Alarm bells are not ringing at Seven Barrows just yet, but Nicky Henderson has put his staff on high alert as the trainer admitted some of the stable's runners had not run up to expectations recently. With Cheltenham five weeks away, it has become a major concern.
The observation was made 24 hours after Binocular drifted in ante-post betting on the Stan James Champion Hurdle following a lacklustre win at Sandown which, in many respects, replicated the gelding's victory in the race last year. The fact that the favourite "ate up and was 100pc" the morning after has made little difference to public views.
Henderson also took a team to Musselburgh yesterday but, after 4/7 favourite Skint had been well-beaten into third in the opening Scottish Racing Novices' Hurdle, he withdrew his three remaining runners, two of which were forecast to be short-priced favourites.
The trainer was typically frank in his overview of the weekend's racing: "We had four winners on Saturday, yet there have been one or two who have disappointed us. They are not what they were a few weeks ago, when they were all running red hot. You cannot say they are all hot at the moment.
"There have been a few who look like they have been affected. But we are a professional stable, and we know what to do," he said.
One could not help but be impressed by Henderson's two winners at Ffos Las, namely Sprinter Sacre, which is shaping up as one of the most promising novice hurdlers in the ranks, and Oscar Whisky, winner of the Welsh Champion Hurdle and now on target for a tilt at stablemate Binocular's title next month. Henderson has ruled out the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for Dai Walters' smart jumper.
Henderson said: "Three weeks ago at Kempton, they were all running hot. The Binocular we saw on Saturday was not the same as we saw at Kempton. Maybe he just doesn't like this race. But I'm sure we can put it right."
Alan King has confirmed that Medermit's Festival target is the Irish Independent Arkle Novices' Chase, for which he is generally a 7/1 chance. The grey impressed in winning Saturday's Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown.
"'Choc' (Robert Thornton) said he got there too soon and he just idled," said King. "You've got to be able to get the trip for the Arkle and this was the ideal preparation."
Meanwhile, David Pipe has now trained a winner at every jumps track in Britain after Hunterview landed the feature Scottish County Handicap Hurdle at Musselburgh.
The five-year-old was Pipe's first ever runner at the Edinburgh venue and the handler still has a 100pc strike rate after The Tracey Shuffle took the concluding bumper.
Tom Scudamore had Hunterview handy and took him to the lead before the third-last and the 11/4 favourite went on to score by five lengths from European Dream.
"He jumped extremely well which kept him in the race early on. He looked flat out, they didn't hang about, horse and jockey battled all the way to the line," said the trainer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)