Top National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson believes former point-to-point winner Jeriko Du Reponet could become one of the top steeplechasers in the United Kingdom.
After recording an eye-catching victory at Kirkistown in March 2023, the horse was subsequently purchased by leading Irish owner JP McManus. He made his debut under Rules at Newbury in December, and had little difficulty pulling clear of his rivals under jockey Nico de Boinville.
The horse returned to the same track last weekend, and maintained his unbeaten record in some style to leave online bookmakers running for cover. Several sportsbooks cut Jeriko Du Reponet into odds of 7/2 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – a race Henderson has won on five previous occasions.
The trainer was understandably delighted with the horse’s performance, particularly the speed he showed when putting the race to bed.
"I thought looking at the race that the obvious thing was that there were two horses in there that looked like they could have a lot more speed than we might have,” Henderson told the Nick Luck Daily Podcast.
“They were sort of quick two-milers, and a sprint wasn't going to help us. We didn't want to just go out there and blitz them and make the running to kill the race off as we'd probably kill his chances off too.
“So, we decided to ride him conservatively even though that might have been the best way to get him beaten. The thing that impressed me was his turn of foot, because that was superior to the two horses that did have a turn of foot.
“I spoke to David Bass (rider of runner-up Secret Squirrel) afterwards and he thought his horse was pretty smart at quickening and was quite surprised our horse could do it too.”
Given the manner of Jeriko Du Reponet’s performance, punters were naturally quick to grab some early value in the ante-post market for the Supreme.
Intriguingly, several sportsbooks operating in overseas markets are still offering better odds than their counterparts in the UK and Ireland. For example, some of the best horse racing betting sites currently operating in Australia have priced Jeriko Du Reponet at 5/1 to emerge victorious at Cheltenham.
Known for being shrewd with their opinions on horse racing, the Aussies’ stance may well have its roots in the difficulties UK trainers have experienced at the meeting.
Unlike the Melbourne Cup, which tends to be dominated by Australian-trained runners, the Cheltenham Festival has become a haven for Irish horses in recent years. Henderson recorded just one victory at the meeting in 2023, with Constitution Hill cementing his superstar status with a facile victory in the Champion Hurdle.
While Jeriko Du Reponet has a long way to go to achieve those lofty heights, Henderson is confident he can continue to make significant progress. He will have another prep run before the Supreme, but is expected to switch to bigger obstacles following his initial campaign over hurdles.
"He really is a gorgeous looking horse - he's a great big chaser in the making and he's got a lot of class,” Henderson added. “To me, he looks like a two-miler.
"He's got to run again, there's no doubt about that. The obvious one that comes up is Haydock. We all love Haydock but we all know what the ground is like this time of the year. We'll just have to regroup and see what we can find."