Henderson still able to sleep easy over Sir Gino

By Sports Desk February 07, 2024

Nicky Henderson believes Sir Gino’s position as arguably the leading juvenile hurdler seen so far this season is undiminished after absorbing all the action from last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival.

The master of Seven Barrows was an avid viewer of what he termed “the Willie Mullins racing festival”, with the Closutton trainer hoovering up all eight Grade One prizes on offer over Leopardstown’s two-day fixture, including the Irish Gold Cup with Galopin Des Champs.

While Ballyburn’s victory stroll in Sunday’s two-mile Grade One set alarm balls ringing for Henderson’s Supreme hope Jeriko Du Reponet, he was not so troubled by the result in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, which saw Kargese lead home a one-two-three-four for Mullins.

Sir Gino is a general 4-5 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after supplementing a British debut win with a 10-length triumph over Burdett Road on Trials day at Prestbury Park and Henderson is confident of his claims, although he is not ruling out a late surprise contender.

He said: “Galopin looked very good on Saturday – they all looked very good over at the weekend at Leopardstown. I enjoyed watching the Willie Mullins racing festival!

“Watching the opposition over the weekend, of all the novices they had that came out, there were some very impressive performances, none more so than (owner) Ronnie Bartlett’s two-miler (Ballyburn). He looked very good and I’m trying to persuade him to go two and a half (miles).

“The juveniles didn’t possibly look as strong as they might do, I was thinking ‘Willie’s going to come out with some rocket’, it doesn’t looks as if he did. The opinion seemed to be nothing happened to cause Sir Gino a great loss of sleep.

“There’s sure to be something crop up somewhere, in the Adonis or in Ireland, but at the moment, his performance did look quite smart at Cheltenham and I think he is a very smart horse, but there’s a long way to go.”

Galopin Des Champs reversed recent form with Fastorslow in defending his Irish Gold Cup title, having found that rival too sharp on the last two of their three meetings.

A Cheltenham Gold Cup defence is now the next port of call for Mullins’ stable star, with Henderson hoping Shishkin can book his Festival ticket with victory in Saturday’s Betfair Denman Chase.

However, even if all should go to plan at Newbury, Henderson is anticipating the sternest of challenges from Galopin Des Champs in the Cotswolds next month.

Of Mullins’ charge, he said: “I think he’s very good, he’s a proven Gold Cup winner so he has to be very good. I think he is a very clinical, professional horse, he just gets out there and gets the job done.

“He doesn’t strike me as a very flashy horse in his race or anything, but he’s always there isn’t he. He’s a tough horse, too.

“I thought he was very, very good and you could find little fault in what he has done. He’s the horse we all have to beat and I’m just thinking and hoping he’s not unbeatable.”

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