ASK Nicky Henderson for the secret to his success and even he might struggle to encapsulate the insight in words.

Crisis management might be part of the answer, though.

“We know that these races are going to be very competitive – whatever turns up,” he said ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival. “Our job is to concentrate on what we’re doing, don’t make any mistakes and get everything right. And cross our fingers.”

Henderson’s fingers may be crossed a little more tightly this morning when he finds out whether Altior will be fit to run tomorrow.

“Altior was unfortunately lame this morning in his near-fore leg and we have located some pus in the frog [of his hoof],” he said. “Both our vet and farrier are working very hard and are more than hopeful that he will even be able to canter tomorrow and therefore confident he will be clear to race on Wednesday.”

Henderson relies on touch and instinct as opposed to cold science and sometimes refers to his methods as “Henderson logic”. But it works, and he attempts to add to his 58 Festival victories thus far with the possibility of winning all three of the most prestigious races.

Buveur d’Air is odds-on favourite to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle today and, if fit, the shockwaves will be measured on the Richter scale if Altior fails to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, leaving Might Bite to chew his way through the opposition in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Those fingers may be crossed again when Buveur d’Air runs. His jumping puts Henderson in mind of See You Then, his triple champion hurdler, but also carries a health warning for the trainer’s nerves.

“He’s frightening because he measures it to there,” Henderson said, with forefinger and thumb closed too close for a margin of error. “His knees just flick the top but, if he just gets it wrong by two inches…. It’s absolute precision and you’ve got to be deadly accurate to do it. But he’s very good at it.”

Buveur d’Air was good enough to be third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years ago. But Altior was good enough to win and keep winning; 12 in a row which included the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last month after a spell out following a breathing operation.

“To be fair, on three bits of work since last year’s Celebration Chase it was a pretty fair performance,” Henderson said. “He just finds everything so easy for him. And that’s what it was at Newbury – pure class and that gets you a long way.”

Class will only get a horse so far in the Gold Cup. Probably as far as the home turn and from there it takes other, more brute, elements of the horse’s character to win steeplechasing’s blue riband race.

Might Bite has the class, having won the King George VI Chase, but his stamina is open to question along with his antics in last year’s RSA Chase when he hung markedly right as if he was heading towards the exit and a return to the racecourse stables.

“Of course we haven’t been three and a quarter miles. But to jump the last as far in front as he did in the RSA, come to a standstill and get going again up that hill – he must stay pretty well,” Henderson said.  

“Everybody is going to have in their mind what will happen should he jump the last in front?”

Henderson reckons he has a plan in his mind. But that, for the moment, will remain a secret.