Nicky Henderson sure knows a thing or two about jumps racing, having been named champion trainer no less than six times during what continues to be one of the most revered careers in all of equestrianism. His stable of thoroughbreds is always under the microscope when the Cheltenham Festival comes around, as betting punters and online tipsters all go in search of clues for which horses will come good in their respective races.
The 2022 edition of the festival is no different; with Henderson fielding several horses people will be heavily backing using online deals like Cheltenham free bets.
Here are just some of the runners that will have every chance of bringing home race wins at the marquee event of the jumps racing calendar.
Champ – Stayers’ Hurdle
Henderson initially had Champ slated to take part in the Gold Cup, but eventually pulled him from that race citing the fact he didn’t trust him over fences. Instead, he preferred the horse to go over hurdles.
This has played out in Champ now being entered for the Stayers’ Hurdle, where he will face off against Thyme Hill, Flooring Porter and Paisley Park.
Champ has mixed form against those horses, having beaten Thyme Hill back in December at Ascot, but losing convincingly to Paisley Park at Cheltenham in January. However, the consensus among tipsters and oddsmakers alike is that Champ will be there or thereabouts as the runners near the winning post.
Constitution Hill – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
The rest of the field in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle will have a real mountain to climb when they come up against Constitution Hill. Most bookies have Henderson’s star horse priced at close to 9/4, with Dysart Dynamo and Sir Gerhard tipped to be his most likely challengers.
Another horse that could throw a spanner in the works is Henderson’s other runner in the race, Jonbon, Known to be the more rambunctious of the two horses, he could have the energy and verve to cause a minor upset. Not that Henderson would see it that way, however. The trainer is likely viewing both horses as top contenders with equal chances of winning.
Is a Henderson one-two on the cards here? There will be plenty of racing fans betting on exactly that outcome.
Epatante – Champion Hurdle
Part of the joy of going to watch horses race in the flesh is being able to get out into the great outdoors. But, something that really puts the icing on the cake during a race is being able to witness greatness unfurl in front of your eyes.
Many believe that heavy favourite for the Champion Hurdle, Honeysuckle, is the best thing since sliced bread. Henderson’s Epatante is out to show that Honeysuckle isn’t all that sweet. The two horses clashed at Cheltenham and Punchestown back in the spring of 2021, with Honeysuckle getting the better of both contests. This time around, Henderson fancies his horse to find the extra pace required to close the gap.
Of all his runners in the Cheltenham Festival, Epatante perhaps has the tallest task in front of her, but she should at least manage to make the podium.
Shishkin – Queen Mother Champion Chase
One of the stand-out battles of the festival promises to be the one between great rivals Shishkin, trained by Henderson, and Energumene, who is trained by Willie Mullins.
Shishkin had the better result during the pair’s first faceoff at Ascot back in January, and he’s heavily fancied to repeat the feat in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
So far, Henderson has been downplaying his horse’s chances, saying he is up against it – especially since the classy Chacun Pour Soi and Envoi Allen will also be right in the mix.