2012 Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Preview
March 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Nicky Henderson the pick to be the top trainer at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival
The betting is extremely close for the 2012 Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Award, with Willie Mullins, the 5/4 favourite to retain his crown that he won for the first time 12 months ago after saddling four winners, including the magnificent Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle and will be hoping that the eight year old can repeat that success once again next week and get him off to a winning start on day one.
Others from his 30 strong contingent that is coming over from the Mullins County Carlow based stables in Ireland that have big chances include the mighty Quevega, bidding for a fourth straight win the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle. Although she has not raced this season, the eight year old is reported to be in good order and with so little opposition in the race, she would be appear to be one of the Festival’s “bankers”. Boston Bob should also provide the Irish maestro with a great chance of landing the Neptune Novice Hurdle and the stable also seem very keen on the chances of Sir Deschamps in the RSA Chase whilst Champagne Fever in the pick of his Champion Bumper entries, a race that he has won six times in the past 15 years!
Next in the betting to win the top trainer award is Nicky Henderson at odds of 2/1 which looks reasonable value when one considers the depth and quality of his entries. Of course he has the favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in Long Run, who will be looking to repeat his exhilarating win of last year and the yard are reportedly very pleased by the good form shown by 2010 Champion Hurdler, Binocular, who will be bidding to regain his title after missing the race 12 months ago.
Henderson’s stable jockey, Barry Geraghty, has gone on the record to say that his mount in the Arkle Trophy, Sprinter Sacre, is the best horse he has ever sat on which speaks volumes for his chances of winning the race and the horse has been one of the big “talking horses” ahead of this year’s Festival. Darlan looks a very good prospect in the Supreme Novice Hurdle while Simonsig is the 5/2 joint favourite to win the Neptune Novice Hurdle for the Seven Barrows operation. Bobs Worth has a great chance to win the RSA Chase, particularly if Grands Crus defects from this race to contest the Gold Cup, while Riverside Theatre will take all the beating in the Ryanair Chase. Despite the dominance of Big Bucks in the World Hurdle, Henderson has been quietly pleased with his Oscars Whisky who he believes will run a big race and prove himself capable of becoming a worthy successor to the three time champion.
Paul Nicholls of course trains Big Bucks, who for many, he is the “banker” of the meeting. Nicholls also has big chances in the Gold Cup of course with Kauto Star attempting to become the first horse to regain the Cup for a second time. As has been well reported, Kauto Star has had a minor setback at home after tumbling at a fence when schooling. Whether this has any lasting negative effect on the 12 year old remains to be seen and his absence would be a major blow for the Festival and the sport but the horse’s welfare must remain he paramount priority.
Nicholls is sweet on the chances of a number of his entries including Al Ferof in the Arkle Trophy, Zarkandar in the Champion Hurdle (despite Ruby Walsh electing to ride Hurricane Fly), Ted Spread in the County Hurdle as well as Kauto Star who, should he win the race for a third time will make the 2012 Cheltenham Festival the most memorable ever.
Other trainers who are likely to be seen in the winner’s enclosure are David Pipe, who amongst others will have the exciting Grands Crus representing his stable. Philip Hobbs too should be there or thereabouts with at least a couple of winners, while Alan King comes to the Festival with a stable bang in form and confidence sky high. Donald McCain has also been hitting the net regularly of late and although he had been reluctant to reveal the target for Peddlers Cross, the fact that he has now named the Jewson Novice Chase, should give him a great chance of coming away from the Festival with at least one winner, if not two. Jonjo O’Neill usually has his stable firing at Festival time and this year will be no exception, while Gordon Elliott, who saddled two winners at the 2011 Festival, will be looking for a similar score this time.
For this writer’s money however, it will be Nicky Henderson and his Seven Barrows team that will be lifting the top trainer prize in 2012. It would also be no surprise at all to see him saddle six winners!