After securing his fourth UK Jumps Trainers Championship last April, Stan James ambassador Nicky Henderson heads into the 2017/18 National Hunt season with a plethora of equine talent at his disposal and the man who has saddled more winners than anyone else at the Cheltenham Festival looks set to add to his impressive tally with superpowers such as ALTIOR, BUVEUR D’AIR and MIGHT BITE, to name just three, likely to represent the popular handler next March, and with the new jumps season fast approaching, the master of @sevenbarrows gave Stan James the exclusive lowdown and future plans for some of his stable stars.
Feature wins: G1 Stan James Champion Hurdle & G1 Aintree Hurdle
(pictured, left) Despite him having a topsy-turvy season it couldn’t have gone any better really and our decision to revert to hurdles was vindicated when he won the Stan James Champion Hurdle before following up over 2m4f at Aintree. We are in no rush with him because he has to have soft ground which would mean something like the G1 Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on December 2nd could be a possible starting point but it all very much depends on what the weather is doing.
He is cantering away nicely and if he can kick off where he left off in April we are in for some exciting times ahead!
Feature wins: G1 Arkle Chase & G1 Celebration Chase
He has absolutely thrived and had a great summer where he ate way too much grass! What he did last season was phenomenal and if he can continue that we have so much to look forward to. I wouldn’t say he’s grown during his holidays but he’s more well-proportioned and looks extremely well physically. Touch wood all is good with him at the moment and he’s cantering away steadily each day which he’ll do for a while before we step him up a bit in the next month or so. The plan will be to start in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on December 8th and then we can feel our way after that. Obviously, the Champion Chase is the primary objective so it’s just a matter of finding the correct path into that and hoping everything goes right in between. We have several options after Sandown, there’s Kempton, Ascot, Newbury and those types of races so we aren’t short of places to go. There is quite a nice gap between Cheltenham and Aintree again and if we were ever going to look at going 2m4f, it could be there in April, but obviously, that’s a long way away.
Feature wins: G1 French Champion Hurdle & G2 Select Hurdle
Despite making the trainer look an absolute clown, he ended up doing very well in the end and it seemed to make a huge difference when we upped him to 2m4f at Sandown where he bolted up and pretty much ran away with Daryl the whole way round so we took him over to Auteuil for the Prix La Barka over the same trip where he finished second to Shaneshill but stayed on well so he went back for the French Champion Hurdle (over three miles) and won in decisive fashion so it looks like we have a good stayer on our hands now we have figured out his best trip! He had a lot of doubters earlier in the season but I think he’s more than silenced them now and we will go down the Stayers Hurdle route now. That’s not to say he has to start out over 3m, we could go 2m4f and build him back up in distance towards the Festival. He’s not doing much at all yet as he was busy during the summer so certainly won’t be seen in the early part.
Feature wins: G1 RSA Chase & G1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase
(pictured, right) He looks absolutely fantastic, he really does. We are really thinking of the King George on Boxing Day as the race we are aiming at, although I know a lot of other people are too it looks his ideal race if he can avoid doing what happened (at the same track) in the Feltham! With regard to what we do beforehand is open to discussion but I suppose the whole point in putting on bonuses is to try and encourage owners and trainers to run their horses so Haydock could enter the equation. Everyone is going to turn up there as it’s the first leg but after that, there is only one horse left with a chance of winning the million pounds so we might possibly have a look at that as a stepping stone to Kempton. I don’t want to bully him though as we’ve all seen what he’s like near the end of a race, he has his quirks, there’s no denying it, so we will certainly be looking after him but it would be nice to see him up to Gold Cup class; that is what we will all be striving for.
Feature wins: G2 Dipper Novices’ Chase
He enjoyed a tremendous season winning twice at Cheltenham and then two gallant efforts behind MIGHT BITE in the RSA and at Aintree which was so good to see as he’d been in the doldrums a year beforehand. He’s back in work and his early season target will be the Ladbrokes (Formerly Hennessy) Gold Cup at Newbury on December 2nd.
Feature wins: Listed Hurdle, Sandown & G3 Hurdle, Ascot
His future has always been over fences so that is where we will be going from now on. He schooled over them last year so already has a very good idea and he’ll have his first pop this season over a few on Saturday. He’s still very unexposed and might even get a little bit further which will give us options and we may have a look at something for him at Cheltenham’s November meeting if he’s ready, but we’re in no rush.
Feature wins: Novice Hurdle, Kempton
I notice that a lot of people have been asking on Twitter if he will go chasing but it looks highly unlikely at this stage as he’s still extremely unexposed over hurdles, having run just four times in his life and I still maintain maximum faith in him. I really do believe he’s good and despite falling at Kempton he still ran very well in the Triumph after a far from ideal preparation. He’s in top order at the moment and we may have a look at the Gerry Fielden at Newbury as his first port of call.
Feature wins: Juvenile Hurdle, Huntington, 2nd, G1 Juvenile Aintree
We all thought he’d win the Fred Winter but sadly he went down by a neck to Flying Tiger and then only found Defi Du Seuil too good at Aintree which is nothing to be dismissive of and he’s clearly a talented individual but it won’t be easy for him off his Handicap mark as these four-year-olds are often hard to place and he may have to just sit and suffer a bit for what is a notoriously difficult four-year-old campaign. But he’s come back in fine fettle and is doing everything we’re asking of him so far. He will also stay over hurdles for the time being.
Feature wins: G1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase
He had a great campaign last year and is just a lovely person to have around the yard. He’s absolutely minute and it could be difficult for him in England outside Novice Company but he is going along nicely every morning and there are quite a few races in France that we might look at.
I love this filly but we never really got to the bottom of her last season as we couldn’t run her for various reasons but she’s back in full work now and would be one of our more forward ones. The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on 4th November would be a possibility but there are also two very good Mares’ races just after which could also be quite attractive.
NAMES TO NOTE
We’ve got plenty of young hurdlers to get going including CHAMP who is a horse we think a great deal of, CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN could also take high rank among the novices as his bumper form was very good indeed. RIVER WYLDE, LOUGH DERG SPIRIT, STOWAWAY MAGIC and CONSTANTINE BAY will all go Novice Chasing and I’ve got a beautiful sister to Apples Jade called APPLE’S SHAKIRA who is one of JPs and showing plenty of talent while we are extremely excited about another new import, DAME DE COMPAGNIE, who has arrived from France and looks stunning. She is another we have high hopes for.
Nicky will be back up and running with his exclusive blog every Friday starting 27th October but in the meantime to keep up to date with all the news from the yard be sure to follow @sevenbarrows and @stanjamesracing for for regular updates and quotes