Nicky Henderson is one of the leading trainers on the National Hunt, guiding the likes of Fermanagh’s own Bobs Worth and Long Run to glory at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, it will have been seven years since the Irishman has tasted glory in the prestigious race, with Might Bite failing to perform at the signature race at Cheltenham Festival over the last couple of seasons, despite boasting a fine pedigree.
Henderson has one horse available for the next Gold Cup after it was confirmed that Altior would race in the Queen Mother Champion Chase instead. Santini could compete in the event and he can be currently backed in the horse racing betting odds at 9/1 to win the event. It takes a complete competitor to win the race and we’ll now look at whether Santini shares characteristics with Bobs Worth in his bid to follow the horse into the ultimate success.
The Irish thoroughbred made his bow at Cheltenham Festival in 2011 in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle on the back of a four-race winning streak, two of which came at Cheltenham Racecourse. He was the leading contender for the crown, and duly delivered on expectations as he claimed the victory over his stable-mate Mossley by two-and-a-quarter lengths. The following season, Henderson put his charge forward for the RSA Novices’ Chase.
Grands Crus was the favourite for the event, having beaten Bobs Worth in their encounter at Kempton Park. However, on this occasion, the Irish thoroughbred was the victor as he beat out his rival by a comfortable distance. He was ready for the step up in the next campaign for a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Bobs Worth was the bookies’ favourite for the win and put forward a brilliant performance to take the Gold Cup – the second win in three years for Henderson. However, success has eluded the Irishman since the major event.
Santini does not hold the imperious record of his predecessor at Cheltenham Festival, although he does have quality wins under his belt. He made an impact at Cheltenham Racecourse with a win in the Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle. After the victory, Santini was installed as the leading contender for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. However, he was off the pace down the stretch as Kilbricken Storm bounded away to win the event, with Henderson’s charge placing down in third. Victories at Aintree and Newbury restored his reputation, winning his first chase race at the latter.
His appearance in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park ended in defeat, finishing narrowly behind La Bague Au Roi. Henderson put his charge forward for the RSA’ Novices Chase and he faced off against elite competition in the form of Topofthegame and Delta Work. He put forward a spirited performance and held the lead for a period towards the end of the race, only to lose out by half-a-length when Topofthegame upped the ante to take the crown. Santini has recorded one victory this term in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase, but unlike Bobs Worth he does not appear to have the record at Cheltenham Festival to win the Gold Cup, which suggests that Henderson’s wait for success will continue.