Altior to take tried and tested route ahead of Champion Chase hat-trick bid

By Harry Allwood@harry_allwood
Tue 7 Jan 2020

Nicky Henderson told Racing TV on Tuesday that “Altior doesn't look like Altior” and will now aim his superstar at the Game Spirit Chase ahead of a bid for a third Champion Chase victory.

The Seven Barrows handler revealed on Sunday that the ten-year-old, who missed an intended engagement in the Desert Orchid Chase over Christmas, was on track to run in the Unibet Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton following a pleasing workout on Saturday and a discussion with his owner, Mrs Patricia Hugh.

However, Henderson was not happy with the dual Champion Chase winner on Monday night and has ruled him out of the Grade Two contest on Saturday which was set to be his first start since losing his unbeaten record over obstacles in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.

Henderson believes Altior's recovery from a recent abscess is to blame and will give him time to recover before he is aimed at the Betfair Exchange Chase (registered as the Game Spirit Chase) at Newbury on February 8.

Watch what Nicky Henderson told Racing TV's Tom Stanley about Altior on Tuesday

“His work on Saturday was great and Nico [de Boinville] was happy with him and said he feels himself, but I looked at him last night and, to me, he just didn’t look like Altior,” Henderson told Racing TV’s Tom Stanley.

“The trouble is he had to miss the other race [Desert Orchid Chase] due to an abscess on his wither. It was horrible and very nasty, and he was very tender on it. He was in a lot of discomfort and we had to give him some heavy-duty antibiotics to get rid of that, and everyone knows what antibiotics can do to you – they knock you down a little bit.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with him. There was nothing wrong with his blood yesterday and you have to take your own judgement on these things and I just don’t think Altior looks like Altior. Nico took Altior’s rug off this morning to tack him up and said the same thing.

“I’m sure he’s fine, maybe I’m just fussing about nothing? But I know what he should look like and I know what he looks like now!

“We had to make a decision and I’d rather wait and give him ten days and leave a saddle off him for a few days. We have a water treadmill which he was great in this morning and he can have the rest of the week doing that."

Altior will have one entry at the Cheltenham Festival which will be in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Watch how he landed the Grade One contest last year

Henderson is now keen to drop Altior back to two miles and go back to a tried and tested route before he seeks his third Champion Chase victory.

The four-time Cheltenham Festival winner was successful in the Game Spirit Chase in 2018 en route to winning his first Champion Chase, and was also successful in the 2017 renewal before winning the Arkle. Henderson said:

“There’s no point trying to come back for the Clarence House Chase next week. We are going to give ourselves a bit of time. He only needs one run and there’s only one race that he’s in at Cheltenham and that is the Champion Chase, therefore the Game Spirit fits in well.

"It’s a route we have tried before, and we’ll just go back to that.”

Altior is a best-priced 3-1 for the feature contest on day two of the Cheltenham Festival in March, with Defi Du Seuil the general 4-1 second favourite.

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