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Nicky Henderson: Highest-rated racehorses

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We list Nicky Henderson's highest-rated National Hunt racehorses on Timeform ratings.

1. Sprinter Sacre (Timeform rating 192)

One of the most popular racehorses of modern times, Sprinter Sacre came with a big reputation and started life as he meant to go on, winning both of his starts in bumpers before showing plenty as a novice hurdler in 2010/11, a season that culminated with him finishing third in the Supreme.

Sprinter Sacre quickly made up into a smart novice chaser the following season, winning all five of his starts, including when producing the best performance in the Arkle since Azertyuiop in 2003.

Another perfect season ensued in 2012/13, when his victories included the Tingle Creek, the Victor Chandler Chase, the Melling Chase and the Punchestown Champion Chase. However, it is his performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase that he is perhaps best remembered for, as he took his form to a whole new level in beating the top-class Sizing Europe by 19 lengths, in the process recording the highest Timeform rating over jumps in the modern era.

An irregular heartbeat meant he was only seen four times in the following two years, running well below his best form each time, but he returned looking much more his old self when winning the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November 2015. Victory in the Desert Orchid Chase followed before he took the roof off Cheltenham when beating Un De Sceaux to land his second Champion Chase. He rounded off another perfect season – and an almost perfect career – with victory in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.

2. Long Run (Timeform rating 182)

Long Run joined Nicky Henderson from France in 2009 and made a most taking start to life in Britain, winning the Feltham on his debut before finishing third in the RSA at Cheltenham.

A third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November 2010 was followed by an authoritative display in the King George, before he got the better of Kauto Star and Denman in a Gold Cup that will live long in the memory.

The following season saw him twice finish runner-up to a rejuvenated Kauto Star – in the Betfair Chase and the King George – before winning the Denman Chase at Newbury with a performance not far off his best. He was then sent off the 7/4 favourite to land the Gold Cup for the second year in succession but could ultimately manage only third behind Synchronised.

The 2012/13 season saw Long Run win a second King George before placing in Gold Cups at Cheltenham and Punchestown. He looked a shadow of his former self the following season, however, and recorded only one more win (in a minor event at Kelso) before his retirement in 2016.

Incidentally, Long Run finished his career with trainer Robert Waley-Cohen, father of Sam, who became the first amateur to win the Gold Cup for 30 years aboard this exceptional performer.

3. Altior (Timeform rating 180)

After a reasonably successful bumper season, in which he finished sixth in Grade 1 company at Punchestown, Altior confirmed himself a horse out of the top drawer when making it five wins from five starts over hurdles the following campaign. That sequence culminated with an impressive victory in the Supreme, where he beat a host of talented performers, including Min, who he would spend much of his career in a protracted duel with, and Buveur d’Air, who has gone on to become one of the best two-mile hurdlers in recent memory.

Altior also went unbeaten in his first season over fences in 2015/16, when his wins included the Arkle and the Celebration Chase, and the following season saw him confirm his status as the best two-mile chaser with a totally dominant victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Four more Grade 1s (and one Grade 2) followed in the 2018/19 season, namely the Tingle Creek at Sandown, the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, the Champion Chase (for the second year in succession) at Cheltenham and the Celebration Chase (for the third year in succession) in Sandown, taking his record over jumps to 19 wins from 19 starts in the process.

Stepped up in trip on his reappearance, Altior faced a rival in Cyrname who had demolished his opposition in his last two outings, and it was Paul Nicholls’s charge that emerged victorious, with Altior losing his unbeaten run over jumps at the twentieth attempt.

A bid at the King George was shelved after that defeat, but Altior looked much more his old self when making the most of a good opportunity to regain the winning thread at Newbury in February, and, though he hit his trademark “flat-spot” in the race, the style of the victory was very characteristic of him at his best.

Due to face arguably his stiffest opposition yet in this year’s renewal of the Champion Chase, Altior was unfortunately pulled out lame prior to the race.

4. Bobs Worth (Timeform rating 179)

Bobs Worth gained a fourth win from four starts over hurdles when landing the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011, showing plenty of stamina after he’d cruised through the race to record what would be just the first of his three wins at National Hunt racing’s most prestigious meeting.

His first outing over fences was a successful one, and, after finishing third in the Feltham and second in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, he proved a completely different proposition when gaining his second win at the Cheltenham Festival in the 2012 RSA Chase.

He followed in the footsteps of the likes of Trabolgan and Denman on his first appearance of the following season, when defying a high mark to make a winning return in the ultra-competitive Hennessy, before recording a third successive win at the Cheltenham Festival in the 2013 running of the Gold Cup.

He made a disappointing start to the 2013/14 season, and, though he won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, he was then clearly not at his best when fifth in his bid to retain his Gold Cup crown.

The ensuing season yielded no further success, resulting in a return to hurdling for Henderson’s charge. He produced an encouraging show to land his first race in that sphere since his Albert Bartlett win back in 2011 but finished well-held on his two following appearances. His final race saw him finish third to Thistlecrack in the World Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, a fitting way to end his illustrious career at the scene of his greatest triumphs.

5. Finian’s Rainbow (Timeform rating 174)

Successful on his sole start in bumpers, Finian’s Rainbow made a good impression during his novice season over hurdles, winning twice and twice showing up well in Grade 1 events, including in the Baring Bingham at the Cheltenham Festival.

He showed useful form right away in his novice season over fences, winning four of his five races, including the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree, and suffering his only defeat when outstayed late on by Captain Chris in the 2011 running of the Arkle.

Finian’s Rainbow continued his progression into the 2011/12 season, when he won three times, with successes in the Desert Orchid and the Melling Chase coming either side of the undoubted standout effort of his campaign – and his career – in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Indeed, he produced a genuine top-class performance that day to gain his first, and only, victory at the Cheltenham Festival, getting the better of an on-song Sizing Europe after a fluent round of jumping.

He looked largely a horse with problems in the ensuing seasons, however, showing his only real form when second to Sire de Grugy in the Celebration Chase in 2013, and sadly his career ended when he was pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November the same year.

6. Remittance Man (Timeform rating 173)

Remittance Man was a decent performer over hurdles, but it was whilst chasing that he really made a name for himself, going unbeaten in his first seven starts over the larger obstacles, including when victorious in the 1991 running of the Arkle.

His second season over fences yielded further success as, though he did lose his unbeaten run over fences when third in the King George, he also turned in the best performance of his career when landing the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

After ending the season with victory in the Melling Chase, Remittance Man started the 1992/93 campaign in similar fashion, winning Grade 2 events at Wincanton and Kempton before a strained tendon ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.

His long-awaited return to action was an encouraging one, as he landed the Emblem Chase at Kempton, promoting himself to the head of the market to win a second Queen Mother Champion Chase the following month, but that was not to be as he took a heavy fall three out.

He then struggled to cope with the extremely testing conditions in the Melling at Aintree, beating home just one rival, before dropping out tamely on his final appearance, finishing last of four at Sandown. Nevertheless, he will still be remembered as a top-class chaser who retired with a tremendous record of 13 wins from 16 races over fences.

6= See You Then (Timeform rating 173)

See You Then won four times on the Flat prior to making his debut over hurdles in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race in which he finished second. After a stint racing in Italy, where he won over hurdles in Milan, See You Then was returned to Nicky Henderson to race in England.

See You Then won three of his five races in the 1984/85 season, including his first Champion Hurdle, sprinting away from the field with ease and ending the season with a Timeform rating of 166p, some 6 lb higher than the previous top-rated hurdler of the year.

The following season saw See You Then win the Oteley Hurdle at Sandown before comfortably retaining his Champion Hurdle crown. His only other race that season came in the Sandeman Hurdle at Aintree, where he finished second.

In keeping with his lightly-raced career, See You Then raced only twice in the 1986/87 season. He beat home three rivals in the De Veres Hotel Hurdle at Haydock just a week and a half before he attempted to win the Champion Hurdle for the third consecutive year. See You Then faced 17 rivals at Cheltenham, and, as in previous runnings of the race, he travelled in trademark smooth style before leaping to the front at the last. He battled on defiantly in the closing stages to become one of only four horses to win three successive Champion Hurdles (Istabraq achieved this feat later).

See You Then finished the season with a Timeform rating of 173, the highest of any hurdler that campaign.

8. Might Bite (Timeform rating 171)

After an up-and-down first season in which he was tried over hurdles and fences, Might Bite’s career really took off during the 2016/17 campaign, when he proved himself a top-class novice chaser who was unfortunate not to win all three British Grade 1 events.

Might Bite was set to win the Kauto Star by a wide margin before crashing out at the last, but, after a routine wide-margin win in a low-grade affair, he certainly made amends when landing the RSA at Cheltenham, albeit in dramatic fashion after all but pulling himself up after the last before rallying late on to snatch victory on the line. He also won the Mildmay Novices’ Chase on his final start of that season, when inflicting a rather more straightforward defeat on old rival Whisper.

After a pipe-opener at Sandown on his reappearance, Might Bite extended his unbeaten run when completing to six with the biggest success of his career in the 2017 King George. His stamina didn’t quite hold up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, though he did look a class act for the majority of the race, and he proved that to be the case when producing a sparkling display to land the Betway Bowl at Aintree.

Unfortunately for Might Bite, and for all connected with him, he has rapidly fallen from grace since the end of the 2017/18 season, having been treated for ulcers since his King George win. He has contested some stellar events since then but has never looked a serious threat on any occasion, last seen finishing well held in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham.

9= Riverside Theatre (Timeform rating 170)

Riverside Theatre reached a useful level in bumpers, winning two of his three starts, and acquitted himself well over hurdles, including when third in the Irish Champion Hurdle. However, he was clearly always going to be much better over fences, as he proved when victorious on his first two starts in that sphere.

A crack at the Arkle ensued but his jumping wasn’t as convincing as it had been, and he could only manage fifth at the Festival, before crashing out at the seventh in a similar event at Punchestown the following month.

Riverside Theatre only raced three times during the 2010/11 season, winning a graduation event at Kempton and finishing runner-up in the King George before producing an authoritative performance to land the Ascot Chase in February.

He made a most impressive return to action in the same race the following year, running out a more comfortable winner than the bare margin might suggest, before gaining a third successive Grade 1 victory in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. A tough race was possibly the reason for him pulling up in the Betway Bowl at Aintree the following month, but similarly to Might Bite, Riverside Theatre was reported to have been suffering with ulcers and never again reached the heights of his Cheltenham Festival win.

He did land the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in 2013 but was retired the following year having failed to reproduce anything like his best form in three subsequent starts.

9= Buveur D’Air (Timeform rating 170)

Buveur d’Air produced his best effort in bumpers when splitting Barters Hill and Altior in a listed event at Newbury in February 2015, and he confirmed himself a smart prospect when landing his first two races over hurdles. His first defeat in that sphere came in the 2016 Supreme, where he was beaten by no less than Altior and Min, and he quickly got back to winning ways when landing the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree the following month.

His first two starts of the 2016/17 season were over fences, and he was victorious in both, looking bound for the Arkle. However, a stylish performance over hurdles at Sandown – along with Henderson trying to avoid another clash with stablemate Altior – meant he was instead targeted toward to the Champion Hurdle. That proved to be a good decision, too, as he readily landed his first win at the Cheltenham Festival, ultimately ending the season unbeaten with a routine victory in the Aintree Hurdle.

The following season saw him claim three further Grade 1s, including the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle, before he defended his Champion Hurdle crown in more determined fashion than the year before.

A truly sublime winning reappearance saw him land his second Fighting Fifth in December 2018, as well as take his winning sequence to 11, before he was unexpectedly beaten for the first time since the 2016 Supreme in the Christmas Hurdle. He resumed winning ways at Sandown but his bid for a third successive Champion Hurdle ended in anti-climactic fashion as he came down at the third flight.

Another defeat followed as he was beaten in the Aintree Hurdle, but he proved he was still very much a leading light in the two-mile hurdling division when landing the 2019 Irish Champion Hurdle.

Another defeat, this time in the Fighting Fifth, meant his imperious air had all but dissipated, but more serious than that was the fact that he was said to have finished lame after picking up a splinter from his blunder at the second last, an injury that saw him ruled out for the remainder of the season. Hopefully he returns at the top of his game next term.

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