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Henderson lines up his stars

Nicky Henderson is debating whether to unleash Sprinter Sacre at Doncaster on Saturday or wait for a more illustrious target early next month.

Novice chasers rarely create as much of an impression as Sprinter Sacre, whose outstanding jumping has seen him win at Town Moor already before thrashing Champion Hurdle runner-up Peddlers Cross at Kempton over Christmas.

A hot favourite for the Arkle at Cheltenham, his first option is the Lightning Novices' Chase, in which Kid Cassidy is also entered. JP McManus' gelding collapsed and was in serious trouble after falling at Lingfield in November but put the record straight at Ludlow last week.

"Either Sprinter Sacre or Kid Cassidy will run, but not both," said Henderson. "Sprinter Sacre worked this morning and he's very fit and very well. He could run at Doncaster, but we're also toying with the Game Spirit."

Henderson's main brief was to discuss Oscar Whisky's prospects for the William Hill Welsh Champion Hurdle on a press day arranged with Ffos Las, which is run by the horse's owner Dai Walters, who thinks his star will contest this year's World Hurdle and not the Champion Hurdle, in which he finished third last year.

Walters reckons the odds are in favour of the longer race at 60-40, but Henderson has long sounded more emphatic.

"I wish there was a two-and-a-half-mile championship hurdle," said the trainer. "But there isn't. The Aintree Hurdle is the obvious thing, and he did win that well last year. All being well, his programme will be Ffos Las, Cheltenham and then back to Aintree."

Henderson also ran the rule over most of his other stable stars. Bobs Worth and former Champion Hurdle winner Binocular have both been given wind operations.

The trainer is considering the Reynoldstown Novice Chase at Ascot for Bobs Worth, while Binocular will run in a Champion Hurdle trial at Sandown on February 4. Riverside Theatre is scheduled to return in the Ascot Chase, while Burton Port and Jack The Giant should be on the course imminently.

The latter will be prepared for the Ryanair Chase, while Henderson may be forced to start off Cheltenham Gold Cup entry Burton Port alongside stablemate Long Run in the Denman Chase at Newbury.

There was no news on the progress of Spirit Son, which is ranked as unlikely to take part in the Champion Hurdle after suffering a setback. Grandouet will complete his own preparations in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Irish Independent