With stable star Sprinter Sacre pencilled in to make his return at Sandown this weekend, Henderson will surely have been heartened to see the good health of his stable advertised by Triolo D’Alene, who marked himself as a possible Grand National contender with victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
Paddy Power offer 16-1 at this stage about his Aintree chance, which is not much shorter than the 20-1 starting price of the gelding after his gritty two-and-three-quarter-length defeat of Rocky Creek.
It was Henderson’s third success in the Hennessy and his and Barry Geraghty’s second in a row after Bobs Worth 12 months ago.
“After he won the Topham at Aintree last season we started to think about the National, and we will think about it,” said Henderson.
“Barry has been begging me all year to save him for the National and we were looking at Aintree next weekend. I didn’t do what I was told but the Hennessy is very special.”
Celestial Halo (7-2) deputised for owner Andy Stewart’s sidelined Big Buck’s in the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle and was left all on his own when odds-on favourite At Fishers Cross was stopped in his tracks by an appalling mistake at the second-last.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “He’s been an amazing horse, beaten a short head in a Champion Hurdle, and I thought his price was insulting given his win in France.
“He’ll go for the Long Walk at Ascot and I’m sure he’ll then end up in the World Hurdle with Big Buck’s.”
Tatenen (14-1) had earlier initiated a double for Stewart in the bet365 Handicap Chase.
Henderson’s Newcastle highlight came courtesy of My Tent Or Yours and Tony McCoy in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
The six-year-old staked his claims as a Champion Hurdle contender with his three-length victory over Cockney Sparrow, with another two-and-a-half lengths back to the returning Grumeti.
Henderson said: “He looked good from what I saw of it, and all being well he’ll go off to the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton now.”
McCoy said: “It was a good performance, a good starting point, and I’m not surprised he did it like that.
“But for the life of me I can’t understand bookmakers cutting him for the Champion Hurdle – he was by far the best horse on paper going in.”
Oscar Rock’s bubble was burst by Ballyalton (3-1) in the Straightline Construction “The French Furze” Novices’ Hurdle, with the winner set to switch to better company next time.
Winning trainer Ian Williams, who is in the middle of a purple patch, said: “I’m not sure if he’s a Cheltenham horse over hurdles but he certainly will be over fences.
“We’ll look at the Challow Hurdle (Grade One at Newbury on December 27). He loves nice ground but he’ll handle it soft.”
McCoy and Henderson also teamed up to win the closing novices’ hurdle with new recruit Full Shift (8-13 favourite).
Hey Big Spender (5-1) defied his advancing years and a big drift in the market to win a second At The Races Rehearsal Chase for Colin Tizzard.
The soon-to-be 11-year-old was beaten in a veterans’ race last time out but held off Vintage Star after putting in some fluent leaps under Brendan Powell.
Powell said: “I know he was 10lb lower than when he last won this but that was two years ago.”
Jezki justified the decision of his connections to skip a clash with Hurricane Fly in the Morgiana Hurdle by stepping up to two-and-a-half miles with aplomb in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse yesterday.
Sent off the 4-6 favourite, Jessica Harrington’s stable star was a second Grade One winner of the weekend for JP McManus and McCoy.
“He proved he gets two-and-a-half miles and that’s the main thing, but he’d be better over a fast run two miles,” said Harrington.
“He’s definitely better going left-handed and we’ll keep him at two miles.
“The owner has got My Tent Or Yours as well, so I suppose it will all depend what they want to do.”
The Tullow Tank (5-1) was only supplemented for the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle on Monday but was another Grade One winner for the burgeoning force of owner Barry Connell and jockey Danny Mullins.
He looks a top prospect for luckless trainer Philip Fenton who still houses the smart duo Dunguib and Last Instalment.
“We’ll take it one step at a time. Going right-handed is a big plus to him, as he does go a little right,” said Fenton.
“He could go left-handed back at Leopardstown, but it will be probably be January before he runs again. I don’t know about Cheltenham. First of all it’s left-handed and the ground will have a big bearing as well.”
The imposing Don Cossack (13-8 favourite) lived up to his big reputation when staying on strongly to win the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase for Gordon Elliott in the hands of Davy Russell.
“He’s a smashing big horse. I’ve been very lucky Gigginstown have given me a lot of nice horses to train, so it’s great to win a Grade One for them,” said Elliott.
“He won’t go anywhere over Christmas. He might go to Leopardstown at the end of January.”
n Une Artiste can make a successful switch to fences in the Autumn Gala Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Plumpton today.
Nicky Henderson’s charge was a classy performer over hurdles in her pomp, winning the 2012 Fred Winter at Cheltenham before following up in another graded event at Prestbury Park.
The five-year-old looked likely to continue in the same vein when winning Listed races on her first two outings last term but she then appeared to lose her way a bit, disappointing at both Cheltenham and Ayr in the spring.
Une Artiste returned to Wetherby for her seasonal bow in a Listed race she won last year but she proved no match for the winner, Cockney Sparrow, who has since advertised the form by finishing second in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
While she made need a bit further than just over two miles now, it is worth noting that a number of Henderson runners have need their initial outings.
To that end, Une Artiste should be a lot sharper than at Wetherby.
Tarabela can make light of a lengthy absence in the Tysers Handicap Chase.
The 10-year-old was twice a winner last February but has been off the track since her game victory at Towcester.