Cheltenham 2021: The Reasons Punters Shouldn’t Underestimate Nicky Henderson

Cheltenham Festival - 2017 - Winner of the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival 2010

Cheltenham 2021: The Reasons Punters Shouldn’t Underestimate Nicky Henderson

With Nicky Henderson’s record at the Cheltenham Racecourse, you would expect the master trainer to have a lot more respect for his mounts. After all, he’s the second most prolific winner at the festival with 68 winners. That puts the Seven Barrows handler at four behind the all-time leading trainer at the festival, Willie Mullins.   

But whereas the Irishman is expected to take a clean sweep, the Brit isn’t getting a look in from fans and punters. Although some of his runners haven’t performed well leading up to this year’s event, Henderson still produces classy horses. Here are three that could put the Berkshire man at the top of the table by Friday 19th of March.  


The Gold Cup is the premier event at Cheltenham. It’s the race the fans want to watch, and the jockeys and trainers want to win. Nicky Henderson is no different, which is why he has two runners in the 2021 edition with great opportunities to write their names in the record books.  

Champ is by far the leading contender out of Henderson’s mounts because he has the solid form to his name this past calendar year. After finishing runner-up in 2019 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, he went from strength to strength to beat the odds and take a competitive RSA victory in 2020. As a result, the Cheltenham betting has Champ at 5/1, only behind the legendary Al Boum Photo at 5/2.  

Santini is another Henderson horse to watch because he has the Gold Cup results behind him, even if he has had a disappointing season so far. As they say, the form is temporary, and class is permanent.   


It appears as if Altior is suffering the effects of a lung-busting duel with Cyrname that took place at Ascot in 2019. The two geldings went at it hammer and tongues, and the latter prevailed to shock the horse racing fraternity. Since then, the star of Seven Barrows’ yard hasn’t been the same, losing to Nube Negra at Kempton last time out.  

However, Altior has undoubtedly had a quieter season than usual after losing his unbeaten record to Paul Nicholls’ runner at Ascot two years ago. Even Henderson himself believes the thoroughbred is in great shape to take on Chacun Pour Soi in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.  

Let’s face it – it’s Altior’s only sticky patch of his career. The best horses not only bounce back from adversity, but they do it on the grandest stages. There’s none bigger than Cheltenham in mid-March, which is why he’s the 7/1 second-favourite for the title.  


What more is there to say about this classy gelding? This special horse is unbeaten over fences and will look to continue that trend in the Arkle Chase. However, unlike his stablemates, Shishkin’s form has been exemplary, especially when he dominated the field to destroy Eldorado Allen and Est Illic at Doncaster at the end of January.   

After the performances of some of this yard’s “sure things,” Henderson himself said he was relieved. Still, there can be no doubts that this thoroughbred is a class above the rest, even if there is stiff competition. That’s why he’s rated at an impressive 10/11.  

Like his horses, there is still plenty of life left in Nicky Henderson. Punters looking to add more excitement to the Cheltenham festival will do well to remember that on the 16th of March. 

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