One-way traffic in the end as Henderson cruises to fourth crown
In the end it wasn't even that close.
A day that started with Paul Nicholls needing to win just about everything and Nicky Henderson next to nothing panned out virtually the opposite.
When Henderson's new recruit Call Me Lord beat the Nicholls-trained Dolos in Sandown's opener the gap was extended to an almost unassailable £191,000 – and it was game over an hour later when Altior did the business in the style expected in the Celebration Chase.
Vyta Du Roc's second in the bet365 Gold Cup, followed by the Select Hurdle success of Henderson's 'nearly' horse L'Ami Serge served only to rub it in.
Henderson, winning a fourth title, was as gracious as ever and pointed to the remarkable job his friend and rival had done without Grade 1 ammunition.
He said: "To be fair to Paul he's done incredibly well, because he hasn't got the Grade 1 horses and yet has won a huge amount of prize-money through very good placing.
"We've always had a lovely bunch of horses, but when we lost Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig the same weekend we lost two vital arrows and had to make the most of what we had.
"We still had Grade 1 horses though, and when you've got horses like Altior, Buveur D'Air, Might Bite and even My Tent Or Yours, you have the chance to win some serious prize-money."
He added: "If there was one special race you'd have to say it was the Champion Hurdle, because it was a big change in direction with Buveur D'Air.
"Altior could easily have gone down that route – and a lot of people wanted us to – but he's growing up into what we always thought and hoped he would be. He was brilliant today."
Reflecting on a nail-biting last month or two, he said: "It's been good fun, and it's down to a lot of great people and a lot of great horses. It's been tight, and after the Scottish National it was getting very interesting, but that's what a good competition is all about.
"It's a long winter and the boys at home have been exceptional. Everyone on the team has shown serious dedication and I've been incredibly lucky to have such a brilliant bunch of owners, with whom we have a fair bit of fun on the way.
"It's not me, it's Seven Barrows. We'll have a good old party and then I'm as up for it again as I've ever been."
Nicholls has nice horses coming through, but he reckons Henderson will be hard to beat again.
He said: "Nicky deserves to be champion with the horses he's got, and he'll probably be champion for the next three or four years with that team.
"I'm under no illusions but we've won £2.5 million and trained 170-plus winners, which is the most we've ever had. We've got a great strike-rate and if we can do as well as that every year we'll be well happy."
Nicholls continued: "We just need the better horses – we just lack a Grade 1 horse or two. You never stop looking for them but you have to start from the bottom up.
"We've got some really smart novice chasers for next season but we haven't got the horses who will suddenly go and win a Tingle Creek or a King George.
"We were very lucky to have them in the past and we'll have them again in the future. We've had a marvellous time all the same. If we've failed, what about all the rest?"
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
British trainers’ title