Nicky Henderson happy with how Cheltenham Festival went for his team
Seven Barrows trainer was only disappointed with Gold Cup performances
SEVEN Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson was content with what his team achieved at the Cheltenham Festival.
Among the many runners from his yard, Shishkin and Chantry House provided Henderson with two winners across the four-day event.
Henderson admitted that the only negative from the week was the Gold Cup on the final day as both Santini and Champ had to be pulled up.
He said: “We could only do our best and apart from the Gold Cup, which was an absolute disaster, we actually had a good week.
“We had two winners, two seconds, two thirds, fourths and fifths and all the horses ran really well except from those two [Santini and Champ].”
After having time to reflect on what happened, the Lambourn trainer is aware of the issues which resulted in Santini and Champ not finishing the race.
“Santini just wants the headgear taken off,” admitted Henderson. “We tried it at home, we thought they would make a big difference and we were upbeat about it.
“With Champ, well we had problems and he is going back to Ireland and he will be bone-scanned and I just know it’s an issue with his back.
“He has had back surgery before, so we are facing the same problem, but we know what we have to do and with a bit of luck all will be fine.”
Shishkin stormed to victory in the Sporting Life Arkle, while Chantry House was victorious in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, finishing ahead of stablemate Fusil Raffles.
“Shishkin was brilliant and both Chantry House and Fusil Raffles were fantastic,” he said. “Chantry House is a very good horse.”
Meanwhile, Epatante was unable to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle on the opening day, which was won by hot-favourite Honeysuckle.
Henderson said: “Epatante, in my opinion, should’ve finished second, but things didn’t go right and she would not have beaten the winner anyway.
“Craigneiche ran a fantastic race – a lot of them did – but at least Shishkin and Chantry House went out and did their bit.
“If somebody said at the start of the week that you’d have two winners and seconds and thirds, you would have settled for that.”
On having to withdraw Altior from the Festival, for a second successive year, Henderson added: “It was awful, but there is nothing we could do because we had a problem.”
The Festival took part behind-closed-doors and Henderson admitted that it was a very surreal experience, especially given that the four-day meeting usually attracts around 250,000 people.
He said: “It was a bizarre place to be because the trainers were the only ones there and we were outnumbered by ground staff.”
However, it was announced earlier this week that two owners per horse would be allowed to attend a race day from Monday.
“It is great encouragement, but it won’t be the same again until you can have the day out,” Henderson said.
“It is great, but although we’ll be able to have two owners per horse, it won’t be the same.”
Henderson was full of praise for Cheltenham Racecourse after it delivered an entertaining four-day Festival.
The action was broadcast live on channels such as ITV and RacingTV and the figures throughout the week were promising for the sport.
The reach of views over the course of the week for ITV Racing was 87 million, which included 1.9m people watching the prestigious Gold Cup race, which was won by Minella Indo.
With these figures being exceptionally high, Henderson believes it’s a major positive for the sport.
He said: “Racing has done well to keep the show on the road, the television shows did fantastic and their figures are fantastically high and it shows that more people are actually watching racing.
“I know there is not a lot of sport on anyway, but it is good that racing has been there to show and the numbers of people watching has gone up which can only be a good thing.
“I thought that Cheltenham did a brilliant job because their hands were tied with what they could and couldn’t do.
“As we go along it’s going to be the same thing because it is all government approval, but hopefully with us getting more owners on course shows that the authorities are pleased with the way racing has handled its situation.”