Henderson notched up a brilliant final-day treble including Altior in the Celebration Chase who put on a show for everyone gathered at the Esher track
NICKY HENDERSON sealed his fourth trainers’ title with a stunning final-day treble.
Victories for Call Me Lord, L’Ami Serge and brilliant Altior meant Paul Nicholls’ slim chances of retaining the champion’s trophy disappeared into the Sandown sunshine.
Altior’s sizzling performance in the Bet365 Celebration Chase was the clear highlight.
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The star novice – now unbeaten in six chases – picked up Champion Chaser Special Tiara two fences from home and roared away for a superb eight-length success under Nico de Boinville.
After Sprinter Sacre’s retirement in November Henderson could have hardly believed another potential superstar would arrive so soon. But the Arkle Trophy hero looks every inch a champion.
Henderson said: “He’s top class – I think we’ve always known that.
“He’s done everything right throughout the year. It’s great to have something like him – he’s very special.”
It was Altior’s third Grade 1 win of the season – more than Nicholls’ top-class total for the whole term. Henderson’s eight Grade 1 victories – including Buveur D’Air’s Champion Hurdle success – was the clear difference between the pair.
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Nicholls’ astonishing 170 winners was 18 more than his old rival – but this title is decided in cash.
Henderson, hugged by Nicholls as he returned to the winners’ enclosure, grinned: “It’s been good fun since Cheltenham – it’s been tight.
“There’s been a few sleepless nights – that’s what a good competition is all about. I’ve sort of enjoyed it.
“To be fair, Paul’s done incredibly well because he hasn’t got Grade 1 horses. He’s winning a huge amount of prize money with some very good placing. If you’ve Altior and Buveur D’Air you’ve got a serious chance of winning some good prizemoney.”
Henderson – winning his fourth trainers’ title 31 years after his first – came agonisingly close in the feature Bet365 Gold Cup.
His Vyta Du Roc was beaten a head by shock 40-1 winner Henllan Harri in the most thrilling of finishes.
The first eight horses were covered by less than three lengths but trainer Peter Bowen’s ace – ridden by his son Sean – bravely held off all the challengers.
Bowen said: “That makes it twice as special with Sean riding.
“On that form, if he goes up high enough in the weights he could be a National horse.”
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for veteran Menorah.
Philip Hobbs’ 9-4 shot put in a perfect round of jumping to land the Bet365 Oaksey Chase for the fourth year on the trot.
Owner Diana Whateley dabbed her eyes as her hero returned to rapturous applause before announcing Menorah’s retirement.
She said: “The performance today was just stunning – we couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Winning rider Richard Johnson – crowned champion jockey for the second time yesterday – will be seeing a lot more of Menorah despite his retirement.
The 12-year-old will see out his days on Johnson’s Herefordshire farm with the rider’s Gold Cup hero Looks Like Trouble for company.
Johnson – who completed a double on Wait For Me – said: “What a fitting end to his career and a fitting end to the season for me too.
“I won’t be taking him home today but he’ll be coming to live with me. Hopefully he will have a long and happy second career with my family, being ridden and looked after by the children.”