Nicky Henderson expects the Cheltenham Festival to prove crucial after Paul Nicholls’ eight-timer on Saturday left him trailing in the trainers’ title race.
Nicholls enjoyed a stellar afternoon – highlighted by the triumphs of Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful Clan Des Obeaux and wide-margin victor Cyrname – and Henderson is now nearly £370,000 adrift.
The master of Seven Barrows is not panicking yet – but is eager to get out of the blocks quickly on the first day of the Festival, with hat-trick-seeking Buveur D’Air spearheading his team in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
He said: “We love Cheltenham and it is the most important four days of the year. We say every year the main thing is to get one, please, on the first day, then you can enjoy it.
“It is all about getting one on the board. It is like hitting a four in the first over – you are off and running.
“It was huge on Saturday and we are miles behind. If we win everything, it means Paul has got to win nothing. To me, and as he quite rightly says, Cheltenham hinges on it.
“I might have to borrow a few off Gordon (Elliott) and Willie (Mullins) to catch him!
“We’ve got a lovely team, though. The nicest thing about this is the novice hurdlers are really good and that means I’ve got to go on for longer because they will be at their best in three, four or five years.”