Altior on the heels of Sprinter Sacre with dashing Champion Chase success

    Nicky Henderson reflected on an "electric" performance after Altior turned on the turbo to claim victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham
  • Wednesday 14 March 2018
  • News

Nicky Henderson reflected on an "electric" performance after Altior turned on the turbo to claim victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham

The eight-year-old was imperious during a six-race novice campaign over fences last season, claiming his second Festival success in the Arkle having won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle the year before.

The current campaign has not been so smooth, however, with a wind problem ruling him out of the first half of the season and a minor foot issue discovered just over 48 hours before he was due to face the starter in the Cotswolds throwing his participation into some doubt.

He was ultimately given the go-ahead to run and was sent off the even-money favourite in the hands of Nico de Boinville.

For much of the way it seemed as though his setbacks may be be catching up with him and Altior looked in serious trouble rounding the home turn, but once straightened up, he displayed a scorching turn of pace to run down Min and win by an emphatic seven lengths.

Henderson said: "We've been lucky enough to have been down this road a fair few times and it is 90 per cent relief and 10 per cent pure joy.

"Altior has just got gears. Nico was very good on him and when he pulled him out he was just electric, wasn't he?

"There were a few seconds when you thought it wasn't going to happen, but once he saw the daylight he was away. To find those gears, in this ground, off that pace, you've got to be pretty good.

"It was a great race to watch."

De Boinville was suitably impressed, saying: "In those conditions, that was a sensational performance. He's a freak."

The Seven Barrows handler was winning the Champion Chase for a fifth time and took his total tally of Festival winners to 60.

Comparing Altior to his hugely popular Champion Chase hero Sprinter Sacre, he continued: "They are going the same way. This horse is very good.

"I've said all along those were very big boots that had to get filled and each time he's doing it he's getting closer.

"We'll never forget Sprinter. I think he tugged at heart strings. If in a year's time this horse can come back and do it again then we'll see.

"Sprinter was such an amazing show-off and a swank. I think he was beating inferior horses in those days, whereas this was a good collection and a good field.

"Today we say 'thanks Altior'."

Having also saddled Buveur D'Air to tenaciously win Tuesday's Champion Hurdle for the second year in succession, Henderson will bid to become the first trainer in history to land the big three championship races when Might Bite goes for glory in Friday's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"It's funny how champions come around in the same era and I think they do help each other - good horses make good horses," said the trainer.

"I think we're in ground that doesn't lend itself to these classy horses, the gear changes and split-second movements, it's not easy when the ground is like this.

"When their class is being eliminated a bit because of it, they have to show they are brave as well."

The Willie Mullins-trained Douvan, not seen since suffering a shock defeat and injury in this race a year ago, travelled and jumped with all his old zest in front before ploughing through the open ditch in the back straight and parting company with Patrick Mullins, who was standing in for the injured Ruby Walsh.

His stablemate Min looked the likely winner rounding the final bend, but ultimately had to play second fiddle.

Mullins said: "Min ran a terrific race, he was going away from the third and fourth horse and just met a superstar on the day. It was a tremendous training performance from Nicky and the horse.

"To me, watching what Douvan was doing at the time, he looked to be back to himself. Patrick looked to be very comfortable. I just hope he wasn't racing too fresh and that he might not have finished off his race, but Patrick was riding him with huge confidence anyhow. It looks well for the future that we could get him back to himself."

God's Own was third for Tom George, who said: "I'm proud of him. He didn't like that ground, but he still put in a good show. The spark is still there and there is another good day in him."

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