Henderson hoping Altior can sprinkle stardust on a favourite card
Racing Post Arkle Chase favourite Altior faces only one opponent when he makes his debut over fences on a Kempton card that always has special significance in Nicky Henderson's diary.
Last season's impressive Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, on whom Noel Fehily replaces the injured Nico De Boinville, meets fellow chasing debutant Black Corton in a 2m2f novice chase run in support of the Starlight Charity, for which the trainer has been a long-time fund raiser.
It might not be the ideal start for Altior, who is no better than 3-1 clear favourite with Paddy Power and Betfair for the Cheltenham Grade 1 despite having yet to jump a fence in public but Henderson was already resigned to a small field.
Henderson, who won the first four races on the corresponding card five years ago, plus three more elsewhere the same afternoon, said: "It was always going to happen. They were hardly going to queue up to take him on, and we have to start somewhere.
"I didn't want to go to Cheltenham last weekend and unfortunately there isn't a nice two-mile novice at Newbury, as that would have been the perfect place to go. He's in good form and he's got to start somewhere."
He added: "We'll see how it goes. I'm not going to say what I'm thinking next, but there are reasons for going here because if it goes well it does lead us into various other things. They are nice fences and Kempton is a good track, and he has a nice horse of Paul Nicholls' to run round with.
"It's also a day I always like to support as it's one of two big racing fundraisers for the Starlight Charity. I’m chairman for two racedays a year - one at Newbury and this one - and we always aim to make lots of money in order to grant wishes to terminally ill children."
Henderson had news of some of his runners over the weekend, including My Tent Or Yours, who was only third in Haydock's Betfair Price Rush Hurdle.
He said: "My Tent Or Yours is one hundred percent and he will be going for the International at Cheltenham now.
"I don't want to make too many excuses for Saturday, which was disappointing obviously, but a canter round in ground as soft as that isn't made for everybody. The main thing is that we got a run under his belt, and we needed to do that before he goes to Cheltenham."
Henderson also had to settle for third with Vaniteux in Ascot's 2m handicap chase and Days Of Heaven in the Colonial Cup at Camden, South Carolina.
He said: "Vaniteux is fine, but he might be a two-and-a-quarter mile specialist and that’s no good as there aren't the races. When he runs over two miles he looks as if he needs two and a half, and when you run him at two and a half they come back and say he needs dropping to two. But he is fine and we will keep him going.
"Days of Heaven finished a good third and everyone was very happy with him. He is coming back to us now."