Relief was the overriding emotion for Nicky Henderson after Sir Gino got the Seven Barrows handler back in the big-race winner’s enclosure with victory in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

The trainer endured a torrid time at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, with the disappointing performances of several horses leading him to withdraw a number of others, unbeaten juvenile Sir Gino being one.

The Triumph Hurdle absentee proved his worth on Merseyside, though, tracking the Cheltenham runner-up Kargese into the home straight in the hands of Nico de Boinville.

The 11-10 favourite was far from foot perfect at the next couple of obstacles, but picked up well after a good leap at the final flight to prevail by three and a quarter lengths.

Henderson said: “We knew what we were walking into and while it is a relief, one swallow doesn’t make a summer as they say.

“He galloped right through the line in what was a messy race, it was awfully stop-start. His jumping was untidy up the straight but you could see from the speed on the screen, it got slowed up dramatically, the second was pulling hard as well but he’s done what he had to do.

“He is a very good horse but he’s got a long way to go. He is in Punchestown but that was in case of protestors or bomb scares or something stupid, but I wouldn’t have thought that was high on the agenda.

“I always had the feeling he was going to pick up the second but you could get a tidier race than that.

“He’ll have to stick to hurdles next season but I’m not going to think about that now. I know where one person (Constitution Hill) is going, so we’ll have to see if there’s an alternative route.”

The most high-profile absentee from Henderson’s Cheltenham squad was, of course, last season’s Champion Hurdle hero Constitution Hill, who has since been in hospital after suffering from colic.

Henderson added: “All trainers know what a spell like we’ve had is like, the problem we had was the timing, unfortunately it was more public than was probably necessary because we literally bumped into Cheltenham.

“We were sat at home watching the Triumph Hurdle. At least we’ve got through a little bit but we’ve got to do it all again now, the yard will be relieved though.

“Constitution Hill is fine now, thankfully. I’m not sure if he was watching but he’s a two-mile hurdler and that is what this is, they might get to know each other.”

Willie Mullins said of the runner-up Kargese: “It was a very good run, the winner is a tremendous horse and it’s great to see Nicky’s horses back in form. I’m delighted for him and Joe and Marie Donnelly (owners).

“Our filly is probably her own worst enemy, she has to learn to race, as she’s too keen. She will mature I hope and make it easier for Paul (Townend) to ride her.

“She looks a very good filly for next season but I think she’ll go to Punchestown first. It’s only up the road from us and she won’t need any galloping between now and then. We’ll freshen her up and bring her back for Punchestown all being well.”

Sir Gino preserved his flawless record with a neat victory in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s gelding missed the Cheltenham Festival as the stable was under a cloud and looked to claim his first Grade One in Liverpool instead.

Under Nico de Boinville, he did so with little fuss, winning comfortably as the 11-10 favourite after a good jump at the last.

Nicky Henderson expects to know by Thursday evening whether his horses are over whatever was ailing them during the Cheltenham Festival, with Sir Gino and Shishkin all set for Aintree.

Henderson endured a miserable week in the Cotswolds and after racing on Wednesday of that week decided discretion was the better part of valour, pulling out all of his high-profile runners.

“Rather like before Cheltenham we’ve kept testing them and just like then, everything is fine – that’s the only worry really. It keeps telling us everything is fine,” said Henderson.

“The horses seem really well in themselves, the last work has all been done, they seem bright and perky and we’re looking forward to it.

“We’re going to know our fate pretty quickly. By Thursday night it will either be happening or it won’t be happening. Obviously we go with a fair amount of trepidation, but things seemed to have improved dramatically from the perspective of their work and everything at home.

“We’ve hardly run anything, but the two reasons we haven’t run anything, for instance at Hereford today I couldn’t make an entry on the card – I couldn’t find a horse who was qualified to run in any race, and of course the ground is desperate, so we’ll start at Aintree.”

After a quiet 10 days the Seven Barrows handler has been building them back up to peak fitness and Sir Gino, who had been odds-on for the Triumph Hurdle, will be first to test the water in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

“He was a horse that I honestly couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but we’d lost all confidence and I couldn’t face running a young horse like him,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

“We’ve made no bones about it, we think he’s seriously good and I just couldn’t risk him. Joe Donnelly was wonderful because we had to take Sir Gino, Shishkin and Shanagh Bob out, all his, but there was no point in running them after the first two days.

“I trust in this fellow and he’s going to go out there carrying the Seven Barrows flag and I’m sure everyone is going to watch him like a hawk – I hope for all the right reasons.

“He won at Auteuil and as everybody knows, if you can handle that you can handle most things, and it was pretty soft on Trials day (at Cheltenham).”

Shishkin will then get his chance to shine in the Aintree Bowl having missed the Gold Cup.

“The last week seems to have been great, Nico (de Boinville) rode him in his last piece of work on Saturday and said he felt fantastic and he’s looked up for it all this week.

“I just think everything has gone right, but he’s had a funny old year. He didn’t start, then he threw away the King George and then he won the Denman. Whatever anybody’s opinion of the King George doesn’t matter, he was still running a great race. The Denman was more than an ideal preparation for the Gold Cup, but here we are in the same place so hopefully all systems go.”

Henderson also runs the mares Luccia and Marie’s Rock in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

He said: “Luccia was the one bright light at Cheltenham. The Champion Hurdle had fallen apart as far as we were concerned without Constitution Hill, but Luccia ran a fantastic race when she was a very close third.

“The only thing here is we are going up half a mile. We haven’t thought about it a lot and always felt she wouldn’t stay, but one day you have to try and if she does stay from next season’s point of view it gives her so many more options. The alternative was to wait for Punchestown and walk into Lossiemouth.

“Marie’s Rock is between here and the three-miler, but in this sort of ground two and a half will be plenty for her. She’s got stamina and goes in the soft, but it’s a very tough race.”

Nicky Henderson has dismissed speculation about the well-being of JCB Triumph Hurdle market leader Sir Gino, insisting he is “100 per cent”.

The four-year-old was ultra-impressive when accounting for Burdett Road at Cheltenham on Trials day, since when he has been hot favourite to claim Triumph glory on Friday.

However, Sir Gino’s price began to drift alarmingly on Betfair on Saturday night, prompting suggestions he was under the weather.

His odds soon came tumbling back down, though, and Henderson said his charge is in fine spirits ahead of the Festival.

“He was in great form yesterday morning – I don’t know where this has come from, I really don’t,” the Seven Barrows handler told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme.

“It’s just one of those things they love to throw at you just to test your mental agility, I think – it’s crazy.

“He schooled on Thursday and you wouldn’t see anything slicker. He had a nice piece (of work) on the last little bit he’s going to do. He doesn’t run until Friday…and he is 100 per cent, I can promise you, 100 per cent.”

Henderson also issued a positive update on Gold Cup hope Shishkin.

He added: “He’s in very good nick, I like to think. Shishkin is in very, very good form – we’re very happy, he’s come on a lot from Newbury I’d say.”

Meanwhile, Constitution Hill has been taking things easy since being ruled out of Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle.

“He hasn’t done much for the last week because the only thing to do is leave him alone and let him get over this,” said Henderson.

“We will take his blood again tomorrow morning, which will be comparable to last Monday’s one, and we just hope these figures keep improving. They’ll give me an indication just to when we can start to wander on with him.

“He’s absolutely fine in himself. He was down in the doldrums that week, after the gallop at Kempton, and he quietly over that weekend afterwards started to perk up a little bit, but we’ve done very little this last week.”

Sir Gino does not fit Nicky Henderson’s typical template of a juvenile hurdler – but the giant four-year-old looks so good he has somewhat forced his trainer to go down a tried-and-tested route.

On his arrival from France, Henderson had an inkling he was something out of the ordinary, although his size and shape made connections think he would be more of a longer-term prospect.

Victory on his British debut at Kempton confirmed first impressions that he was very talented but some sloppy jumping still had Henderson thinking he might not be a JCB Triumph Hurdle type.

However, the way he disposed of previous Triumph favourite Burdett Road at Cheltenham soon meant there was only one way to go.

“He’s a lovely big horse. I think we always thought he was very good but didn’t want to get too carried away before we got to see it. Luckily, the spies hadn’t really latched on to him before Cheltenham but we thought he was pretty smart,” said Henderson.

“He’s only had two races for us and one in France, he’s a very talented horse.

“His jumping wasn’t very good at Kempton and he was babyish, he got a bit of a fright when he hit the front. He’d missed a couple on the way, was very good at a couple but he got very goofy on the run-in.

“Normally, we’d expect the French horses to do it in their sleep, as they start with them as yearlings, whereas we chuck them out in the field. The French can normally all do it (jump) blindfolded but he didn’t do it at Kempton, so we did do quite a bit between Kempton and Cheltenham.

“He beat a good horse, but was it the real Burdett Road that showed up and he wasn’t 10lb below his best? We’d have still won but we’re assuming Burdett Road ran to his previous form.”

Usually, Willie Mullins dominates the Triumph Hurdle, but while he did saddle the first four in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, Henderson was not left having sleepless nights after it.

“I think he’s very good. It will be an interesting race. What surprised me most at the ‘Willie Mullins Festival’ was the race I was watching most carefully, the juvenile, they all finished in a heap,” said Henderson.

“I was expecting something to jump out from that race but it didn’t look obvious. There’s some nice horses, don’t get me wrong, but nothing to do what Sir Gino did at Cheltenham.

“The Triumph is a tough race and this is a big, scopey horse who will jump a fence, he’s not your typical Triumph horse. Sometimes you might have decided to wait another year with him but we’ve got this far, so we may as well keep going.

“We won’t think about next year, let’s get through this year first. He’s only had two runs, one was a very moderate race at Kempton, so you’d hope he could do that, you have to judge whether Burdett Road ran to his best – he was rated over 100 on the Flat.”

Running through some of his other Festival hopefuls, Henderson said: “Marie’s Rock will run in the Mares’ and I couldn’t be happier. Obviously, Lossiemouth is in the way but she’s in great form. It’s where she’s got to go, it’s the sensible race. She was much better last time and moved much better.

“Under Control might go for the Morebattle (March 2), I want to see what the ground is like at Kelso and then when she’s won that, she’ll have to go for the bonus at Cheltenham – that will be easy!

“We turned her around in nine days last year from Cheltenham to Sandown. I don’t know if she’s well handicapped but she doesn’t need to run in a non-handicap. Something went very wrong in the Gerry Fielden, I never found out what, but she finished very strongly at Doncaster, which was encouraging.

“Jeriko Du Reponet has been in good form. I think the two-miler (Supreme) is going to be the hot one. I just need to persuade Ronnie Bartlett (owner of Ballyburn) to run his over two and a half because he promised me he would about Christmas time but they seem to have changed their minds, which is very inconvenient.

“Iberico Lord will have to think about coming out again. I wouldn’t say he’s a step ahead because he’s won two very good handicaps, he looks really well and he’d be in the County, we’ve several in there. Under Control and Impose Toi could also run in it.

“Doddiethegreat won’t get in the Coral Cup I don’t think, and it’s hurting me because it’s the race for him. It would be really sad because he’s crying out for another half a mile.

“I’ve no real novice chasers, we’ve got good novice hurdlers this year but the novice chasers are weak.

“I’ve got four for the Pertemps; Chantry House, Bold Endeavour, Walking On Air needs to finish in the first four at Chepstow on Saturday and Mill Green, who has been third in it twice.

“Shanagh Bob (Albert Bartlett) had a dirty scope and was wrong over Christmas, he schooled this morning and looks a bit sharper than before Christmas.”

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.”

Sir Gino produced a startling display to burst the Burdett Road bubble in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Nicky Henderson’s imposing youngster had impressed many on his hurdling debut at Kempton but he faced a different calibre of opponent this time in Royal Ascot winner Burdett Road.

James Owen’s charge had shown a liking for hurdles in two previous wins over obstacles and Harry Cobden was eager to anchor him at the back of the pack as his mount was keen on his first run since November.

The big two closed in on long-time leader Milan Tino turning into the straight and while Burdett Road was still travelling strongly, when James Bowen asked Sir Gino to quicken he took two lengths out of his main rival.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the race, however, was after the last when the 5-4 chance sprinted 10 lengths clear of the 6-5 favourite.

Sir Gino is now Betfair’s 6-4 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle from 9-2.

Nicky Henderson will target a record-extending eighth victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Sir Gino following the French recruit’s successful British debut at Kempton.

A winner at Auteuil in the spring, the three-year-old was a 4-9 favourite to double his tally on his first start for new connections in the To Win Free Music Tickets ‘Introductory’ Juvenile Hurdle.

Sir Gino did not always shine in the jumping department under Nico de Boinville, but ultimately had far too much firepower for his rivals and passed the post with 14 lengths in hand.

Henderson said: “He is a lovely horse and his life is in front of him. You could say he nearly wants a fence already, but we won’t be doing that for the time being.

“He can sharpen up a lot, as he was a little bit novicey a couple of times. He was either spectacular at them or he kicked the hurdle out, there was no in between.

“He is a big horse, and he needs to fill into his frame. He does look like a chaser, but hurdles are what he will be going over for the time being.”

Paddy Power trimmed the winner’s Triumph Hurdle odds to 8-1 from 10-1 and Henderson confirmed his intention to work back from the Cheltenham Festival.

The Seven Barrows handler added: “He will need to go up in grade now and we can’t pussy foot around with him. You would have thought that the Triumph Hurdle will be where he goes.

“He is not a typical Triumph Hurdle horse, as he is not an ex-Flat racer. He is a proper horse.

“I’d think he will be okay with everything at Cheltenham, but I would like to give him at least one or two more runs before we go there.”

Tweed Skirt gave Henderson a double on the card when winning the Ladbrokes Get Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase at 4-1 under Robert Dunne.

Aurigny Mill was a 9-1 winner of the opening Ladbrokes Boost Your Odds On Racing Handicap Hurdle for trainer Victor Dartnall and jockey Fergus Gillard.

Dartnall said: “I’ve always thought he was up at this level. This is the second run of his career that we have had a problem-free run up to.

“He had bruised feet all last season between every run, but we have got on top of all that. My son’s partner rides him out most days and she said he was as good as ever, and she has got it right.

“His owner Sally Weld has been brilliant to us, but she has not been very well. She is actually on a cruise at the moment and I think she is somewhere in the Caribbean.

“I think this will put the horse in at the bottom of the weights of some of the big handicaps.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.