Henderson team embarking on early summer breaks

Altior would have been set for action at Sandown this week.

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Nicky Henderson was on Monday overseeing a large batch of horses heading for their early summer holidays.

Henderson would normally at this time of year have been looking forward to the conclusion of the British jumps season at Sandown on Saturday, where he would have been officially presented with his sixth champion trainers’ title.

But the suspension of racing in Britain due to the coronavirus pandemic means that is not possible, and National Hunt racing will not be back until July.

Henderson said: “We’ve turned a lot of horses out today, it’s unnaturally early to be turning them out, it’s only April and normally they wouldn’t be going out for another three weeks at least.

“We’ve had to wait until now, because it has been so cold and then so dry and the grass hasn’t grown. We had a good inch of rain on Friday night into Saturday and that will get it going and there’s a nice forecast for the week, so the grass should grow.”

Star of the show for Seven Barrows at the weekend would have been Altior, who missed the Cheltenham Festival but was on course to bid for a fourth consecutive victory in the Celebration Chase.

Henderson – whose Cheltenham winners included the JP McManus-owned Epatante in the Champion Hurdle – said: “They’re all good, JP’s are back in Ireland, they’ve been gone for weeks. Epatante is back there. We’ve had a big exodus today, about 40 have gone out for the first time.

“Altior hasn’t gone out today, but he’ll be going out next week. He’s fine and that (Sandown) would have been the idea.

“It’s always a fun day that last day at Sandown, we all enjoy it and it’s a bit of an end-of-term thing isn’t it.”

On the coronavirus situation and the impact on racing, Henderson added: “It’s frightening from everybody’s point of view and the concern at the moment is for the Flat boys – it’s vital we get racing as soon as it is sanctioned and safe to do so.

“They (British Horseracing Authority) have got it under control and I’m sure when the Government says we can go, they’ll get on and go. It is vital the Flat season gets going.

“We’ll have a squad ready for July, but because we know we’re not going to start until July we know what to do and that was the important thing, to decide what we were going to do for the summer.

“Now we know we are not starting until July, we can afford to give the summer horses a month out. We’ll get them back in the middle of May and have them ready for July.

“It’s tough, but everybody has been good.”

Henderson team embarking on early summer breaks
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