Nicky Henderson savours milestone 3,000th winner – and he's far from finished
Victory in a beginners' chase at Worcester in July is perhaps not an obvious event for Nicky Henderson to savour, but one of the sport's most decorated operators has been toasting last week's success of Brave Eagle as it provided him with his 3,000th jumps winner in Britain.
Henderson – who quickly added another winner to the impressive tally when Comely, owned by the Queen, struck at Market Rasen on Sunday – has a CV bursting with jump racing's biggest prizes and captured a fifth champion trainers' crown last season.
He has also won a record seven Champion Hurdles, two Cheltenham Gold Cups, three King Georges and five Champion Chases.
It was clear, however, what Brave Eagle's win meant to the iconic Lambourn trainer when he spoke to the Racing Post on Friday.
"It's taken 40 years for 3,000, but I'm not going to try to double it!" Henderson joked. "I intend to continue for as long as they want me and it's been great. I've enjoyed every minute of it and we haven't finished yet.
"It's thanks to an awful lot of people. A lot of owners have contributed and I've had a great team around me the whole way through.
"There's only one – Corky Browne – who has been with me from the beginning to now, while Charlie Morlock has been there a lot of the time too, as have others.
"There have been a lot of loyal owners; the likes of Michael Buckley and Robert Waley-Cohen have been on board for a long time, while Minty [bloodstock agent David Minton] and I have been together for ages as well, buying all of these horses."
The milestone comes just months from the 40th anniversary of Henderson's first winner, Dukery, at Uttoxeter on October 14, 1978.
Asked if he envisaged notching another 2,999, he added: "No! How could you? The thought of surviving for 40 years was optimistic! I was very lucky to start with Fred Winter and be in a position to start as I did, while I think moving to Seven Barrows in 1992 was a big thing.
"That was when things changed quite dramatically. That's when the numbers started to go up quite considerably because it was a bigger place and it needed filling, so you have a lot of horses. It's amazing when you think Fred was champion trainer with 50 horses and now we've all got huge numbers."
The master of Seven Barrows, who describes three-time Champion Hurdle hero See You Then as his "breakthrough horse", would dearly love to end his Grand National curse before calling time on his illustrious career, the end of which is not imminent.
As for new targets, the 67-year-old, whose combined British tally of Flat and jumps winners stands at 3,043, said: "I think just to keep going, as long as they want me to. I feel good.
"There are lots of things to be done and winning the Grand National is an obvious one, but a lot of our life we've been lucky to talk about quality rather than quantity in that we've had a lot of very good horses and Cheltenham has been special, which is all about quality.
"This is about quantity and every little race is important because it's important to that horse and his or her owners; it's their day and that's how you get to this number.
"It gives me as much of a buzz winning an ordinary race with an ordinary horse.
"Of course it's important you have the Sprinter Sacres, See You Thens and Altiors, but along the way there have been a lot of good servants who have clocked up these numbers, with a lot of good jockeys too."
Henderson reported Altior, Buveur D'Air and Might Bite – the stars of last term – back from their summer holidays and limbering up for the new campaign and, while he welcomed the rain in Lambourn on Friday morning, it did not go down well on the first day of England's Test match with India at Lord's on Thursday.
"It rained all day and I never saw a ball bowled," he lamented.
WINNINGMOST JUMPS TRAINERS IN BRITAIN
Wins Trainer (First/last win)
3,930 Martin Pipe (1975-2006)
3,001 Nicky Henderson (1978- )
2,950 Arthur Yates (1872-1913)
2,878 Paul Nicholls (1991- )
2,644 Arthur Stephenson (1946-92)
2,628 Philip Hobbs (1985- )
Compiled by John Randall
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