Nicky Henderson Profile
|Born||Dec 10, 1950|
The name Nicky Henderson goes hand-in-hand with seriously classy animals such as Sprinter Sacre, Altior and the new superstar, Shiskin.
A capable jockey turned trainer, the Lambourn handler's career has spanned four decades, brought him six Champion Jumps Trainer titles and over 3000 winners.
Now into his 70's, this elder statesman of National Hunt racing shows no signs of slowing down and will be looking to build on his pair of Cheltenham Gold Cup wins, eight Champion Hurdles and six Queen Mother Champion Chase victories.
Never underestimate this trainer with the tweed suit and a cheeky smile, who has a deadly arsenal of equine talent at his disposal.
Henderson's early career
Henderson's father Johnny was a colourful character who served as assistant to Field Marshal Montgomery in World War II. A keen racing fan, Johnny Henderson formed the Racecourse Holdings Trust to save various racecourses from property development.
Henderson senior rescued Cheltenham racecourse, not knowing that one day his son would be winning races there as a trainer.
Nicky Henderson was educated at the prestigious Eton College and was due to follow his father into banking but instead took a career curve-ball by becoming assistant trainer and amateur rider to Fred Winter
Henderson's standout win as an amateur jockey came in 1977 when he picked up the Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree on Happy Warrior and Sandown's Imperial Cup on Acquaint.
Yet, like fellow future Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, Henderson's stint in the saddle was merely a warm up for a career in training. Henderson took out his training licence in 1978, the same year as his final win in the saddle aboard Rolls Rambler at Stratford.
Becoming a trainer
With further parallels of his great rival Nicholls, the talented Henderson didn't have to wait long for a first winner as a trainer. While it wasn't quite Cheltenham, Dukery gave Henderson his first victory in a 1978 novice hurdle at Uttoxeter.
Just a few months later in spring 1979, Henderson had his closest encounter with winning the Grand National at Aintree when Zongalero finished second. The race remains the only sizable prize that Henderson has not won.
Henderson was joined on his training journey by head lad Corky Browne and together the pair set about trying to compete for decent prizes, from the Windsor House Yard in Lambourn vacated by Roger Charlton.
It wasn't until 1985 however that Henderson hit the big time and he did it in style with See You Then. The man with the record for training eight Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winners racked up three in succession in the mid-80's as See You Then rattled in a hat-trick between 1985-87.
Henderson was named Champion Jumps Trainer for two years on the trot between 1985 and 1987 as his operation began to kick into gear and his stable pushed 50 horses. The 80's were topped out with wins for Alone Success in the 1987 Triumph Hurdle and Rustle in the 1989 Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
From Seven Barrows to the new Millennium
By 1992, Henderson had an unlikely hero in the form of Remittance Man, a classy but anxious horse who required a sheep called Nobby to keep him settled.
Remittance Man would go on to win 17 of 30 starts with his 1992 Queen Mother Champion Chase win over reigning champion Katabatic among his best.
It was also the year that Henderson moved into a new yard down the road in Lambourn called Seven Barrows. From there he was able to build a base to stake a claim as the King of Cheltenham in the years to come.
Travado proved a popular winner of the 1993 Arkle as this dark destroyer of a chaser out-jumped Wonder Man at the final fence to win by a length at Cheltenham. Travado also picked up three consecutive Haldon Gold Cups at Exeter and a pair of Peterborough Chases at Huntingdon.
Henderson provided the affable jockey Mick Fitzgerald his first Cheltenham winner aboard Raymylette in the 1994 Cathcart Challenge Cup, sowing the seeds of a relationship that would see the Irish rider become the Seven Barrows retained jockey.
Fitzgerald followed up with wins on Katarino for Henderson in the 1999 Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham as well as the Cathcart Challenge Cup on Stormyfairweather in the same year.
Big race winners
While Martin Pipe's stranglehold over the Jumps Trainers' Championship was to be loosened by Paul Nicholls in the mid-2000's, Henderson concentrated on quality over quantity and a hand-picked crop of talented animals.
Fondmort was a standout in 2006 with his Ryanair Chase success, the reliable horse a Cheltenham specialist.
Then came the capable hurdlers Punjabi and Binocular who chalked up another pair of Champion Hurdles for Henderson in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Binocular, owned by JP McManus showed the standard of horse and owner that Henderson was dealing with.
Soon after came the great Long Run, who famously took the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup for Henderson by beating both Kauto Star and Denman. It was a changing of the guard as Sam Waley-Cohen passed the two greats in the brown and orange colours of his father to claim a seven length victory.
The Gold Cup win for Long Run was in addition to victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, capping a great Henderson training performance.
The classy Henderson horses just kept on coming with Finian's Rainbow winning the 2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham followed by the gutsy Bob's Worth taking the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Bob's Worth had to fight his way to Gold Cup glory from fifth place at three out, while overcoming a faller and then clawing back Sir Des Champs and Long Run in a truly gritty display under Barry Geraghty.
Bob's Worth had become the first horse since Flyingbolt in the 1960's to win three different races in consecutive Cheltenham Festivals.
Henderson's 3000th winner was chalked up when Brave Eagle won at Worcester on July 31 2018.
Sprinter Sacre had already announced himself on the scene with scintillating wins in the 2012 Arkle and 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase. However, it wasn't these victories which made Henderson stand out as a trainer of note but his rehabilitation of Sprinter Sacre after the horse was out for two years with a series of health and injury problems.
The horse lived up to his name as the 5/1 outsider hosed up to regain his Champion Chase title with a three and a half length win over Un De Sceaux in 2016.
Before his retirement in 2021, Sprinter Sacre won over Â£1million in prize money and was described as the "horse of an absolute lifetime" by Henderson.
Altior was Henderson's ready-made replacement for Sprinter Sacre as he burst onto racecourses in 2014.
After winning a novice hurdle at Chepstow in October 2015, Altior went on a startling 19 race winning run, breaking the record for consecutive wins for a National Hunt horse.
Just the sight of Henderson's newly retained jockey Nico De Boinville landing upsides at the final fence in the black and green silks was enough to strike fear into his opponents as the clinical Altior surged on to almost inevitable victory.
In a crazy, unbeaten four-year period, Altior picked up a Tingle Creek, an Arkle and two Queen Mother Champion Chases as Henderson's reputation for handling next-level animals was cemented.
At the grand age of 11, Altior showed he still had it in him with a good second to Greaneteen in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April 2021 and looks set to race on.
Shishkin and other Henderson superstars
Unsurprisingly, Henderson had a new crop of superstars to take on the baton from Altior with hurdlers Buveur d'Air and Epatante standouts, while chasers Chantry House, Champ and Shishkin lead the pack over fences.
Buveur d'Air continued the Henderson domination over the Champion Hurdle with back-to-back successes at Cheltenham in 2017 and 2018 in the green and gold silks of JP McManus.
Then, Epatante continued to showcase the frightening Henderson-McManus hurdling talent with a three length success from Sharjah in the 2020 Champion Hurdle . Champ chipped in for the Irish owner by winning the 2020 RSA Novices' Chase from future Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.
Chantry House, another of McManus' powerhouse roster, won the 2021 Marsh Novices' Chase in a one-two for the Henderson yard from stablemate Fusil Raffles.
However it was Shishkin that had drawn the plaudits in the 2021 Arkle with a smooth victory as Nico De Boinville swept into the lead at three out and sauntered home to win by a clear 12 lengths from Eldorado Allen in second.
Named after a Russian painter, Shishkin looks set to keep gold in the Henderson colour palette.
Nicky Henderson married Sophie Waddilove in 2018. Previously he had been married to Diana Henderson with whom he has three children, Camilla, Tessa and Sarah.
Henderson's late father Johnny has a race named after him at Cheltenham, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase. Nicky Henderson poignantly won the race dedicated to his father in 2006 with Greenhope. He then won it a second time in 2012 with Bellvano.
He was awarded the OBE in 2020 for services to horse racing.
Away from racing, Henderson enjoys shooting and fishing.