Henderson heaps praise on Long Run and Punchestowns

Nicky Henderson is in bullish mood ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. (credit: CharlesFred)

Nicky Henderson believes that Cheltenham Festival hopefuls Punchestowns and Long Run are the best two chasers he has ever trained.

The pair will battle it out in this month’s RSA Chase and it is high praise from a trainer with more Cheltenham Festival winners to his name than any other current trainer.

Admittedly most of Henderson's greatest earners have been hurdlers, but the likes of Remittance Man and Fondmort have passed through his Lambourn stables.

"They are the two horses we are lucky enough to have who could go all the way," he said.

"They have got two years to go but they are as good as we've had for a very long time. They're as good chasers as I've ever had.

"My duty is to keep them in one piece for two years. We all need stars to come through and we all want them in our yard."

Punchestowns and Long Run are both unbeaten in two runs over British fences but have rather different backgrounds.

The French recruit Long Run, owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and to be ridden by his son Sam, was a Grade One-winning hurdler at three and made an incredible debut in this country in the Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton before following up over two miles at Warwick.

Punchestowns did start off in Flat races in France but made a quicker transfer and was second to Big Buck's in last year's Ladbrokes World Hurdle. His outings over fences have been in smaller events at Newbury and Sandown.

"Punchestowns stays three miles but is very good at two and a half - he's not a slow horse," said Henderson.

"I'd actually love to take Big Buck's on again one day and come from behind him. But that would only happen if his chasing career falls apart.

"He will probably go to Newbury on Sunday for a wander.

"Long Run won't - he will have a schooling session with Yogi Breisner on Tuesday and we have to be careful he's not too fresh.

"Long Run is just very talented. There are not many who can go a genuine two-mile pace and can also stay three-miles at Kempton.

"It's quite freakish really.

"We ran him over two at Warwick really for his future - if every race is to be over three miles, then his will be a shorter life."

With Barry Geraghty set to ride Punchestowns, there is a ride to spare on the third string Burton Port, and the trainer was keen not to rule out the Reynoldstown winner.

"His owner Trevor Hemmings wants to run." he said.

"He has nowhere else to go and he deserves to be there - in another year he would be our main runner.

We're not sure about jockeys - Andrew Tinkler gets on very well with him and AP McCoy can ride whoever."

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Henderson heaps praise on Long Run and Punchestowns

Nicky Henderson believes that Cheltenham Festival hopefuls Punchestowns and Long Run are the best two chasers he has ever trained.

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