We were lucky enough to be invited to visit Nicky Henderson's yard this past Thursday (9th March) by the Albatross Club, and yes that is the week before Cheltenham as luck would have it. It was a great experience to see such a legendary trainers yard just 5 days before the biggest event in jump racing. We were given a tour of the whole yard, shown some of the top horses such as Sprinter Sacre and Altior, we watched horses work over hurdles and fences in preparation for Cheltenham and saw some of the younger horses worked on the gallops.
We started the morning by meeting Albatross Club members at Nicky’s yard and meeting Nicky himself. We headed straight to the covered trotting ring where the first lot of horses were warming up for the morning workouts. Watching around 30 horses trot past and listening to Nicky name each one as they passed just shows how well trainers know their horses. I mean I can tell the difference between a white and brown horse don’t get me wrong but to be able to name every horse that trots past with about 80% of them looking the exact same colour brown is quite amazing.
After that we headed over to watch the first lot of horses schooling over hurdles and fences. Nicky sent out 3 stars of last years festival out over the jumps first which gave us the chance to see them all running alongside each other which was rather great. After that Nicky treated us further as he had Altior school over some fences. Yes, we can confirm that Altior makes it look just as easy in schooling as he does in the races, he didn’t even touch the fences when jumping them.
We followed this up by heading straight to the Henderson kitchen to have a coffee and bacon and sausage bap, credit Sophie Henderson for the great food and drinks! While we filled our bellies Nicky Henderson was busy at work calling all the owners and discussing race entries with them. Some pretty important phone calls were made, as you can imagine this close to the festival is pretty hectic for trainers.
Following this we headed up to the gallops to watch some of the younger horses in action. Just think I should point out that the gallop is up a steep hill and just driving up to the top was a challenge. However from the top we had a great view of Nicky’s yard and the perfect place to watch the horses running up the hill and passed us at the end. They ran up the gallops in pairs with the Albatross Clubs horses, Rebel Commander and Full Boar, both running up alongside each other. Both horses are unraced but we’ve been told to keep an eye out for them because they train very well.
After seeing the horses on the gallops we headed up to Warren Greatrex’s yard (about a 5 minutes drive round the corner from Nicky’s yard) to see the Albatross Club’s other horse, one that will be running at Cheltenham Festival this year in the Champion Bumper, Western Ryder. There is a lot of hype around this horse as Betfred recently announced that it was their most popular ante-post bet and he is in fine form heading to Cheltenham. Western Ryder looked in incredible condition and we hope he can give the Albatross Club a great win at The Festival!