Henderson eyes Newbury workout for Bobs Worth
DESPITE the disappointment of having to sideline Sprinter Sacre, Nicky Henderson still has his eyes on the big prizes at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Bobs Worth is likely to have a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Sunday as Henderson puts the finishing touches to his preparation ahead of his Gold Cup defence, while Aintree Grand National hope Trio D'Alene could run at Doncaster on Saturday .
After a lacklustre seasonal debut at Haydock, Bobs Worth returned to his best in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Henderson traditionally takes some of his Festival team to Newbury this weekend for a gallop but with the ground likely to be soft, many of his stable companions will instead head to Kempton on Friday.
However, the trainer revealed that he's still "leaning towards Newbury" with Bobs Worth.
"If there is a strip of ground at Newbury, it might be better for him than the all-weather as he doesn't strike me as an all-weather horse, to be honest, but we'll see," Henderson said
Triolo D'Alene also remains in the Gold Cup picture but Henderson has always had the Grand National in mind for him ever since he won the Topham over the Aintree fences last season.
The winner of Newbury's Hennessy Gold Cup back in November is entered in Saturday's Grimthorpe Chase, which is a recognised trial for Aintree, along with Michael Scudamore's leading National hope Monbeg Dude.
Paul Nicholls has entered Mon Parrain and Harry The Viking in the Doncaster feature, while Scottish National hero Godsmejudge could represent Alan King.
Meanwhile, Barry Geraghty has spoken of his disappointment at missing out on the chance to land successive Champion Chases with Sprinter Sacre.
"It's always a disappointment for connections when any horse is forced out of a big race so relatively close to the Festival, no matter who it is," said Geraghty in his At The Races blog.
"But it really hits home when it is a horse like him with such brilliance and one that every race fan wanted to see perform. A safety-first approach with him is the only way because he is young enough to come back and rule the roost again when all the gears are connecting. The main thing is that we've got him for another day."
For Sprinter Sacre's would-have-been rivals, the news came as a welcome surprise, which was certainly the case with Ruby Walsh, who will be riding Arvika Ligeonniere for Willie Mullins.
"For Nicky Henderson and the general public it's a shame but if you're me and involved with Arvika Ligeonniere it's not such a big shame," Walsh stated. "It gives us more of a chance. It's probably not very sporting but you have to be realistic, it will be an easier race to win without Sprinter Sacre.
"That said, Sire De Grugy's form has been rock-solid all year. You'd have to fancy Arvika more now that Sprinter Sacre isn't running. Sure, he has to prove himself going left-handed but I don't think that's too much of an issue.
"He was very good in the Tied Cottage and I think I rode him wrong at Christmas (when behind Benefficient), he's very fit and very well at the moment.
"I dropped him in at Leopardstown and rode him for a bit of pace but I think I should have let him roll and used his jumping. You try different things and make mistakes but the key is learning from them."
Sire De Grugy is the new ante-post favourite for the Champion Chase and the chestnut took another step in his preparations with a racecourse gallop at Plumpton.
Gary Moore's recent impressive Ascot winner was asked to stride on in the home straight and came well clear of his companion Light Well before receiving polite applause passing the line.
"I was more than satisfied – it's very tiring ground out there and you would not want to do more than he did," said Moore. "I just wanted him to get away – it puts an edge on them and I've always done it with a good horse. It definitely helps and it's very kind of Plumpton to let him come."
Sire De Grugy does have a nought-from-two Cheltenham record and was beaten by Kid Cassidy in a conditions event at the Open meeting – but Moore has already revealed he was accidentally fitted with the wrong shoes that day in a tactical race.