Nicky Henderson is set to send a powerful squad to the two-day Coral Gold Cup meeting at Newbury which takes centre stage on December 1 and 2, live on Racing TV.
It is ten years since Triolo D’Alene provided Henderson with his third victory in what is now the Coral Gold Cup, but the Seven Barrows maestro believes Dusart is a live contender in the £250,000 showpiece, and his eight-year-old, along with Jeriko Du Reponet, Marie’s Rock and Under Control, enjoyed an away day at the Coral Gold Cup Gallops Morning at the Berkshire venue on Tuesday (November 21).
The in-form handler is also set to unleash some smart novice hurdlers at the meeting this year.
Watch: Nicky Henderson chats to Nick Lightfoot about his team for Newbury next month
“We’re very lucky this year as we’ve got a nice squad of novice hurdlers, and some of them will come here,” said Henderson who spoke to Richard Hoiles and Hayley Moore in front of an abundance of Newbury members and media at the Coral Gold Cup Gallops Morning.
Henderson has been operating at a 33 per cent strike-rate in November, and advised that his team are more forward than last year because his string have been able to exercise on his grass gallop earlier than expected.
“We are ahead this year as we have been working on the grass at home earlier than we could last year,” Henderson explained. “Some of my team have already had away days, too, because the racecourses have been kind, and the ground has been kind.
“One away day is plenty. Jonbon has a few because it just calms him down, and we just take him away to have a walk round the paddock, and take him home again. He even had a gallop at Windsor, as did Dusart. Constitution Hill has also had an away day.”
Racing TV’s Nick Lightfoot was also in attendance at the Coral Gold Cup Gallops Morning and caught up with Henderson, as well as a number of others trainers to discuss their contenders heading to Newbury in December. You can watch all of Nick’s interviews by clicking here.
Below, Henderson shares the inside track on the key players among his Newbury team.
Overview: Has always been highly regarded and won three of his first four outings over fences, but he only ran three times last season, without success. He was one of four stablemates galloping at Newbury on Tuesday and was brought down, when travelling nicely, in the Scottish Grand National when last seen.
Trainer comments: “The Coral Gold Cup has always been the plan. We’ve had him in a couple of races but the ground has been unreasonably wet. A dry ten days ahead of Newbury would help us a lot, but we’ve always said we’d come here and give it a go.
“He was a different horse straight away when he came back this season compared to what he was was last year. He’s got his bounce back in him and he seems really well.
“He had all sorts go wrong last season and was travelling beautifully when being brought down in the Scottish National.
“He’s been here before and is a good horse. He would benefit from some decent ground, though.”
Jeriko Du Reponet
A potential star? 👀
Jeriko Du Reponet finishes ahead of Dusart during a racecourse gallop @NewburyRacing this morning 🐎
The youngster, who is trained by Nicky Henderson, won a point-to-point by 11 lengths and is owned by JP McManus… pic.twitter.com/uMTUzBAMhh
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 21, 2023
Overview: There has been plenty of talk about this youngster who Henderson gave a positive mention to in recent weeks. The four-year-old won his sole point-to-point start impressively when showing a smart turn of foot, and won with lots to spare. He attracted plenty of attention at the Coral Gold Cup Gallops Morning, although Henderson avoided using any superlatives when discussing his exciting prospect!
Trainer coments: “Everybody’s asking me about him! He’s never run (under rules) or done anything before today, but the whole world wants to know about him!
Jeriko Du Reponet won a point-to-point in Northern Ireland and I know very little about him. There’s nothing significant about him coming here today!
Last night I needed a fourth horse to bring (to the gallops morning) and he fell into place. He’d never had an away day, but I wanted to see if he might be ready for Newbury.”
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 21, 2023
Overview: High-class mare who improved enormously last year having recorded Grade One glory in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. After winning the Relkeel in January, she then disappointed in the Mares’ Hurdle, but went close on her first start over three miles at Aintree when last seen.
Trainer comments: “Marie’s Rock runs here in the three-miler (Long Distance Hurdle) and she will go in anything. She’s the one horse who really did need a gallop this morning. It will be nice though to get some nice ground. It was pretty soft under the rail this morning. Nico (de Boinville) is very pleased with her.
“She was very good at Cheltenham first time out last season, but I thought she was disappointing at the Cheltenham Festival. We then upped her to three miles at Aintree and she was really good. She finished second, but she travelled very strongly, and she looked as though she was enjoying that trip.
“When we were trying to go over two and a half last season, there were just no races for her, and we had to wait until New Year’s Day (for the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham). She was very impressive in that.
“She’s probably bred to get three miles and as she gets a bit older, that trip is probably going to become easier. I hope Champ will be back in time for the Long Walk, but Marie’s Rock could come into the equation for that race if all goes well at Newbury.”
Overview: Held in high regard by the Seven Barrows team, Under Control failed to live up to expectations in last year’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle but quickly got back on track by winning her next two starts. Her victory in a valuable novices’ handicap hurdle at Sandown in April is working out particularly well, with Iberico Lord, who chased her home there, winning the Greatwood Hurdle.
Trainer comments: “That’s always been the plan (the Gerry Fielden). She’s a sweet filly and I love her. She needed to do something and is marginally straighter than Marie’s Rock.
“It looks the right race for her. We singled her out for it because she actually beat Iberico Lord in that valuable novice at Sandown last season, and it looks as though Iberico Lord has franked that form!
“I love this race; it’s perfect for second-season novices. First Street won it for us last year, and Epatante won it a few years ago.”
Overview: Point winner who won his first two starts under rules for Neil Mulholland before joining Nicky Henderson. This youngster created a huge impression when successful at Newbury on his return to action and looks a smart prospect. He’s a general 14-1 chance for next year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Trainer commments: “Willmount is an exciting one who won well here and could come back. He’s quite exciting.”
Updates on Constitution Hill and Champ
While it may be stressful training the best National Hunt horse around, Constitution Hill himself continues to astound Nicky Henderson with just how relaxed he is.
Henderson has repeatedly stated that one of the major weapons in his armoury is his laid-back nature, and he certainly wastes no energy at Seven Barrows.
Just like the perfect racehorse, though, he comes alive on the track and although it can be hard to gauge just where he is at on the gallops, so far Henderson has got it right.
He has enjoyed two blemish-free seasons, with three wins as a novice and four last year which started out in Newcastle’s Betmgm Fighting Fifth Hurdle – and he will go down the same route this season starting on Saturday week.
“Constitution Hill is fine. He’s asleep in his box. He’s all set for Newcastle,” said Henderson at Newbury on Tuesday morning.
But Henderson did have less positive news on Champ, who had been aimed at Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle next week.
He unfortunately will have to miss that engagement due to a setback.
“One who is on hold is Champ who has a trapped epiglottis and won’t be ready for Newbury,” said Henderson.