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Cheltenham Chances: A look at Nicky Henderson's Festival runners

In the third instalment of our Cheltenham Chances series we are honing in on none other than Nicky Henderson - Britain's most successful trainer at the Cheltenham Festival.

The master of Seven Barrows trails only to Willie Mullins in the Festival's all-time winners list.

Henderson has master-minded fabulous careers with the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Altior - both dual winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase - while also winning Gold Cups with Long Run and Bobs Worth.

He's going to have a strong team of contenders bidding for Festival glory in 2022, with all the action available on our Sports Live Streaming platform, and here's our look at some of the Henderson players heading to the Cotswolds showpiece.

Most Festival wins as a trainer

Willie Mullins78
Nicky Henderson70
Paul Nicholls46
Fulke Walwyn40
Martin Pipe34

Supreme start in prospect

Henderson will almost certainly be anticipating a fast start come 15th March as he is holding aces in the curtain-raising Supreme Novices' Hurdle via 2/1 Constitution Hill and 7/2 Jonbon.

The pair are unbeaten so far and it's going to be hard to split them come raceday if, as seems likely, the do indeed lock horns. Being in different ownership, it is certainly being touted as a key collision that is likely to happen.

Constitution Hill is two-from-two over hurdles, shooting to prominence with a demolition job at Sandown in December and since adding the Grade 1 Tolworth back there - with a combined 26-lengths in hand in those two starts.

Jonbon, meanwhile, has had fanfare wherever he has gone, being a brother to Douvan and with JP McManus having shelled out a massive fee to acquire him.

He has won three starts over hurdles this season. Not as flashy as his stablemate, but yet to meet any sort of serious threat to his perfect record.

Henderson and long-time adversary Mullins will be geared up for a showdown in the Festival opener. The Irishman has 10/3 Dysart Dynamo and 7/2 Sir Gerhard prominent in the betting and it will be some contest if they all make it.

Shishkin the star name

Henderson's record of six Queen Mother Champion Chase wins - Remittance Man (1992), Finian's Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013, 2016), Altior (2018, 2019) - is enough to see him tied with Tom Dreaper and Paul Nicholls as the most successful handlers in the two-mile Championship heat.

His unbeaten chaser Shishkin is now 4/6 to win the Champion Chase on 16th March, after he edged out Energumene in a blockbuster Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January.

Things did not go entirely to script for Nice de Boinville in that race, but Shishkin battled to stay in contention and he overhauled the Mullins inmate close to the line, suggesting it will be hard for Energumene to reverse the form at Cheltenham in the manner that he did it. The runner-up is 10/3 to win the Champion Chase.

It had looked a two-horse race on paper but Chacon Pout Soi is into 5/1 having sent out a timely reminder that his ability remains intact with his recent Dublin Racing Festival success.

After a chastising time of it 2021, where Irish horses dominated, this is one Championship race the British hosts will be banking on as Shiskin looks to add victories in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2020 and last year's Arkle.

Related Cheltenham News

Cheltenham: A look at Paul Nicholls' Festival runners

Cheltenham: A look at Willie Mullins' Festival runners

Cheltenham: Conflated adds his name to Gold Cup picture

Cheltenham: Chacun Pour Soi heading back to Cheltenham

Epatante faces shadow of Honeysuckle

If Henderson seemingly has strong claims in the Supreme and Queen Mother, it's going to be a tall order for him to further extend his record tally of eight Champion Hurdles - See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Buveur D'Air (2017, 2018), Epatante (2020).

The most recent winner was the McManus-owned mare Epatante and while she has returned to Grade 1-wining form in Britain this season, she is 9/1 to reclaim the Champion Hurdle.

The long shadow of 1/2 favourite Honeysuckle dominates the betting. Henry De Bromhead's star mare won her third Irish Champion Hurdle crown over the weekend and it is going to take a herculean effort to strip her of this crown on 15th March.

Champ's Stayers' claims dented on Trials Day

Champ is a horse who was seemingly always destined for greatness, named as he was in honour of legendary rider AP McCoy - 20-time champion jockey in Britain.

Whether or not he can ever quite fulfil that destiny now seems unsure. Injuries have prevented him really getting on in his career and he is a 10-year-old with something to prove all of a sudden.

His extraordinary rally to win the RSA in March 2020 is his only Cheltenham win in five visits (1-3 at the Festival).

Pulled up in last year's Gold Cup with a back problem, he reappeared to win the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December and it seems the Stayers' Hurdle will be his target on 17th March, as opposed to another crack at the Gold Cup.

Champ was turned over in the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day in January by former Stayers' winner Paisley Park. Emma Lavelle's charge ran a cracking race there, having blown the start, and is now 7/1 to regain his crown on 17th March.

Last year's winner Flooring Porter heads the betting at 7/2 for Irish trainer Gavin Cromwell, while the 2021 Aintree Stayers' hero Thyme Hill is a 5/1 chance for Philip Hobbs.

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