Henderson expects trip to suit Chantry House
Surprise Cheltenham winner bids to follow up at Aintree.
Nicky Henderson is confident the step up in trip can bring the best out of Chantry House the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree.
The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old caused a minor upset when landing the two-and-a-half-mile Marsh Novices’ Chase at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, with red-hot favourite Envoi Allen making it no further than the fourth fence.
Chantry House steps up to three miles and a furlong in his bid to double his Grade One tally on Merseyside on Friday, with his trainer expecting to have a clearer idea of potential targets for next season afterwards.
Henderson said: “When they set off down the back straight at Cheltenham, Shan Blue suddenly injected a lot of pace into the race – and to be fair, it looked as if Chantry House was nearly out of his comfort zone for a while.
“They had gone very hard, and he soon got back into it and won really nicely, but it did look as if he was crying out for three miles.
“I think this is a good time to try it. We know he stays two-and-a-half really well – and if we try three now, at least we’ll know where to go next season.”
Colin Tizzard fires a formidable twin assault, with stablemates Fiddlerontheroof and The Big Breakaway renewing rivalry after finishing second and third behind Monkfish in Cheltenham’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
Other contenders include Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, the Fergal O’Brien-trained Silver Hallmark and Espoir De Romay from Kim Bailey’s yard.
The latter faces a step up in class following an impressive handicap success at Leicester last month.
Bailey said: “The handicapper has put him of 15lb for winning at Leicester, which I think is absolutely crazy.
“I hope the handicapper is right – because if he is, we’re only 4lb behind Chantry House.
“I don’t know whether we are or not, but we won’t know until we run.”
The first of four Grade Ones on day two of the Grand National meeting is the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle, which stages the return of Henderson’s Dusart.
The six-year-old got the better of the high-class Soaring Glory on his hurdling debut at Newbury in November, but has not been seen in competitive action since.
“Dusart was very impressive at Newbury,” said Henderson.
“He then had a freak accident and has been missing since. I actually didn’t think we’d get him back at all this season.
“He’s a smart horse, I hope.”
His nine rivals include Peter Fahey’s County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter, the Alex Hales-trained Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third For Pleasure and Bailey’s Ajero – who has won his last four races.
Hales said of For Pleasure: “We think Aintree should suit him – a big, flat, left-handed and slightly sharper track.
“We’ve been looking forward to this race all year, to be honest. He ran above expectations at Cheltenham, and we couldn’t be happier with him going into Aintree.”
Bailey is keeping his fingers crossed for a bold showing from Ajero, but is wary of the threat posed by the Henderson runner.
He said: “I have to say I was hugely impressed with Dusart at Newbury – I think he’ll take an awful lot of beating.
“I hope our horse will run well. He’s in good form.”
Bravemansgame will be a hot favourite for the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.
Third behind the hugely impressive Bob Olinger in the Ballymore at Cheltenham, the Challow Hurdle winner is stepped up to three miles for the first time since his success in an Irish point-to-point two years ago.
Nicholls told Betfair: “He won a point-to-point as a four-year-old over three miles and was staying on stoutly when successful in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury, so I don’t have any concerns about the step up in trip for him on this drying ground.
“It’s in the back of my mind that he had a very hard race at Cheltenham – but he seems fine at home, and the only way you find out is by running them. On all his form this season, he has a decent chance.”
Two of the biggest threats to Bravemansgame hail from Ireland, as Emmet Mullins and Rachael Blackmore team up with Cape Gentleman and John McConnell saddles Albert Bartlett third Streets Of Doyen.
McConnell feels the drying ground at Aintree will be in Streets Of Doyen’s favour.
“We’re really looking forward to that,” said the County Meath trainer.
“He’s in great nick. The drying ground will suit him a lot, more so than in Cheltenham. The ground there was probably too sticky for him.
“It’s a competitive race, but I expect him to go well.”
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