Nicky Henderson Still Needs A Grand National Win – Is 2024 His Year?

Nicky Henderson

It’s almost hard to believe that trainer Nicky Henderson, who has won just about every race in the country, has actually never won the Grand National.

Despite being in business since he first got his training license in 1978, it is still the one major victory that has eluded him.

And it’s not like he hasn’t tried. His closest attempts came in 1979 with Zongalero and in 1987 with The Tsarevich, both finishing second.

A recent notable attempt was with Mister Coffey in 2023, who, ridden by Nico de Boinville, led for a significant portion of the race before finishing eighth.

This race marked Henderson’s 44th attempt at the Grand National. Despite the disappointment, he is back again in 2024 for his 45th time.

Is 2024 finally going to be his year? For fans who like betting on horse racing, let’s see who he has in contention and if any of them have a real chance at that win.

Mister Coffey

With previous form around the course, this could be Henderson’s best chance in 2024.

Owned by Lady and Alice Bamford, the nine-year-old has 13 chase starts under his belt, but is yet to win any of them.

That doesn’t necessarily go against him, as Rule the World won this race in 2016, having never won a chase in his career. So it can be done.

His biggest obstacle is likely to be getting a spot in the starting line-up.

With fewer runners in 2024 and his Official Rating taking a four-point dip, it’s going to be a close call as to whether he will even run.

That will depend on the BHA Handicapper and the weights that he allocates. If he gets in, there’s nothing to suggest he can’t run another solid race, but whether he can actually win is another matter entirely.

Dusart

With a better chance of making the cut, Dusart is the second entry from Nicky Henderson in 2024.

Owned by Bartlett & Carthy and running in the same colours as Willie Mullins’ Stattler, Dusart has less chasing experience than Mister Coffey.

However, from his seven chase starts, he has returned three wins, but it has been a couple of years since he’s seen the winner’s enclosure, and his recent form is poor.

Dusart has run three times since January 2023. The first was at Cheltenham in the Cotswold Chase (Jan 2023), where he pulled up.

He then headed to Ayr for the Scottish National but was Brought Down. And, most recently, in December 2023, he went to Newbury for the Coral Gold Cup but was pulled up there as well.

If this was a box-ticking exercise, Dusart would be found wanting, and I’m not sure the Grand National is the race he will redeem himself in.

Fantastic Lady

That leaves us with Fantastic Lady, Henderson’s third and final entry in 2024.

One of the few mares entered in the Grand National 2024, she has a pretty decent chase record.

With a couple of runs in the Topham Chase, run over the same fences as the Grand National, she was second in the race in April 2023.

That bodes well for her ability to navigate the tricky course. She also ran in the Grand Sefton at Aintree in November, finishing fifth, so it looks like she really is being geared up for the National.

Her biggest problem will be the race distance. This is a horse that is very comfortable at 2m5f, and that’s a long way off the four miles of the big race.

It’s not insurmountable. However, she did pull up last time out (2m4f), and Henderson could find no explanation for the poor form shown.

So will we get the Fantastic Lady who loves Aintree, or will we get the version that just doesn’t really want to race? Time will tell.

Nicky Henderson – Cheltenham Festival

Of course, before we ever get anywhere near Aintree, we have the Cheltenham Festival, and this is where Nicky Henderson excels.

Relative to other trainers, Henderson’s success at the Cheltenham Festival is unparalleled among British trainers and is only surpassed globally by Willie Mullins.

His achievements at the festival, coupled with his knack for training horses that have left a lasting legacy in the sport, underscore his status as one of the most successful figures in horse racing history.

After all, this is a man who has trained two Gold Cup winners (Long Run in 2011 and Bobs Worth in 2013), NINE Champion Hurdles with See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Buveur d’Air (2017, 2018), Epatante (2020), and Constitution Hill (2023) and SIX wins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

With a remarkable 73 wins at the festival, 2024 looks like another cracker of a year for the yard, who are no doubt hoping to add to that tally.

Shishkin, Jonbon, and Constitution Hill are all set to line up, so can they bring even more gold Henderson’s way? We’ll have fun finding out.

The Trainer Championship

And that brings us nicely to this year’s Trainers Championship. This is a title absolutely dominated by Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.

In fact, the two have gone back and forth on this since 2005 and nearly 20 years on, no other trainer, outside of them, has won it.

In that time, the majority of the spoils have gone Nicholls’ way with 14 wins to Henderson’s four, but as it stands, it could still go either way in 2024.

With just over £200K separating them at the top, Cheltenham wins could prove more crucial that ever as every penny counts.

That said, it’s not a done deal with Dan Skelton firmly nipping at their heels. If he could increase his win rate from 15%, he would really give them a run for their money.

With plenty of huge races still to come this season, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the trainer championship to see if anybody can end the dominance of Nicholls and Henderson.