Henderson has faith in Spirit Son

NICKY Henderson feels Spirit Son is the dark horse among his three-strong contenders for the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle.

The Seven Barrows trainer has already five Champion Hurdle triumphs under his belt and this time aims to be represented by Grandouet, Binocular and Spirit Son in the Cheltenham showpiece.

Spirit Son is the one Henderson is particularly keen on – though he is the only one of the trio not to have seen racecourse action this term.

He looked good last season, winning both his novice events before finishing second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and ending the campaign trouncing Cue Card by 13 lengths at Aintree in April.

“He looked very special at Aintree and I think he’s a very talented horse,” said Henderson.

“Whether he’s going to mix it with these boys this year we are about to find out.”

Grandouet and Binocular, the Champion Hurdle winner in 2010, have already advertised their claims with respective wins in the International Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle.

“Grandouet fell over at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle which was bad luck but he’s looked very good the last two times,” Henderson added.

“He proved last time at Cheltenham that he stays two miles and that he can go up the hill.

“He’s having a bit of a break at the moment. We’ll freshen him up and he’ll have one run before it.”

Henderson admits Binocular has not been at his best, but expects him to be more like his old self come March.

“With him we’ve got things to do and time to do it,” he told At The Races.

“He was better at Kempton, but we can still have him better than that.

“He will almost certainly have another run before Cheltenham.

“AP (McCoy) will probably ride Binocular and the toss-up (for Barry Geraghty) will be between Grandouet and Spirit Son.

“Grandouet has done it this year, but Spirit Son might be a bit special.”

Meanwhile, Long Run is likely to be without earplugs when he bids to defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown in March.

Henderson revealed his team have worked hard getting the top steeplechaser to relax, but that they may have overdone it.

“We have spent a lot of time settling him down and have always run him in earplugs,” said Henderson.

“That helps him through the preliminaries and everything else, but we’ve probably decided to take them out now because he is very relaxed and possibly a little bit over (relaxed).

“We will be changing a few things but I don’t think we will be taking Kauto Star on up front.

“We are hoping that the extra distance at Cheltenham and the hill are what are going to save us.”

Henderson confirmed that Long Run could have a prep run for Cheltenham in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury next month.

“I think the Denman Chase is a possibility. It would do him good to have another run,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“He’s come back from the King George in great form and one’s assuming Kauto is not going to go there.

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