Nicky Henderson eyes seventh Triumph Hurdle success
Last Updated: 15/03/18 11:04am
Apple's Shakira bids to provide Nicky Henderson with a record seventh victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.
It is 33 years since the Seven Barrows handler first claimed the juvenile championship with First Bout and he has struck gold following that with the likes of Katarino (1999) and, most recently, Peace And Co (2015).
Apple's Shakira - a full-sister to top-class racemare Apple's Jade - appears to hold outstanding claims, having won each of her three starts since arriving from France, with all those victories coming at Prestbury Park.
Henderson said: "She is great and she has been a lovely filly. She doesn't know there is another racecourse apart from Cheltenham.
"She won one race in France, which was hardly a Triumph Hurdle trial or anything, and she is very lazy at home.
"I did, however, enquire into Apple's Jade and what she was like, and they told me that she doesn't do a tap at home so that was all I wanted to hear."
The JP McManus-owned filly was made to work a little harder than many expected on her latest appearance in late January, but Henderson feels the race was vital in her education.
"She has learnt to race and Barry (Geraghty) has been at pains to ensure that she has learned how to race," he added.
"He has held her up in behind horses and last time, he jumped the second-last and didn't necessarily take a pull, but left her with some work to do. She came right away up the hill - the further she went, the better she was.
"She gets the allowance, she comes here unbeaten and I couldn't be happier with her."
The other major hope for the home team is the Alan King-trained Redicean.
The master of Barbury Castle has won the race twice before, with Penzance in 2005 and the diminutive Katchit in 2007, and Redicean looked every inch a top-class prospect when completing a Kempton hat-trick in last month's Adonis Hurdle.
King said: "He has shown plenty of gears at home and on the track, so in that respect he reminds me a little bit of Penzance.
"I've not deliberately gone to Kempton every time, it was just how things panned out.
"He got a mile and six (furlongs) on the Flat at Redcar so I don't think stamina is an issue.
"I'd love to have seen better ground as I do think he is better on that. I think the more testing it is, the more it will favour Apple's Shakira.
"We are happy and I've no issue with the fact he has not been round the course."
Willie Mullins launches a formidable four-pronged assault.
Mr Adjudicator has the strongest form of the quartet, having landed the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, but Stormy Ireland, Mr Adjudicator and Saldier and Sayo add strength in depth.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Stormy Ireland produced a huge performance in Fairyhouse and although that's her only run for us, she has plenty of experience from running in France. She's in good form and we're very happy with her.
"Mr Adjudicator has the best form and has travelled over well. He is an ex-Flat horse, though, so you would just wonder about how he'll handle the ground.
"Saldier won very well in Gowran. He obviously doesn't have much experience, but I just wonder whether the ground will help the less experienced horses like him.
"Sayo won in Naas despite not getting a clear run and we hope he can run well, too."
Farclas was runner-up to Mr Adjudicator at Leopardstown, having previously chased home Espoir D'Allen at the same track over Christmas.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said: "I think he'll improve an awful lot from Leopardstown and I'm looking forward to running him."
The Philip Hobbs-trained Gumball and Sussex Ranger from Gary Moore's yard complete the nine-strong field.