Henderson: this is Theinval's time of year and I've saved him for this
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase | Grade 3 | 2m½f | 5yo+ | RUK
Like David Pipe in his father Martin's race, Nicky Henderson will be desperate to capture the contest that honours his old man, who is credited with helping safeguard the future of Cheltenham in the 1960s.
Henderson, who has won the Grand Annual with Green Hope in 2006 and Bellvano six years later, relies on Theinval, who shines at this time of year and was third in this 12 months ago before finishing second at Aintree and Ayr's showpiece meetings.
"He's a spring horse and I've saved him for this," said Henderson.
Is Vaniteux a Pipe plot?
Vaniteux, a pricey purchase out of Henderson's yard last year, has been prominent in ante-post lists for this for some time and could be a Pipe plot.
He can lay claim to fine third to Vautour in the 2014 Supreme and has had wind surgery since his last run.
"We fancied him for this race but the ground's gone against him," said Pipe. "He'll take his chance and we'll see how he gets on."
Don't miss out
Talking of gambles, leading owner JP McManus is said to be fond of the odd one or two and is represented by Don't Touch It, saddled by last year's winning trainer Jessica Harrington.
A Grade 1 winner over hurdles, he has a patchy record chasing but was a winner the last time he sported cheekpieces.
What they say . . .
Kerry Lee, trainer of Gino Trail and Top Gamble
The more rain the better. It's a wide-open race but they're both in good heart.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Le Prezien, Dolos and Bouvereuil
Dolos ran well at Sandown last time and won't mind the ground. On this ground the drop to two miles could be ideal for Le Prezien, while Bouvereuil is interesting back at this trip, although he'd have preferred better spring ground – which is what we've been waiting for all winter.
Alan King, trainer of Valdez
The ground's a concern. He ran a fine race behind Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury after a very long layoff, has had a bit of time to recover from that and he's in good order.
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Sizing Platinum
He’s very good first time out so it wasn't a bad idea to come straight here after his last run in the autumn. He’s got an each-way chance.
Willie Mullins, trainer of Townshend
The trip is right for him but the ground probably won't be in his favour.
Henry Oliver, trainer of Dresden
I think he'll like the ground. He's looked effective on it. It's taken me about a year to be convinced he wants soft, but I think he does now he's older. He fell four out when travelling well in this in 2015 and wasn't beaten far a year later. I think slower ground will help and he's in the best form he's ever been in.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Foxtail Hill
He's won on heavy, so we've no problem there. I hope he'd be in the mix off his mark. He's won around Cheltenham on better going over two and a half miles, but we've come back to two on this ground.
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