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    Henderson on High Alert as Mullins' Armada Looms Large
Henderson on High Alert as Mullins' Armada Looms Large
Image courtesy of Newbury Today

Henderson on High Alert as Mullins' Armada Looms Large

The handler from Seven Barrows is prepared to face challenging tests at the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicky Henderson harbours no illusions about the daunting test that awaits him at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. Having personally witnessed Willie Mullins' absolute dominance at Leopardstown on Sunday, Henderson is acutely aware of the magnitude of his rival's achievements. Mullins, the master of Closutton, once again reigned supreme at the Dublin Racing Festival, leaving no race unclaimed. With an astounding clean sweep of victories in all eight Grade Ones and a total of nine wins out of the 15 races, Mullins demonstrated his unrivalled prowess.

Although Henderson did not field any runners at the Foxrock track over the weekend, he crossed the Irish Sea as an intrigued observer for the second day of the festival. Reflecting on Mullins' remarkable success, Henderson playfully quipped, "I was just there doing a bit of spying! It was a superb day of racing. Willie is truly amazing, and I must confess, I'm not in a desperate hurry to join that party."

Among Mullins' remarkable achievements on the second day was State Man's triumphant defence of the Irish Champion Hurdle. The seven-year-old's only loss over hurdles under Mullins' tutelage occurred when he faced Henderson's Seven Barrows superstar, Constitution Hill, in the Champion Hurdle last season. The stage is now set for an enthralling rematch between the two talented horses in mid-March at Prestbury Park.

Impressed by the performances he witnessed, Henderson specifically highlighted State Man, El Fabiolo, and Ballyburn in the novice hurdle. Acknowledging that his team will have to face these formidable contenders in five weeks across various races, Henderson admitted that they will give it their all, even if it means accepting defeat graciously.

Constitution Hill, who has only competed once this season, emerged victorious in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day with his characteristic dominance. However, an unsatisfactory scope prevented his intended appearance in the Unibet (International) Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race won by Mullins-trained Lossiemouth. Henderson's focus now lies in ensuring that his charge returns to peak performance through training on the Lambourn gallops. Henderson reassured that Constitution Hill is in good health, and with five weeks remaining, they are well aware of where they stand.

Providing an optimistic update, Henderson stated that Jonbon, despite his surprising defeat in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase on Festival Trials day at Cheltenham, is in excellent condition. As they prepare for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Jonbon is expected to be the second-favourite, facing off against his old rival El Fabiolo, who recently triumphed impressively in the Dublin Chase.

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