Henderson: Santini 'all good' ahead of Gold Cup tilt

Nicky Henderson posing with Santini at Seven Barrows on Monday.
Nicky Henderson posing with Santini at Seven Barrows on Monday.

Nicky Henderson has provided a positive update on the Cheltenham Gold Cup joint-favourite Santini ahead of next month's Cheltenham Festival. 

The eight-year-old was ear-marked for Jumps racing's blue riband race after a fine effort to finish second in last season's RSA Chase at the Festival, and although he was slightly lacklustre when winning on reappearance at Sandown in November, Henderson was pleased with the way he was able to win the Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day. 

He said: "We know he likes Cheltenham, and I think it was a good race. I know Nigel (Twiston-Davies) and Daryl (Jacob) thought Bristol De Mai was as good as he could be in second, and the ground was probably more to his liking than Santini's, but he did it well and there will be a lot of improvement in that. 

"He's fresh and he's well and we've just started work again with him now. He's not an Altior at home, but he's a very enthusiastic horse, and the more you get into him the better he is; he loves his schooling and he loves his work. 

"In terms of his final preparation I wouldn't have thought he'll go away for a day, he had a good race at Cheltenham and he came back bouncing."

Henderson added that he was glad to have enjoyed a smoother ride with Santini this term, after a nightmare build-up to the Cheltenham Festival 12 months ago; 

"The race he ran in the RSA last year was fantastic, because we'd had a dreadful time with him. The flu vaccines meant he had to miss the Reynoldstown at Ascot, meaning he'd had no preparation and what he was able to do was remarkable. 

"When I heard the news (12 months ago), we got a text at 11pm that night about what the BHA would do, and that all horses had to have been vaccinated in the last 12 months to be able to run. We don't follow that system here so I ran to get Santini's passport to see when he'd last been done, and we had to do him there and then. 

"Everything went against us, he was lame for weeks - right up until Cheltenham - and what he did was amazing.

"He was exactly the opposite to Altior growing up, in that from day one you knew Altior was a rocket. Santini wasn't really ready in the first year he was here, but he loves his work at home and needs plenty of it."

The final few weeks and days in the run-up to Cheltenham can be stressful for any yard, and Henderson admitted that he was starting to feel the pressure. He said: "Someone asked me at the races the other day how I was coping under the pressure. 

"Charlie Morlock had sent me a text about a few of the horses that had been to Fakenham, which read 'Champ Mystery lame, nothing obvious'.

"I thought, 'Why's Champ lame! That is indeed a mystery.

"It was of course Champagne Mystery, who'd finished second at Fakenham, but was slightly lame. You'd expect them to be a bit lame the day after the race, but not Champ!

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