Henderson title challenge gathering pace

Nicky Henderson again took over a big Saturday afternoon with an 103-1 Ascot treble from all the feature races and thrust himself back into contention to win a first champion trainers’ title for 21 years.

Nicky Henderson again took over a big Saturday afternoon with an 103-1 Ascot treble from all the feature races and thrust himself back into contention to win a first champion trainers’ title for 21 years.

In 1987 See You Then helped Henderson achieve the landmark with the third of his three Champion Hurdles and the scintillating victory of Binocular in the Boylesports.com International makes that a distinct possibility too.

Chomba Womba chipped in with valuable prize-money from her third spot in the same race while Sentry Duty in The Ladbroke and a one-two from Punchestowns and Duc de Regniere in the BCG Long Walk Hurdle nudged the Seven Barrows stable over the £1m mark for the campaign.

Henderson is within touching distance of the usually dominant Paul Nicholls at the top of the tree and Coral chalked him up at 9-4 against the reigning champion at 1-3.

“I don’t think Mr Nicholls will be too fussed!,” said Henderson.

“Obviously I knew coming here today I had a great team and that it was going to be a big day for us.

“More than everything, it has been about the team at home, from my head lad Corky Brown, Johnny Worrall and the other lads and lasses, and all the riders - Tony (McCoy) and Barry (Geraghty) have been a great help, but so have the likes of Marcus Foley and Andrew Tinkler.

“It’s been a great effort from everyone at the yard but we have had a few sleepless nights.

“We don’t have to make any decisions tonight – that’s certainly not what we will be doing!

“I expect tomorrow morning we will start thinking about drawing up battle plans.”

While Nicholls will almost certainly claim some of the season’s remaining prizes, the 58-year-old Henderson could chase him all the way.

“Henderson’s big-race winners dominate the betting for the Cheltenham Festival hurdle contests, with Binocular and Punchestowns both 6-4 for the Champion and World Hurdles respectively,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

“A month ago it would have been highly unlikely that we would have priced up this contest, but with Denman yet to return, and Kauto Star having a point to prove in the King George, Paul Nicholls could face the toughest defence of his title yet.”

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