Sean Bowen may have threatened to challenge Brian Hughes for the championship this year, but James, Sean’s younger brother, has been promised support for a championship assault in the future.
The top rider is still Nico de Boinville, a stalwart of the storied Seven Barrows stable, but Nicky Henderson praised Bowen, who followed in the footsteps of his elder brother by winning the conditional championship in 2017–18.
Along with conditionals Nathan Brennan, Ben Ffrench Davis, and Sean O’Brien, Aidan Coleman, Adrian Heskin, Daryl Jacob, Max Kendrick, and Paul O’Brien will all receive rides for the top trainer.
“You couldn’t have better than Nico, who is brilliant,” said Henderson. “He’s here most days and is Seven Barrows through and through. He makes sure he knows everything that is happening, and then there’s James, who will be champion one day.
“Nico’s not trying to be champion; James will be. I’m going to launch him in a big way because I think he’s seriously good, while he’s a lovely lad too.”
Off the track, second-in-command Charlie Morlock continues to be a crucial member of the group, while assistant Billy Aprahamian has been replaced by George Daly. George Daly is supported by the team’s head staff of Dave Fehily and Katie Croft.
In addition to Carolyn Kendrick and John Neocleous, new owners include Malcolm Denmark, Pat Sexton, whose horses compete under the name West Coast Haulage Limited, Max McNeill and Greg Stone, and Tim Syder, who previously had a stake in Thurloe Thoroughbreds.
“It was a blow when Mike Grech took his horses to Ireland, but I wish him and them well,” said Henderson. “One door closes, but another opens. It’s lovely to have some new owners whom I’m sure we’ll have plenty of fun with.”
He added: “We’ve relaid the main all-weather gallop with a slightly different surface. The last one lasted 15 years, so I’m hoping this one gets me into my 90s!
“It needed doing as the old surface got a bit tired, but all the riders say it’s lovely, which is all I need to know.”