Who is Nicky Henderson?

Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Henderson is the son of the late Major John ‘Johnny’ Henderson, a founder of the Racecourse Holdings Trust and, as such, credited with helping safeguard the future of Cheltenham Racecourse in the Sixties. The name of Nicky Henderson, too, is synonymous with Cheltenham, predominantly the Cheltenham Festival, where he has saddled 68 winners, making him the second most successful trainer in history, behind only perennial Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins.

Indeed, Henderson is the leading trainer in the history of both the Champion Hurdle, which he has won eight times and, jointly, alongside Tom Dreaper and Paul Nicholls, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which he has won six times. He has also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Stayers’ Hurdle twice apiece.

Henderson has also won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship six times including, most recently, in 2019/20. The National Hunt season was brought to a premature end on March 25, as the result of the coronavirus pandemic but, at its close, Henderson had saddled 118 winners, including 15 at Graded level and, more importantly, amassed £2.53 million in total prize money; his seasonal total was £192,550 higher than his nearest rival, reigning Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls.

Henderson, who turns 70 in December, 2020, began his training career as assistant to eight-time Champion Trainer Fred Winter in 1974, before taking out a training licence in his own right four years later. He is currently based at Seven Barrows in Upper Lambourn, Berkshire, the yard to which he moved in 1992.

Which was Harry Skelton’s first Cheltenham Festival winner?

Harry Skelton is the younger son of Olympic gold medal winning showjumper Nick Skelton and stable jockey to his older brother, Dan, at Lodge Hill, near Alcester, Warwickshire in the West Midlands. In 2018/19, Skelton Jnr. enjoyed far and away his most successful season so far, with 178 winners – including his first Grade One winner, Roksana, in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – and over £2 million in prize money.

In the curtailed 2019/20 campaign, his seasonal tally fell to 97 winners, but nonetheless included two more Grade One winners, Allmankind in the Coral Final Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow and Politologue, trained by Paul Nicholls, in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, Skelton was named Jockey of the Month for March, 2019 as a result of his victory on the latter.

However, Skelton had recorded his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival three years earlier, courtesy of Superb Story, trained by his brother, in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle in 2016. Sent off at 8/1 third-favourite, behind 7/1 joint-favourites Great Fields and Wait For Me, the five-year-old could be called the winner some way from home and ran on strongly in the closing stages to beat Fethard Player by two-and-a-half lengths; in so doing, he also became a first Cheltenham Festival winner for Dan Skelton.

What is the maximum ‘official’ winning distance?

Historically, the maximum ‘official’ winning distance – that is, the maximum, meaningful distance that racecourse judges could record – was 30 lengths; anything beyond that was simply recorded as ‘a distance’. However, when Kauto Star swept clear of his nearest pursuer, Madison Du Berlais, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, 2009, the racing public was, understandably, keen to know the actual winning margin. Shortly afterwards, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) increased the range of distances available to racecourse judges to 99 lengths.

The next change to the maximum official winning distance was implemented, ‘in the interests of greater accuracy’, on New Year’s Day, 2018. At that point, the BHA extended its computerised ‘lengths per second’ (LPS) tables to 200 lengths. Thus, to quote one recent example of a relevant, wide-margin victory, the result of the open hunters’ chase at Bangor-on-Dee on February 7, 2020 is recorded for posterity as a 107-length win for Bob And Co, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by David Maxwell.

Was Paul Nicholls once a jockey?

Nowadays, Paul Nicholls is best known as the eleven-time winner of the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship, with over 3,000 winners, including 45 Cheltenham Festival winners and a Grand National winner, to his name. It would be fair to say that Nicholls is a familiar, if rather portly, figure on British racecourses in his trademark tweed coat with a velvet collar, but he was, in his younger days, an accomplished National Hunt jockey.

In a seven-year riding career, Nicholls rode a respectable 133 winners, but was most closely associated with the late David Barons, for whom he was stable jockey between 1986 and his retirement, due to injury, in 1989. Indeed, it was for Barons that Nicholls recorded back-to-back victories in the Hennessy Gold Cup – now the Ladbrokes Trophy – at Newbury on Broadheath in 1986 and Playschool in 1987. Remarkably, Broadheath carried just 10st 5lb and Playschool just 10st 8lb.

However, in an interview long after his retirement from the saddle, Nicholls admitted that he often resorted to ‘cheating’, by constantly taking diuretic pills, known in racing circles as ‘pee pills’, to keep his weight down, or fiddling the scales when weighing out or in. He also admitted to having been close to anorexia during his career as a jockey.