While re-iterating that “I don’t think anything has ever changed” with Long Run, the 2011 winner who was back to form with a second King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s , the focus is very much on his ante-post favourite Bobs Worth.
Successful on his previous visit to Prestbury Park in last year’s RSA Chase, Bobs Worth has appeared just once this season when beating Tidal Bay in the Hennessy Gold Cup.
Just 3-1 with the sponsors, the eight-year-old missed a preparatory outing in last month’s Argento at Cheltenham when Henderson was not quite happy with him.
“We would have liked another run, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it,” said Henderson, who opened his stable for a media morning yesterday.
“He was fresh in the Hennessy, and he’ll be straighter than he was then. He lacks experience but he loves Cheltenham. There’s work to do, but he’s on schedule.
“This is where we we will find out where he is and what he is.
“He hasn’t reached the superstar status that Sprinter Sacre has done yet, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to do so.”
Referring to his opponents, Henderson said: “It’s very wide open and I don’t think we’ve seen a standout horse.
“You wouldn’t say Silviniaco Conti was earth-shatteringly impressive at Newbury but it was a very satisfactory trial I’m sure.
“There has been nothing that has come out this season that you would say ‘look at that’. Bobs Worth and Long Run have as good a chance as any.”
Long Run reportedly worked very nicely when taken to the nearby Mandown gallops via a horsebox for a change of scenery, and is to have a spin after racing at Kempton on Saturday.
Henderson might publicly admit he does not expect to match last year’s phenomenal haul of seven Cheltenham Festival winners, but a team of at least 35 from his Lambourn stable will be out doing their best.
“What happened last year is unrepeatable. Maybe Paul (Nicholls) or Willie Mullins will have seven, but it has happened once to us, so it won’t happen again,” said the Festival’s all-time leading trainer.
“You would settle for one – anything that comes your way is gratefully received. The best thing is if you can find one winner on the opening day. It doesn’t make the horses run faster but it gives everyone confidence.”
If betting is taken literally, that one winner will surely be Sprinter Sacre, who could be sent off the hottest favourite at the fixture since Arkle won the 1966 Gold Cup.
Henderson became practically doe-eyed yesterday when asked to pose with the Sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase bound gelding, who has hardly been tested in seven starts over fences.
“Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre are two of the best work horses I’ve ever seen,” Henderson said.
“I think he (Sprinter Sacre) is as good looking a horse as you’ll ever see. Bobs Worth is no oil painting, he’s just a nice horse, but with Sprinter Sacre it’s a different ball game.
“He has a lot of natural talent and it’s just easy for him. We won’t be complacent, but he loves doing it. If you enjoy what you are doing, you can do it well.”
While Simonsig, hot favourite to follow in Sprinter Sacre’s footsteps by taking the Arkle Trophy, could be joined by his stablemate in having a preparatory schooling session with the renowned Yogi Breisner, a handful of the other leading lights are to have a racecourse gallop at Kempton on Saturday.
Defending Ryanair champion Riverside Theatre – back after being diagnosed with ulcers – and Binocular, the former Champion Hurdle winner, are others who will have a spin on the turf.
After managing a one-two in the race named after his father, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, the trainer named his five probable runners as Tanks For That, Anquetta, French Opera, Petit Robin and Kid Cassidy.
Finian’s Rainbow is set to defend his Champion Chase title against Sprinter Sacre despite a laboured appearance at Ascot on Saturday.
Henderson said: “You’d have to admit he was disappointing but Barry (Geraghty) is adamant he doesn’t go in soft ground. I think everything points to going back to two (miles).”
Oscar Whisky was confirmed, as owner Dai Walters had suggested, for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle after a much improved attempt at a longer distance when just beaten by Reve De Sivola in the Cleeve Hurdle.
While Grandouet, set for a later gallop after recovering from a minor issue, and Kingwell Hurdle runner-up Khyber Kim join Binocular in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, Henderson effectively ruled out My Tent Or Yours.
A facile winner of the Betfair Hurdle, JP McManus’ youngster will revert to the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s very good and he goes for the Supreme,” he said. “I know JP has Jezki in the Supreme as well, but don’t forget he’s got Binocular in the Champion and we’re happy with him.”
Virtually all the team have competed their racing trials ahead of Cheltenham, one or two handicappers aside, but Saturday could see last-ditch Triumph auditions for Vasco Du Ronceray and Courtesy Call.