Can Birchdale Emerge as the Strongest Nicky Henderson Novice Hurdler?
There is no doubt that of all the trainers this side of the Irish Sea, Nicky Henderson has a fantastic string of novice hurdlers, and he is going to have some tough decisions to make when it comes to entering horses in races at the Cheltenham Festival.
One horse looking to enhance his reputation this weekend and potentially move to the top of the pecking order as far as staying hurdlers go is Birchdale. We have only seen him on the course once for Nicky Henderson, and on that outing as well as showing us he was a talented horse, he also showed us that he needs more experience ahead of being thrown in at the deep end.
This race will give him that experience and there is every chance that if he wins here, not only will he book his place in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the festival, but he will also move towards the head of the market. At the five day stage, Nicky Henderson also had Champ in the race, believed to be one of his best novice hurdlers and one who has the experience needed to go to Cheltenham, but Henderson has decided that Birchdale will represent him on Saturday.
After the race we should be able to get a grip of where the two Henderson horses rank against each other through Brewin’Upastorm. He is the second favourite here, and brings top graded form into the contest, with a 4th placed finish in a Grade One at Newbury last time out. The horse that won the race that day was Champ, who was four lengths ahead of Brewin’Upastorm.
If Birchdale is to move towards the top of the pecking order then not only does he need to win on Saturday, but he needs to beat that horse in a more impressive fashion than Champ did last time out.