To say that trainer Nicky Henderson’s runners endured mixed fortune over the festive holidays would be an understatement as the master of Seven Barrows must have experienced a gamut of emotions at Kempton’s two-day meeting after Christmas Day.
Things started on the best possible note with a victory for Henderson’s Mister Fisher in the opening 32Red Casino Novices’ Hurdle on Boxing Day. Taking the scalps of some decent novices including Thomas Darby, The Big Bite and Didtheyleaveuoutto elevated the son of Jeremy into a best price 16-1 ( Betvictor ) for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Exciting novice chaser Santini was sent off the 11-10 favourite to provide the stable with a second winner on the card but the gelding found the combination of the sharp track and unseasonably lively ground too much as Nico de Boinville’s mount could finish no nearer than third behind the talented mare La Bague Au Roi and Topofthegame, causing bookmakers to push the six-year-old out to 4-1 ( Ladbrokes and Coral ) for the festival’s RSA.
Henderson was long odds-on to win the Grade 1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle and while that proved to be the case it was the stable’s second-string Verdana Blue who stopped reigning dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air from recording his twelfth consecutive victory.
Going down by a short head to his stablemate at odds of 1-4 may not have seen the Crillon gelding at his best but a third Champion Hurdle next March is still very much on the cards although 6-4 is now available with William Hill and Betfair Sportsbook instead of the much shorter odds quoted before Wednesday’s race.
Another disappointment followed for Henderson as 2017 King George V1 Chase winner Might Bite finished last of the seven finishers on this occasion having reportedly bled from the nose on returning home.
The race provided Paul Nicholls with an unbelievable tenth win in the Christmas highlight this time courtesy of the 12-1 chance Clan Des Obeaux who overturned Betfair Chase form with the second and third – Thistlecrack and Native River.
Normal service was resumed at Kempton on Thursday when stable star Altior had little more than an exhibition round of jumping to land odds of 1-8 in the Desert Orchid Chase. Along with Buveur D’Air and Santini other horses who had their reputations tained somewhat over the two days included Kalashnikov, Footpad, Getabird and Mengli Khan.
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