John Hales relishing Politologue showdown with Altior in Newbury heat

Wed 7 Feb 2018

By staff

Owner John Hales is eagerly looking forward to seeing Politologue clash with Altior in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

Better known as the Game Spirit Chase, the race is a natural stepping stone towards the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next month.

Altior won this race as a novice last season before claiming the Arkle, while Politologue was still running over two and a half miles.

However, since dropping back to the minimum distance, Paul Nicholls' seven-year-old grey is unbeaten when he has completed, including in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December.

"He's been electric this year and I'm looking forward to it," Hales said on Wednesday.

"It's nice to see Altior is going to run. It will be a good contest and that's what it's all about."

Hales added: "When he's stood up, he's unbeaten over two miles. It took us some time to realise that was his trip but since we have, there's been no looking back.

"The only time he's lost over two (miles) over fences was at Aintree, when he'd have probably won anyway.

"His jumping is his biggest asset. He's very quick and very accurate. I call him a coat-of-paint job because he leaves no gap between himself and the fence - there's no air.

"That's a trait of all the best two-milers, looking back at them."

Nicky Henderson told on Tuesday that Altior was in great shape for his return, but that the combination of a nine-month absence and taking on racefit rivals was a concern.

Nicky Henderson Stable Visit - Seven Barrows Henderson and Altior together at Seven Barrows on Tuesday (PA)

"I suppose this is the time he is going to be at his most vulnerable but in the interest of trying to win the Champion Chase (at Cheltenham next month) I think it’s good for him to have a run,” the four-time champion trainer said.

“You’ve got to be realistic and if he gets beaten he gets beaten - he’s going to get beaten one beaten one day. I hope he doesn’t and I’m not being down on him because his work is fantastic, his wind is fantastic and his jumping is fantastic.

“He’s telling us he’s in tremendous shape but he’s coming into a competitive race against racefit horses. I’d buy another week (before running him).”

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