Nico de Boinville hoping for Sandown Celebration with Altior

Champion Chase hero bids to round off his campaign on a high with another Grade One success

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Nico de Boinville believes the extra time between his races will help Altior in his bid to end the season on a high in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown on Saturday.

The star two-miler may have had a truncated campaign due to a wind operation, but he showed his brilliance to lift the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last month after winning his prep race at Newbury in February.

Trainer Nicky Henderson resisted the temptation of running him over two and a half miles at Aintree two weeks ago to wait for this Grade One over two miles, which he won 12 months ago.

It was a decision that had the total approval of the jockey, who reports Altior to be primed for a return to action.

“I worked him on Sunday after coming back from Ayr and he’s in good nick, good to go,” De Boinville told At The Races.

“I think we were in trouble at one stage (at Cheltenham), but that’s why I’m grateful we’ve waited for Sandown and didn’t go to Aintree as I think those extra couple of weeks have helped him.

“I think he is very relaxed, he’s really settled down compared to what he was like as a novice hurdler – he used to be a flat-out runaway. I guess horses change with age.

“He’s fairly straightforward and very versatile and you’ll know he’ll stay.”

Altior has five rivals as he seeks to stretch his winning streak to 14.

They include the 2017 Champion Chase Special Tiara, who lowered the colours of Sprinter Sacre to take this prize in 2015.

Henry de Bromhead’s Irish raider, who was runner-up to Altior last year, was re-routed to Sandown after being a late withdrawal from the BoyleSports Champion Chase at Punchestown on Tuesday due to the rain-softened ground.

San Benedeto, who was third in this race 12 months ago, is one of two runners for Paul Nicholls along with Diego Du Charmil, who put up an eye-catching display to win the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

Tom George appreciates the task facing God’s Own, who was 18 lengths behind Altior when third at Cheltenham.

“He didn’t go to Punchestown. The ground was too soft for him over there so we thought we’d leave him for this,” said the Slad trainer.

“Obviously he’s facing a tough task with Altior but he’s fresh and well, so we’ll see how we go.

“He ran a great race at Cheltenham on ground that was softer than ideal, but he’s in good form and he retains all his ability.”

George is one of three trainers double-handed in the bet365 Oaksey Chase after six were declared for the Grade Two contest over an extended two and three-quarter miles.

He saddles Double Shuffle, who is on retrieval mission after disappointing at Aintree, and Sadler’s Risk, who has has first race since leaving the De Bromhead stable in County Waterford.

George is hoping Double Shuffle can bounce back to the form he showed when only beaten a length by Might Bite in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“Double Shuffle didn’t really run his race at Aintree, but hopefully you’ll see him in the form he was before then. This race over two-mile six is a suitable opportunity for him,” he said.

“He didn’t jump very well at Aintree. He was never there for some reason, but he’s in good form so, hopefully with the ground and everything else, all will be in his favour again.”

Sadler’s Risk has been sent to George by owner Roger Brookhouse after his form tapered off in Ireland.

“He’s had some good form in years gone by, but he just lost his way a bit. This is a nice race to get him back on the track, have a nice day out and give us a platform to build on,” said George.

“He was at Roger Brookhouse’s for the first part of the winter and came to me after Christmas.

“He’s settled in well and we’re just trying to find his way again. He’s in good form and we’re happy with him.”

The Henderson-trained Top Notch beat Double Shuffle comfortably at Ascot in November, but he has a bit to prove having run below par behind Waiting Patiently there on his latest start in February.

The Seven Barrow handler also runs O O Seven while the Nicholls-trained duo of Alcala and Art Mauresque complete the sextet.

Nico de Boinville hoping for Sandown Celebration with Altior
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