On The Blind Side as low as 7-1 for festival target after impressive success
Nicky Henderson said he would be happy to spend the winter tucked up in bed until Cheltenham, and it could be a restful new year too for On The Blind Side who might get just one more run before heading to the festival.
His target there is likely to be the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle after he claimed Sandown’s Grade 2 by the same name in stylish fashion.
Bookmakers were suitably impressed, with Paddy Power shortening the imposing five-year-old to 7-1 (from 16) for the Ballymore in March, while he is a general 10-1 elsewhere.
The likes of See More Business and Inglis Drever have claimed Sandown’s Friday feature in the past and this year’s version looked particularly competitive on paper, with powerful stables represented and five who had won last time.
But it looked anything but that by the finish as On The Blind Side made it three wins from three over hurdles, adding to his success at Cheltenham last month, by taking charge two flights from home and roaring away up the hill to win by nine lengths from Springtown Lake, with the fancied White Moon for Colin Tizzard fading tamely away.
The nature of that win at Cheltenham over a furlong further had raised questions about why Henderson was dropping On The Blind Side in trip. But the champion trainer knew best - as did the punters who backed him from 11-4 overnight into 6-5 on course.
Henderson said: “A lot of people said after his win Cheltenham that he should go up to three miles, so they were surprised we were dropping him in trip. But I said to Nico de Boinville to be careful; just because he got off the bridle there doesn’t mean he’s a slow horse.
“I liked the way he changed gears and quickened up really well. And the quicker they went, the better he jumped. It was tidy. He’s got a lovely attitude and he’s taking it all in his stride. I thought it was a competitive-looking field. Colin Tizzard’s horse was the one I feared most, but he didn’t run his race.”
Newbury’s Grade 1 Challow Hurdle on December 30 is next in Henderson’s sights for the Alan Spence-owned son of Stowaway, who is as short as 6-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Festival.
Henderson said: “I could easily see him going for the Challow. And then we could put him away until Cheltenham maybe. You know me, I could go to bed until March.
“I’m not in a rush to go over three miles with him. He’s a two-and-a-half miler and it will be the Ballymore at Cheltenham for him. But he won’t be staying over hurdles with him next year. He’s a proper chaser.”