The home of intelligent horse racing discussion
The home of intelligent horse racing discussion

Are you in the Henderson camp or the Nicholls one?

Home Forums Horse Racing Are you in the Henderson camp or the Nicholls one?

Viewing 17 posts - 1 through 17 (of 23 total)
  • Author
  • #21091
    • Total Posts 9002

    A poster recently alluded to the opinion that certain individuals in the West Country would love to see Nicky Henderson knock Paul NIcholls off his perch.

    Nicholls –
    Former pro-jockey, left school at 16 to work in a point to point yard, fiery will-to-win, takes no prisoners, wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of him, gives appearance of being decidely grumpy, don’t get in his way (esp if you are a fool), slick operation

    Henderson – gentleman amateur jockey, wealthy background (Eton, etc), been around the block a few times, 4th decade of training Cheltenham winners, endearingly old school, but with an edge to him at times, dogged by controversy in recent years

    So, which of the two camps do you prefer and why?

    (and you’re not allowed to say Willie Mullins over both of them!)

    • Total Posts 2789


    To be honest, I find the cult of trainership as irrelevant as the cult of managership in football.

    To me, trainers (and jockeys) are professionals who are paid to do a job i.e. to get a horse ready for a race and to ride it to an adequate standard.

    I’m not remotely interested in their views on their horses, simply because they are obviously biased and they know basically nothing about any of the other runners in races they are competing in. You may as well ask Alex Ferguson if he thought Utd should have had a penalty.

    Those ATR interviews with trainers & jockeys, where the invitee is bellowing in an unfathomable accent down a poor mobile phone connection whilst standing on some blasted heath somewhere are the modern-day equivalent of the Test Card.



    • Total Posts 5709

    Wish I’d written that :)

    Spot on Betlarge Writlarge

    Lone Wolf
    • Total Posts 614

    Nicholls doesn’t strike me as a fiery character whos way you don’t want to get in. He almost seems like a bit of a softie really.

    Venture to Cognac
    • Total Posts 13957

    Great point Betlarge. I’ve had a good rant about this in the past, it just doesn’t work, why they, and other shows, persevere with this format, god only knows. Awful.

    Erm, back to topic, I’d slightly be with Nicholls, but no strong opinion.

    • Total Posts 3777

    I like the horses they train. I follow their horses more than most and for good reason. I have been following Nicky Henderson’s runners more than Nicholls’ recently.

    Both are brilliant trainers, but personality wise ( albeit I don’t know either ), I prefer Henderson, although his annoying habit of referring to horses as "persons" is just b****y annoying. :x

    It wouldn’t be such a bad thing for NH racing if Henderson got the better of Nicholls this season. Competition is good.

    Gambling Only Pays When You're Winning

    • Total Posts 1533

    Here’s part of a post I wrote back in Feb 2011 needless to say I am a Nicky Henderson man through and through but I do admire PN who is a brilliant trainer.

    Fred Winter produced many winners during his lifetime and perhaps the best of them all was not a horse but a man: Nicky Henderson

    Fred Winter’s time was certainly not wasted on Nicky Henderson, during the 4 years he spent at Uplands under the maestro’s wing.

    In 1978 Nicky began his own training career at Seven Barrows Lambourn and took on the brilliant Bob Davies as his stable jockey
    In October of the same year Bob rode Nicky’s first winner on Duckery at Uttoxeter in a novice Hurdle and Nicky hasn’t had time to look back since.

    His time with Fred Winter among quality horses must have left it’s mark on him. Nicky has never been about filling every possible box possible and throwing muck at the wall knowing some will stick.
    There’s an old saying “Keep yourself in the best company and yours horses in the worst company” If anyone chose to ignore that saying it was Nicky Henderson.

    Nicky has always chased quality above quantity and as a result he has become a standing order at the Cheltenham Festival.

    In over 30 years he has been champion trainer only twice but despite having many a season when he had no more than 60 winners he has seldom been out of the news when it matters. His one weakness if you can call it that is the type of horses he buys are more about speed than about stamina and as a result his highest percentage of winner has always come from the hurdling ranks.

    The fact Nicky has always been known for training high class horses has always paid good dividends and over the last couple of years not only is he training more winners, the quality seems higher than ever.

    It seems like every day of the week he brings out another potential champion and is on the brink of upsetting Paul Nicholl’s reign.

    • Total Posts 6341

    I think this one’s a bit like Scottish football and its anyone but Celtic or Rangers syndrome! I tend to look toward the smaller stables when they are opposing the likes of Henderson and Nicholls, since their runners are likely to be underrated against the ‘strongest stables’.


    • Total Posts 353

    Betlarge is mostly right in what he says but I am in the Henderson camp. I followed his horses (the likes of Remittance Man) when I was much younger and didn’t really pay attention to trainers (unless it was Stan Mellor, because my mum told me to). Joining Elite has made the trainer more visible to me as obviously I’ve been on a number of visits down to Seven Barrows in the past decade – although it’s been Fondmort rather than any Elite horse that’s been my favourite in that time.

    Himself is right in that the referring to horses as "persons" is a bit odd but I suppose I’m used to it now. But I’ve found Henderson unfailing polite and friendly, despite the fact he always seems to be dashing about at the yard – I once went to Lambourn Open Day wanting to see a specific (and very new) horse to the yard, asked Nicky where I might find him, and he immediately called over one of his lads who took myself and my friend to a set of stables away from the main yard. While I’ve seen Paul Nicholls at the races I never feel I can go up to him whereas I have done so on a number of occasions with Nicky – he seemed genuinely delighted when I enquired after Trabolgan once.

    I understand some peoples’ attitudes following recent events but I suppose I’m not a big punter; all I care about is the horse and as long as the horse lives to fight another day I don’t care about anything else. If anything I think my pro-Henderson stance has been strengthened by the amount of class-based hatred I’ve come across, and I don’t really understand it – no matter how you start, you still have to be able to do the job, and being a policeman’s son hasn’t stopped Nicholls becoming champion.

    But I like to see the smaller yards doing well too – was thrilled for the Tizzards last weekend, and it’s great to see Charlie Longsdon get over some humps this season.

    • Total Posts 8490

    Never thought of myself as being in either camp till I read this. What I will say is that we’ve met Nicky Henderson a couple of times; once at Kelso when he’d been walking the course and Mike went over to join him to ask him about his runners. The other time was when one man and his dog went to the Southwell all bumper card the other year, when the roads were like skating rinks, and he stood next to us in the grandstand. Again he chatted to us about his runners and the journey etc. Have never been in that situation with P Nicholls, but do wonder if I’d find him as approachable? You can only take someone as you find them, I guess. Either way, I still prefer it when trainers other than the big two win and am always happy to see David Pipe or Donald McCain winning.

    grey dolphin
    • Total Posts 651

    There are other trainers than either that I’d rather have a jar with but overall I’ve always found Nicholls to be better at keeping the punter informed and I have to respect the way he worked his way to the top. So put me in the Nicholls camp.

    That said, it just seems like Henderson is in the ascendancy at the moment. The Stewart Family aren’t buying, Findlay took flight and Barber seems to be buying big slow horses, leaving Nicholls a bit short of firepower. Henderson seems to have the pick of the Bromley/Minton buys at the moment.

    Tete Rouge
    • Total Posts 119

    I’ve met both, albeit Nicholls only briefly, and whilst Henderson is the more personable and approachable, I’m inclined to believe that there’s a certain amount of front to it. I have seen him in a rather less amenable frame of mind and it wasn’t particularly pleasant. With Nicholls I think that what you see is what you get.

    I’ve visited both yards several times on non-public occasions and prefer the Ditcheat operation. There seem to be few horses with vices, which is usually an indicator that they are relatively happy and have plenty to keep them interested.

    • Total Posts 2810

    Firmly in the Henderson camp, although Nicholls is a superb trainer.

    Just think Nicky has to improve the race management of his horses.

    No entry in the Racing Plus is a joke for that stable.

    • Total Posts 2035

    Nicholls, purely because I’ve lost a lot of respect for Henderson in the last two years or so.

    • Total Posts 570

    Nicholls, purely because I’ve lost a lot of respect for Henderson in the last two years or so.

    Pretty much my current position JJM.

    As well as the recent controversies (ban for prohibitive substance, the Binocular Champion Hurdle out then back in Lazurus like and romping home followed by the "oops, we’ve miscalculated his medication" incident a year later), the recent whinging about "missed opportunities" from the recent abandonments (what whould he have done in a harsh winter?) have caused some loss of respect on my part. We’ve only lost about two weeks of action all winter!

    Suprised we didn’t get the HLBL Henderson Benefit Hurdle created especially for one of his Champion Hurdle contenders (like the Punjabi race that was put on at Kempton a few years ago!)

    Nicholls seems to be what you see is what you get and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

    Can I choose Donald McCain??? :wink:

    • Total Posts 817

    When I got into racing my dad waxed lyrical about his ttraining idols, Tom Dreaper, M V O’Brien and Fred Winter – we are talking circa 1972 when Winter was about to enter his golden age.

    I think if you compare Henderson and Nicholls with those trainers the first think to strike you is the number of horses in training – the older generation having required a far fewer number of inmates to reach the top of their game.

    It was interesting to listen to a recent interview about Eric’s Charm with Oliver Sherwood (himself like Henderson a former Fred Winter assistant). He referred to Kim Bailey, and it reminded me that both these very capable men were once deemed worthy of Andy Stewarts patronage.

    Nicholls and Henderson seem to have acquired a lot of owners which probably irks the other trainers. However would Oliver Sherwood or Kim Bailey have been any less capable of sending out Big Buck’s to record breaking winning sequences? Personally I don’t think so.

    On the flat racing has always had periods when a small group of owners/breeders try to dominate however the numbers game has now taken a grip over the sticks too and you cannot help but feel a small number of "super" stables are reaping the benefits. Willie Mullins is the same in Ireland, yes he has a serious horse in Hurricane Fly, but he seems the only trainer there who has managed to avoid the recessions terrible toll – compare Noel Meade’s struggles for instance.

    In the north of England the removal of Graham Wylies horses has created a completely different, and arguably more equitable scene. There was a time when every bumper, maiden/novice hurdle and chase seemed to be dominated by a Wylie short priced favourite. Now most of the owners have small strings and so the competeition is more evenly spread (except the McCain/Leslie combo).

    Whilst this makes predicting winners far harder it surely makes for better business models in terms of not having all your eggs in one basket. I must add, although I am very much a southerner, I did find it astonishing that a northerner like Wylie refused to leave his horses in the North and ironically sent them to Nicholls and Mullins. I would have preferred him to send them to someboday like Nicky Richards who could do with a reinjection of quality animals, or even a young up and coming handler like David O’Meara for instance.

    Personally I think people like Nick Williams and Colin Tizzard are proving that with a relatively small number of cheaply bought horses, you can get success, and probably carry more goodwill with it. It did a little bit of research on RP the other day to see how many horses Michael O’Leary had when he won the Gold Cup with War Of Attrition (just over 30) and today (mid-80s). Is he anywhere nearer winning a Gold Cup? No.

    As the Gold Cup records still show, Tom Dreaper remains the leading trainer with five successes, and Dorothy Paget seven. I am sure Nicholls will no doubt surpass Dreaper at some stage, but his set up is now an instrustrial complex compared to Dreaper’s. I tend to agree with the second poster on this thread, racing isn’t about being in one trainers camp of another, and to be honest I find the scale of the Mullins, Henderson and Nicholls operations rather distasteful whilst at the same time conceding that there are types of owners, of the Stewart O’Leary kind, who take their business models and apply them to racing i.e. use money to buy success and nullify the competition. Anthony Knott is a timely reminder of what the sport should be about, and proof that racing isn’t all about who has the biggest wallet in the sales ring.

    • Total Posts 817

    It wouldn’t be such a bad thing for NH racing if Henderson got the better of Nicholls this season. Competition is good.

    I often hear / read people referring to competition being good, and yes in certain instances it is – without a "competition" we wouldn’t see any races!!

    however is it not that case that the competition of which you speak ultimately stifles or destroys competition because one or two dominant figures emerge to the detriment of others? we see it in the premiership with Man City/Chelsea suddenly becoming really successful becasue they have billions to spend. The same goes for Nicholls/Henderson, they have ended up with some extremely wealthy and "dominant" individuals which means they have a surfeit of regally bred, often French and Irish imports, that smaller owners simply cannot afford.

    I know this is radical, but would it be fairer to introduce a cap on the number of horses an owner can have with a given yard, or even a financial cap on the value of horses a certain trainer is allowed to house. That way the talent would be spread more evenly and your desire for "competition" would be maintained.

    Oddly this subject has reminded me of the bitterness attracted by the large supermarket chains who have for years thrown up mega stores on the outskirts of thriving towns and in one fell swoop put a load of small independent shop keepers out of business.

Viewing 17 posts - 1 through 17 (of 23 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.