Nicky Henderson crowned champion jumps trainer for fourth time

Altior
Altior, ridden by Nico de Boinville, took his 100% win record over fences to six

Nicky Henderson was crowned champion jumps trainer for a fourth time after Arkle hero Altior won the Celebration Chase at Sandown by eight lengths.

Henderson last won in 2012-13 - the only season in the past 11 in which rival Paul Nicholls has not triumphed.

"It is a championship and it's there to be fought for. There are no prizes for finishing second," said Henderson.

Meanwhile, Irish jump racing's champion trainer Willie Mullins narrowly retained his crown.

He staged a late surge to beat rival Gordon Elliott, who held the lead in the prizemoney-decided title race until the Mullins team - winners for the last nine seasons- landed three races at Punchestown on Saturday.

Bapaume's success under jockey Ruby Walsh in the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle sealed it.

Elliott had struck an early blow when even-money favourite Apple's Jade ran out a wide-margin winner of the Mares Champion Hurdle.

Analysis

BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght:

Willie Mullins
Ruby Walsh, right, guided Bapaume to victory to clinch the title for Willie Mullins

What a fantastic performance by Mullins to grab victory from the jaws of apparent defeat.

Elliott still held a sizeable advantage as recently as Tuesday when the valuable Punchestown Festival got underway, and then plenty of results went against Mullins.

But, even as the proverbial Fat Lady was clearing her throat, he staged a pretty remarkable eve-of-final-day recovery.

Retaining the championship is all the more creditable considering the stable lost 60 horses in a row with airline boss Michael O'Leary last September - many to Elliott - and others to injury.

And it was a fabulous day in more ways than one for Nicky Henderson. Not only did he win the trainers' title again - and to demonstrate his longevity this fourth one came 31 years after the first - but furthermore Altior indicated that he can indeed be the new Sprinter Sacre for the Henderson team.

A good old fashioned British/Irish showdown between Altior and a hopefully-back-to-his-brilliant-best Douvan at next season's Cheltenham Festival is already being anticipated.

Henderson will 'keep going'

At Sandown, meanwhile, Henllan Harri took a surprise win in the Bet365 Gold Cup in a thrilling finish.

The 40-1 shot, trained by Peter Bowen and ridden by his son, Sean, made most of the running and held on from the Henderson-trained Vyta Du Roc, with Theatre Guide third.

"It's a tough game and, to be fair, we have been consistent over the last few years and we've second to Paul four or five times," said Henderson.

"I don't think I'm coming to the end of it, I will keep going as long as everybody wants me to."

The popular Menorah, trained by Philip Hobbs, was retired after winning the Oaksey Chase at Sandown for the fourth successive year.

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