Saturday 24 February 2018

Henderson targets 2,000 mark

Chris McGrath

HAVING lost five consecutive meetings this winter, it was with due gratitude that Ludlow yesterday managed to stage a card for the first time since November.

For Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy, however, it was very much business as usual.

The success of Kells Belle in the opener was reckoned to be the 1,998th winner of Henderson's career. And her starting price of 6/5 was the longest about any of the last nine winners ridden for the Seven Barrows handler by the champion jockey.

As he bids to reach the 2,000 milestone, the trainer has four runners today. First In The Queue (2.30) represents him at Taunton, while he sends Topsham Belle (2.40), A Media Luz (3.10) and Heather Royale (4.40) to Huntingdon. Amazingly, Henderson is only halfway towards Martin Pipe's career total of 4,180 winners and still almost a thousand behind Arthur Stephenson's 2,988, the second-highest total.

Things will be fiercely competitive at Newbury on Saturday, when McCoy wears the JP McManus silks on Get Me Out Of Here in the Totesport Trophy, a race he won last year before being narrowly foiled by Menorah in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

But while Menorah and the fourth, Oscar Whisky, have continued to flourish, Get Me Out Of Here has not been seen since twice disappointing in autumn. Trainer Jonjo O'Neill reports him in good form again, after treatment for a back problem, but McCoy isn't sure quite what to expect.

"I hope he'll run all right," the Antrim native said. "He has had problems all winter, and I'm kind of wondering if maybe the flat track will suit him. He did run very well at Cheltenham and I had been hoping that he would go on from there the way Menorah and Oscar Whisky have.

"You would certainly fancy either of them in this race, off 150, on what they have done since.

"But perhaps the other horses have just made a lot of improvement. They can do, sometimes. Just look at Grands Crus, he started off rated 126 and is now up to 169."

Having ridden Big Buck's to his two latest wins, McCoy offered a significant insight into his showdown with that horse in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

"To me, if you look at the best stayers, they always race behind the bridle," the champion jockey reasoned.

"Horses like Baracouda and Inglis Drever never travelled through their races the way Grands Crus did in the Cleeve Hurdle. I could be wrong, but he'd have to be some horse to have enough in reserve to beat Big Buck's."

Henderson was at pains to play down expectations for the three he saddles against Get Me Out Of Here -- above all the heavily backed French import, Solix.

"He's a lovely horse," he said, "but to win a race like that under top weight on his first run here would seem pretty unlikely.

"If it were just between Solix, Soldatino and Eradicate, I'm not sure I'd want to throw my hat at any of them. And that's without the other 21 to worry about." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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