Nicky Henderson has been leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in eight different years now, and clearly has a good chance of repeating that achievement next week. If he does so, he'll have a new entry to put on his CV: that of most winning trainer of all time at the Festival.
That record currently sits with Fulke Walwyn, who trained 40 winners in a career which stretched from 1946 to 1986. An average of one winner a year shows just how strong the competition is to win any race at the Festival, and it has taken Henderson very nearly as long to reach his current total of 39 winners.
He says that when he started training in 1978, "He (Walwyn) and Fred Winter were trainer gods, and, of course, it's nice to try to emulate him, but it's winning the actual races that really matters most. We are lucky to have races over four days to aim at nowadays. Fulke got to his total with only three-day festivals, so that’s a great number."
With entries in every race with the exception of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase and the Pertemps Final Hurdle he should have every chance of adding to his total. Henderson says that he’s reasonably relaxed this year even though expectations of horses like Sprinter Sacre, Binocular, Simonsig and Bobs Worth are so high. And realistically it wouldn't be a huge surprise if a couple of those took him to the new record.
But the most appropriate race for a second Henderson winner at this year’s Festival is the final event on Thursday, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase for amateur riders. In this race stable is represented by two horses whom the market, at least, does not expect to win: Loose Performer (20/1) and Be There In Five (40/1). But sometimes fate intervenes in the most unexpected ways. Could this be one of them?