Nicky Henderson on his Grand National meeting runners

Nicky Henderson on his Grand National meeting runners

Updated: 28/02/2024

Nicky Henderson runs through his powerful team heading to the #GrandNational meeting at Aintree this week.
Unibet ambassador Nicky Henderson gives a final assessment on his Aintree team ahead of this weekend’s Grand National meeting:

Quite a few years ago he was a good chaser. The intention had been buying him [as a 9yo] as a Grand National horse – well Henderson managed to blow that within about five minutes! He got put up 16Ibs [for his win at Ascot] so that was technically game over. I mean 16Ibs lower and a fit and well Valtor would have been fantastic. The next time, at Cheltenham, he hung very badly to his right. We have been trying to iron that out and we think we are getting there. We have schooled him over the Aintree fences and he absolutely loved them – Daryl got very excited.

It’s a little bit hopeful, but you have got to be hopeful when you get to Grand Nationals. We have been hopeful for 40 years and we are not getting any closer! We have been unlucky a few times, we have been second twice, we have been third a couple of times. It just seems one of those races. I hate going there and not having a runner in it, but if you haven’t got a horse for it you can’t just invent one.

His jumping has been exemplary, I think the two mile and six furlongs of the Topham Chase is nearly his ideal distance and he jumps the right way. The sad thing, again, is that he has had three runs in England and he has been second all three times. I think he has gone up something like 26Ibs without winning a race. He has been so consistent – like Top Notch, who is in the same ownership, that we all love and is so rock solid.

Buveur D’air
Obviously he had a fall – and it wasn’t a very nice fall. It is the first time he has ever done anything like that. He is such a fantastic hurdler, but he does take it to the bare limit. It is very low, it is very fast but when you cut it to that lowness, that pinpoint accuracy, you only have to be half a millimetre out- it is the difference between brilliant and a fall. Unfortunately he got one wrong and he fell in what looked to be a very winnable Unibet Champion Hurdle. We are going up half a mile up but that doesn’t worry me, he has won this race before. He seems in good form and I think he comes in here with a big chance.

Pentland Hills
He has come out of it [the Triumph Hurdle] very well. It does mean that it will be his third consecutive race in quite a short space of time. We went to Plumpton on the Monday and then Friday week he was at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle – it was a very brave shout.

He made a horrible mistake at the first (in the Triumph Hurdle) and my first reaction was “Henderson that was a very silly thing to do” to try and bring him in on one run, he just doesn’t know enough. Then all of a sudden, having nearly put Nico through his ears, he picked up, galloped off and travelled beautifully throughout the race.

Novice Hurdlers
I could see Mister Fisher running in the two-mile novice hurdle. I can see Champ and Angels Breath taking each other on in the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle – I think they have to.

Champ was an honourable second in the Ballymore. Angels Breath raced like a horse that would probably appreciate two and half miles, around Aintree anyway. There is probably not a great deal of difference between two miles at Cheltenham and two and a half miles around Aintree. He will enjoy it – the extra half will help him. I think he is a very good horse.

Champ has proved he is a very good horse over two and half miles and he is probably the one they have all got to beat.

Novice Chasers
We do bring Mr Whipped here, who is top class horse. Unfortunately he had a problem after his last run at Cheltenham and I thought he was out for the season, but we have got back in to action. I think this will be one of the best races of the week. He is quite good – whether he is that good I am not sure – but he will be competitive.

Topham Chase
I have got an absolute army in the Topham Chase. If I ran them all I would probably take up half the race, which would be the most clever way of doing it.

I would love to run Kilcrea Vale. I hope he gets in, as he has been placed in it before. O O Seven has been placed in it before and I think, with the blinkers on, he has a big shout. He ran a big race at Cheltenham, but he just didn’t stay. If he gets into a rhythm and if he enjoys jumping the fences – he did the first year but he didn’t last year – he will have a good chance. He was very good here the other morning and I think he is a player. Divine Spear could come into it, we schooled him over the Aintree fences and he was very good.

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