Nicky Henderson makes changes ahead of Newbury's Betfair Hurdle meeting
The Seven Barrows trainer has mixed things up for racing on Sunday
SEVEN Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson has explained why his plans for Altior and Champ have changed ahead of the re-arranged Betfair Super Saturday meeting at Newbury.
The racing, which includes the Betfair Hurdle, the Betfair Denman Chase and the Betfair Cheltenham Free Bet Pot Builder Chase, registered as the Game Spirit, was postponed last weekend due to frost and therefore it will take place on Sunday.
And as the Cheltenham Festival – which kicks off on March 16 – moves closer, Henderson has had to reshuffle his ideas for this weekend’s racing.
He said: “They have re-arranged Newbury and I have re-arranged our plans so it’s all changed.
“The plan has changed because the meeting has changed and it’s because it has moved to a week later, which is great and full credit to Keith [Ottesen] and the team at Newbury.
“We knew we didn’t have a chance last weekend, but it’s great that it is all on in its entirety and we have a Betfair Hurdle, Denman Chase and Game Spirit.”
As a result of the timing, it now means that Altior will avoid Newbury on Sunday and head to Cheltenham without a run and Champ will target the Game Spirit instead of the Denman Chase.
“What we have done is moved our batting a bit,” Henderson admitted. “Altior is not going to go there at all, mainly because he takes his races very hard so we’re going to train him at home instead of running him.
“With Champ we’re bringing him down from three miles to two miles and it’s for the same reason because he would get a hard race in the Denman.
“It’s not as if he is short of pace, I hope, and it’s a pretty unorthodox move I have to say and I have surprised a few people.”
The 70-year-old has been thinking about his plans for Cheltenham, given the fact that it’s just over three weeks
“A lot of people think, as strange as it might be, that it’s a good call because he won’t get as hard a race that he would if he ran over three miles.
“It will be three weeks and five days for the Gold Cup and in Altior’s case it will be three weeks and two days and you might say it’s not a lot of difference.
“But every day counts in this countdown and that’s why we’re doing it.”
In the Betfair Hurdle, Henderson has confirmed that Buzz, Mister Coffey and Fred will run, but he is just happy that Newbury didn’t lose the meeting all together.
He said: “It is great and the Betfair Hurdle, as far as Newbury Racecourse is concerned, is a historic race and we can all remember back when we were little when it was Schweppes [Gold Trophy] and Hennessy and now it’s Betfair and Ladbrokes.
“The sponsors staying in for the re-running of this is absolutely vital from everybody’s point of view and it means ITV can cover it.
“It is a great effort from everybody and everyone has played their part so it is very commendable.”