Five-star Henderson firmly back on track

Nicky Henderson returned from a period of self-isolation after contracting Covid-19 with the ideal tonic – an 821-1 four-timer at Kempton Park on Saturday.

Incredibly, only one of the Seven Barrows yard winners was sent off favourite, as Falco Blitz (7-1), Mister Fisher (15-8), Caribean Boy (9-2) and First Street (11-2) had Henderson followers flooring the Kempton bookmakers.

And just for good measure, the 71-year-old saddled a fifth winner at Warwick when Luccia (7-2) landed the bumper.

“It is great,” said Henderson. “A fortnight ago I was grumbling they were not running consistently well, and everybody said, ‘stop moaning, they are perfectly all right’. It was just that they were not very good or the conditions did not suit them.

Falco Blitz kicked off what was to be a fine day for Nicky Henderson
Falco Blitz kicked off what was to be a fine day for Nicky Henderson (Steven Paston/PA)

“You know I love Kempton and, even in this tacky ground, it suits our horses. They have all spent the day going wide.

“It has been a good day and we can’t complain – although we could complain about the ones who got beat.

“Christmas here was fantastic, then it has been a bit dull since Christmas, apart from Constitution Hill (winning the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last week), and then we come here and it goes back to where you want it.”

Falco Blitz got the ball rolling in the Coral “Fail-To-Finish” Free Bets Handicap Chase, sparking a double for jockey Nico de Boinville.

The 7-1 shot came wide in the extended two-and-a-half-mile heat and recorded a length success.

Henderson said: “I thought the secret to him was the other way round on good ground, so we have gone the wrong way round on the wrong ground!

“He does like space but does still drift a bit left. He does technically want to go left. His ideal good ground, going left-handed. He likes it round here and has crept nicely into the race.

“He might be a horse for the Topham Chase (at Aintree), but he likes his spaces and you don’t get many of those in the Topham. Not over the first three fences  anyway.”

Winning connections after the victory of Mister Fisher
Winning connections after the victory of Mister Fisher (Steven Paston/PA)

Mister Fisher took the Coral Silvinaco Conti Chase in good style under James Bowen, who also recorded a double on the day.

After the length-and-three-quarters victory, Henderson will look ahead to the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

He said: “This was a race made for him. If the Ryanair was on good ground, he will be competitive. Aintree would be next. He deserves a nice pot like this and he has now got to go an fly in the top flight. We think he is top-class, always has been. I love him, he is a beautiful horse.”

He was also full of praise for Bowen, adding: “James Bowen deserves it, so does Nico. You know where James is going, he is going straight to the top. We had a little period when things were not going right last year, and we have managed to turn that round. His confidence is high, and he is riding beautifully.”

Caribean Boy could be a Grand National contender
Caribean Boy could be a Grand National contender (Steven Paston/PA)

Aintree may also be on the cards for Caribean Boy, winner of the three-mile Coral Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Chase.

The Bowen-ridden eight-year-old has Henderson potentially eyeing the Grand National.

He admitted: “We are probably just finding out that he is a stayer. I am dying to find a Grand National horse. We ran him in the Topham one year and fancied him like hell, but Daryl (Jacob) said he hated it. But that is not to put me off.

“(Bloodstock agent) Anthony Bromley thinks we should come back here next month for the Coral Chase and there is every possibility he will.”

Henderson completed his Kempton quartet when First Street led home stablemate Mengli Khan in the concluding two-mile Coral Proud To Support British Racing Handicap Hurdle under De Boinville.

Henderson said: “All he has done has beaten my old friend Mengli Khan and I feel absolutely gutted he has done that.

“Mengli Khan’s day will come. He loved it today and I just can’t believe I’ve gone and beaten him.

“All I want is to train a winner for Michael Blencowe, who is a lovely guy. He has four horses and I can’t win a race for him.

“I don’t know what we’ll do with the winner. He has got all the penalties to take him out of the novices. He has to probably go for something like the Imperial Cup. He only beat Mengli Khan, though – tell the handicapper that!”

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