Nicky Henderson reported Altior to be in “spectacular form” after the star chaser enjoyed a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Tuesday.
The eight-year-old is unbeaten in 14 starts over jumps – a run that features three successive wins at the Cheltenham Festival, including last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Having sidestepped a possible outing in last weekend’s Shloer Chase at Prestbury Park, he instead made an appearance at Newbury’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning, enjoying a solo spin in the hands of conditional jockey Ned Curtis.
Henderson revealed it is the first time Altior has worked on grass this season, and he is now counting down the days until his intended reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on December 8.
“I couldn’t have been happier with that. It was a much-needed away day for him and he’s just had a nice stretch over a mile and a half,” said the Seven Barrows handler.
“He’s in seriously good form – spectacular form.”
Should Altior come through the Tingle Creek unscathed, he has the option of tackling to three miles for the first time in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
However, Henderson does not envisage his stable star stepping up in distance any time soon.
He added: “I was talking to someone the other day and they mentioned the King George, but he did a bit of work the other day and I said, ‘the King George?’. You’d be better off in the King’s Stand!”
Altior was joined at Newbury by a handful of stablemates, including dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air, who worked and finished upsides two stablemates under Barry Geraghty.
Just as he did last season, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old is due to return in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday week, but the unseasonably dry weather is giving Henderson cause for concern.
“Newcastle is the plan, but if that comes out of the equation – if it was good, good to firm – we’d all be worried,” he said.
“There is a problem looming, and while this wind is in the east you aren’t going to see much rain.”
Buveur D’Air has undergone a wind operation during the summer and Geraghty commented after his morning workout how much cleaner his wind was.
Henderson said: “He was always making a funny little squeak, but when you scoped him nothing was wrong.
“But I felt this had to be done and it was better not to wait any longer.”
Another Henderson inmate in action at Newbury was Santini, who won a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in the spring.
He is due to kick off his career over fences at the Berkshire circuit next week.
“He’s got options of the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase on the Friday and the three-mile novice chase on the Saturday and I’m favouring the former as I don’t like going three miles with them first time,” said the trainer.
“It’s going to be seriously competitive, but he’s a very laid-back horse and a great jumper.
“He’s schooled and does that very well.”
Henderson also provided a positive update on Might Bite ahead of his weekend return in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The Gold Cup runner-up was not in attendance at Newbury, but his trainer could not be happier with his well-being.
He said: “He has just been working extremely well. He hasn’t been away or anything, but he has been in very good shape and he’s a spectacular looking horse – he’s getting into the Sprinter Sacre mould in terms of pure quality and class.
“He just looks really good.”