henderson horses mentioned above are by far the apples of their trainer’s eye, but he also has some exciting youngsters and old reliables in his midst. Among the former is the extremely exciting Jeriko Du Reponet who heads the Supreme Novices Hurdle market, whilst the likes of the consistent, Champ, can always be relied on to run a big race on the big occasions.