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Horse Racing profile: Nico de Boinville

As stable jockey to the Nicky Henderson yard, Nico de Boinville is assured of having the ammunition required to be competitive when the Cheltenham Festival rolls around.

He's amongst the leading jockeys in Britain but de Boinville so very nearly quit his job at Seven Barrows before it had even begun in earnest.

The mighty Constitution Hill will be the most pressure-packed ride every time they take to the track, but it doesn't appear overly likely that de Boinville will succumb to any level of pressure applied when it comes to racing.

What2024 Grand National
WhereAintree Racecourse, Liverpool
When5.15, Saturday 13th April, 2024
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming Service, ITV & Racing TV
OddsCorach Rambler 20/1, Kitty’s Light 20/1, Gaillard Du Mesnil 25/1, I Am Maximus 25/1

Skipping class to see Best Mate

It's fair to suggest that de Boinville didn't come from a racing background. His father was an insurance broker and he attended boarding school, from where he recalls his obsession with racing growing, while all around him were much more likely to be watching football.

"I definitely snuck out of a couple of lessons to watch Best Mate," he said in an interview ahead of Cheltenham 2022. "It was then that Cheltenham came on my radar, because before that I was massively into Flat racing."

He would enlist himself for a degree in politics at Newcastle University but didn't manage to see out a full year, instead preferring to fully focus himself on racing.

To succeed as an elite sportsman, a level of drive and commitment is required but, also, a mind sharp enough to know what can and cannot be achieved. To that end, he wasn't going to dither in racing if the dream was fading.

"The timelines were set by myself. I said: 'You [have] until you're 25 to see what you can do.' I'm very much a realist."

Learning from the very best at Seven Barrows

After a stint in France with UK ex-pat Richard Gibson, de Boinville found himself at Henderson's Seven Barrows where he says he was not even amongst the top three amateur riders when he arrived.

At the time, the likes of Barry Geraghty and AP McCoy were routinely riding for Henderson and de Boinville watched intently as those iconic riders performed, taking his time not to ask questions until he'd begun to establish himself.

That didn't happen overnight. From May 2009 until April 2012 he had two winners in 30 rides and, aged 22, he handed in his notice and had a return to France in his mind.

Luckily, by that point Henderson had seen enough to believe he had a talent in his ranks and he refused to accept de Boinville's notice. Slowly, doors began to open and opportunities arose.

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Coneygree's fairytale win puts rider on the map

His maiden winner at the Cheltenham Festival came in 2014 for Henderson on board Whisper in the Coral Cup but it was a year later that de Boinville really announced himself.

Coneygree became the first novice in four decades to win the Gold Cup and trainers Mark and Sara Bradstock, having taken the brave decision to run their rising star in the Blue Riband, resisted calls to seek a more experienced jockey.

De Boinville gave Coneygree a masterful ride and they made Gold Cup history together.

A year later, he partnered Sprinter Sacre in his redemptive 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase success, one of the truly great Cheltenham Festival moments of this century.

Altior (2018 & 2019) has given two more wins in that race, though there was major disappointment last March when Shishkin pulled up in the Champion Chase.

Constitution Hill raises the bar

The 2022/23 season was perhaps one of ups and downs, with Shishkin intermittently re-establishing himself, but there is little room for doubt that one horse has become the flagship for both de Boinville and the Henderson team as a whole.

That is, of course, the mighty and still unbeaten Champion Hurdle winner, Constitution Hill.

He won four Grade 1 races in the season just ended, including the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton before his Cheltenham tour de force in the Champion Hurdle.

He signed off with victory in the Aintree Hurdle, stepping up to two-and-a-half-miles with no issues, and is the poster-boy for National Hunt racing now.

The future is bright for both horse and rider as de Boinville remains one of the coolest and most unflustered of jockeys.

Constitution Hill has the world at his feet. He's already 4/6 to win a second Champion Hurdle in 2024, should connections desire to stay over timber, while he's 7/4 for Arkle glory next March and as short as 6/1 to cut straight through the novice campaign and win a Queen Mother Champion Chase on 13th March 2024.

He and de Boinville will continue to be a star attraction wherever they go and the Seven Barrows stable jockey seems sure to taste plenty more big-race glory in the coming seasons.

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