The Road to Cheltenham

 
Bill Esdaile
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NICKY Henderson has trained more Cheltenham Festival winners than anyone, including a record seven last year. However, he hasn’t been very lucky in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – his last win in the race came 21 years ago.

The performance of My Tent Or Yours at Newbury last weekend suggests this hoodoo may finally come to an end, but supporters of the JP McManus-owned six-year-old have to be worried that connections will switch to the Champion Hurdle.

I think that is very possible, especially as Henderson’s RIVER MAIGUE looks a ready-made replacement for his stablemate in the Festival curtain raiser.

Well backed on his hurdling debut at Cheltenham in November, the son of Zagreb produced a fine effort to finish second to the race fit Dodging Bullets. He then came out and thrashed New Year’s Eve at Kempton on Boxing Day.

River Maigue has the chance to bolster his claims at Ascot tomorrow and I am keen to snap up some of the 12/1 available with Star Sports for the Supreme.

If he produces a display like I expect him to, Henderson may start thinking even more seriously about the Champion Hurdle for My Tent Or Yours, which could lead to my selection lining up at 6/1 or shorter on the day.

Another benefit is that Michael Buckley’s contender only has this option, while other well-fancied horses like Melodic Rendezvous could step up in trip for the Neptune Investment.

■ Pointers…
RIVER MAIGUE 12/1 e/w
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
(Cheltenham Festival)