ASK Nicky Henderson for the secret to his success and even he might struggle to encapsulate the insightÂ in words.
Crisis management might be part of the answer, though.
âWe know that these races are going to be very competitive â whatever turns up,â he said ahead of this yearâs Cheltenham Festival. âOur job is to concentrate on what weâre doing, donât make any mistakes and get everything right. And cross our fingers.â
Hendersonâs fingers may be crossed a little more tightly this morning when he finds out whether Altior will be fit to run tomorrow.
âAltior was unfortunately lame this morning in his near-fore leg and we have located some pus in the frog [of his hoof],â he said. âBoth our vet and farrier are working very hard and are more than hopeful that he will even be able to canter tomorrow and therefore confident he will be clear to race on Wednesday.â
Henderson relies on touch and instinct as opposed to cold science and sometimes refers to his methods as âHenderson logicâ. But it works, and he attempts to add to his 58 Festival victories thus far with the possibility of winning all three of the most prestigious races.
Buveur dâAir is odds-on favourite to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle today and, if fit, the shockwaves will be measured on the Richter scale if Altior fails to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, leaving Might Bite to chew his way through the opposition in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Those fingers may be crossed again when Buveur dâAir runs. His jumping puts Henderson in mind of See You Then, his triple champion hurdler, but also carries a health warning for the trainerâs nerves.
âHeâs frightening because he measures it to there,â Henderson said, with forefinger and thumb closed too close for a margin of error. âHis knees just flick the top but, if he just gets it wrong by two inchesâ¦. Itâs absolute precision and youâve got to be deadly accurate to do it. But heâs very good at it.â
Buveur dâAir was good enough to be third in the Supreme Novicesâ Hurdle two years ago. But Altior was good enough to win and keep winning; 12 in a row which included the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last month after a spell out following a breathing operation.
âTo be fair, on three bits of work since last yearâs Celebration Chase it was a pretty fair performance,â Henderson said. âHe just finds everything so easy for him. And thatâs what it was at Newbury â pure class and that gets you a long way.â
Class will only get a horse so far in the Gold Cup. Probably as far as the home turn and from there it takes other, more brute, elements of the horseâs character to win steeplechasingâs blue riband race.
Might Bite has the class, having won the King George VI Chase, but his stamina is open to question along with his antics in last yearâs RSA Chase when he hung markedly right as if he was heading towards the exit and a return to the racecourse stables.
âOf course we havenât been three and a quarter miles. But to jump the last as far in front as he did in the RSA, come to a standstill and get going again up that hill â he must stay pretty well,â Henderson said. Â
âEverybody is going to have in their mind what will happen should he jump the last in front?â
Henderson reckons he has a plan in his mind. But that, for the moment, will remain a secret.
Source : HeraldScotland