Henderson revels in magnificent seven
He might just have traded it for a different outcome last Saturday, but Nicky Henderson certainly introduced something fairly miraculous to an otherwise mundane Monday.
Forty-eight hours after seeing his Gold Cup winner beaten at Haydock, and Oscar Whisky fall when challenging at the final hurdle at Ascot, the Seven Barrows trainer celebrated victory with all seven of the horses he sent out from Lambourn to Kempton, Ludlow and Ffos Las yesterday.
If these cards were relatively low-key, they provided an unmistakable platform for Henderson to remind Paul Nicholls that he may yet have a say in the trainers' championship.
"I don't know if I've had seven before," he said. "I remember having six one St Stephen's Day, or the day after. But we haven't had seven out of seven, that I can be fairly sure of!"
Henderson had five winners last Friday, as well, and both Long Run and Oscar Whisky laid down perfectly sound foundations for their new campaigns.
While Cheltenham in March has always been Henderson's abiding priority, and remains the most likely source of the prize money he needs to challenge Nicholls, nowadays he appears to be maintaining an unprecedented consistency, wherever and whenever his horses are engaged.
Long one of the pillars of his profession, he has contrived an unfeasible consolidation over the past couple of seasons -- even as he has had to deal with one or two unfamiliar and palpably infuriating controversies.
That may not be a coincidence, in that he can seldom have been more motivated than when completing a suspension two summers ago after one of his horses -- mortifyingly, one owned by the queen -- tested positive to prohibited medication.
But he can now survey his historic Lambourn stables with renewed pride, and yesterday toasted an outlandish landmark for a trainer always associated sooner with quality than quantity.
As such, it was fitting that the seven winners should have included one or two likely to end up in his Festival team.
And no less so, given the energy so many of his jumpers seem to learn in their schooling, that three were novice chasers -- albeit Mossley got away with a couple of blunders before landing odds of 1/8 to complete the seven-timer.
Henderson's depredations had required barely 90 minutes, and were inadvertently perfected by the withdrawal at the start of Wise Move, which had been set to oppose his stablemate, Darlan, in the opener at Kempton.
Runaway winner of a Haydock bumper last season, Darlan had since been purchased by JP McManus and was widely cut to 14/1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham after an easy success.
Though the seven were so well placed that they collectively paid only 66/1, those odds were ample to prompt gnashing of teeth among the bookmakers wth George Primarolo of Betfred capturing summing up their dismay.
"On a sleepy Monday afternoon, Henderson's magnificent seven have ridden into town and robbed us blind," he said. "We've been ambushed."
After Kauto Star's renaissance against Long Run at Haydock, the sport's high achievers are certainly doing their best to stem the cold tides of recession.
Inevitably, however, they retain their flaws. The top-class Pandorama, for instance, is out for the season. Noel Meade had hoped to have him back to defend the Lexus Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, but revealed yesterday that Pandorama is still to shake off the soreness he picked up at Cheltenham.
"We've tried to take it slowly with him since he came back in," the trainer said. "But the heat has come back and I'm not going to take any chances with him."
Another champion whose path has not always been straightforward, meanwhile, added a fresh chapter to his colourful disciplinary history when Kieren Fallon was fined £3,140 by the British Horseracing Authority.
He was found guilty of misleading an official over the reasons for his failure to appear for his first two mounts at Chester on May 5. (© Independent News Service)
•The Cork meeting that had to be postponed last Sunday has been refixed for tomorrow. The first race will be run at 12.50.