Henderson looking to end on a high with bonus-hunter Theinval
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase | New Course | 2m½f | 5yo+ | RUK
It all comes down to this: one last hurrah before the curtain falls on the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Named in honour of Nicky Henderson’s father Johnny, it is perhaps little surprise that the festival’s winningmost trainer has a good record in the Grand Annual, saddling two winners and four seconds over the past decade.
However, having often been mob-handed, Henderson relies solely on Theinval, who is eligible for the £60,000 bonus for any horse winning one of five novice chases at Plumpton this season and following up at the festival.
Novices hold sway
Four of the last eight winners of the race have been novices, with Velvet Maker, Theinval and Le Prezien among the more interesting novice chasers in the line-up.
Paul Nicholls has a particularly good record in the race, with three winners since 2004, and sent out six-year-old Solar Impulse to win last year. He saddles Dodging Bullets and Le Prezien here.
What they say
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Dodging Bullets and Le Prezien
Noel Fehily rides Dodging Bullets now and has won on him before. The horse is creeping down the weights and it's his first time in a handicap for a while. This has been the target for Le Prezien. He's been progressing nicely and if he jumps well he has a nice, solid chance.
Gordon Elliott, trainer of The Game Changer
He's got loads of experience and could have an each-way chance if the rain stays away.
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Rock The World and Mr Fiftyone
Rock The World is fresh and we know he goes well fresh, so everything seems in place for a big run. He ran seriously well in the race last year and we think he'll give a really good account of himself. Mr Fiftyone is also back from a break and I'm very happy with him.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to Colin Tizzard, trainer of Quite By Chance, Sizing Platinum, Ultragold, Mick Thonic
Sizing Platinum was a good second behind Fox Norton at the start of the season and then had a horrible fall when he looked like winning at Ludlow. He gets in off a nice weight and is probably best of the four. Quite By Chance has had strong form all season and been very consistent. He's at the top of his handicap but deserves his chance. Ultragold won on Hennessy day and would have an each-way chance on his best form. Mick Thonic isn't the strongest finisher but has just snuck in so takes his chance.
Arthur Moore, trainer of Dandridge
He's had a lovely preparation and we think he's in good form. I'm looking forward to the race.
He’s a good solid performer and has plenty of experience. We’ve put cheekpieces on to sharpen him up – we just need to win the race now!
Ben Case, trainer of Croco Bay
He’s had a bit of an in-and-out season but I gave him a winter break and he ran fine in his prep race when the ground wouldn't have suited at Wincanton. The ground has come right for him and the cheekpieces should help him a little bit. He’s at the right end of the handicap and would have an each-way chance.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Bold Henry
There are lots of runners, so you need luck on your side, but he has an each-way chance in a competitive race.