Altior cruised to victory in the Unibet Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park to extend his unbeaten record over jumps to a remarkable 16 races.
After defeats for high-profile stablemates Buveur D’Air and Might Bite 24 hours earlier, trainer Nicky Henderson was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief, as the 1-8 favourite cantered around for a routine success.
Former Champion Chase victor Special Tiara put the pace into the race – and it was a stern one, as usual front-runners Speredek and Diakali were taken off their feet somewhat.
Nico de Boinville moved Altior into a challenging position coming out of the back straight and briefly Diego Du Chamil looked to be travelling just as well.
As soon as Altior opened up, though, the race was over, and he sprinted away between the last two fences, with a flying leap at the last sealing the deal on the way to a 19-length triumph.
“After yesterday’s debacle and a few knocks here and there you get yourself in a fluster and start to worry about things,” admitted Henderson.
“This horse has been great the last fortnight. Nico has sat on him and Toby (Lawes, assistant trainer) has been happy with him.
“We were coming back quickly (since the Tingle Creek) and we are going to try to come back quite quickly for the Clarence House (at Ascot). He is fit and I’ve just got to keep him fresh and well.
“After the Clarence House we will probably go straight to Cheltenham (Champion Chase) as we don’t need the Game Spirit this season.”
Henderson went on: “Walking back down I said out of 10 how can you not give it 10? If it was Strictly Come Dancing, I think he would have got 10.
“It is great to watch. Last season was a stop-start affair and we didn’t start until the Game Spirit. It gets scarier every time, but it has been an amazing story.
“The amazing thing really is from Sprinter (Sacre) retiring you are lucky enough within a year to find another one that is getting very close to what he could do.
“They get to the point where anything bar that is sub-standard. They don’t get beaten, but if they don’t win by 20 lengths there is something wrong with them.”
Regarding a crack at the King George next season after being tempted this year, Henderson said: “Everybody was trying to nudge us that way (King George), but it wasn’t the right thing to do.
“If we get through this season, see what happens at the end of the year – we talked long and hard about it this year, so we’d think about it.
“He’s not getting any worse – put it that way.
“I’d rather the King’s Stand than the King George as he has so many gears. We know what gallop Special Tiara goes, as he is electric. He was having to take a pull the whole way through the race. That was nearly flawless and his jumping was great.”