Altior might not be quite the “showman” Sprinter Sacre was – but Nicky Henderson is feeling the weight of expectation as his superstar two-miler prepares for the defence of his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase crown.
Un De Sceaux is the only horse to really have got within touching distance of the nine-year-old in three starts this term, finishing four lengths adrift after pushing him all the way in testing conditions in the Tingle Creek back in December.
Henderson’s ace subsequently secured a bloodless success in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas before cantering to victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot – and now stands one victory adrift of equalling the record for successive wins over jumps set by Big Buck’s.
The Seven Barrows maestro remembers the pressure that went with the Sprinter Sacre years and equates current situation with Altior to those glory days.
He said: “He is all good and has been very good so far and has not put a foot wrong. He is coming in nice and fresh. He looks super and everything is going well.
“He will work on Tuesday. He will have a couple of schools, as he enjoys it.
“You are always are nervous about him, as you are back in the Sprinter Sacre situation and I can tell you how horrible it was then.
“It is the same factor – anything bar a good performance won’t do. It’s a fait accompli – but there are lots of fences and lots of people there still trying to take us on.
“Min is there and we have beaten him several times. Yes, he has been round there and done it before.
“It would be disappointing if it did go wrong, but you have to prepare for the fact it has to go wrong one day. It can’t go on forever. I know Winx can, but she is different. She is amazing.
“You have a very good horse picking up Grade Ones and Twos, but he hasn’t been meeting a great deal of opposition. We did discuss the King George and if everything does go right this season, we will probably branch out and do something different next season.
“He is not quite the showman that Sprinter was, but he is a very good-looking horse.
“Altior is a proper machine in work in that he gets on with it. He has got tremendous pace and, touch wood, his jumping is pretty accurate and he has got a lot of gears.
“If he was a Flat horse, he would be a very good mile-and-a-quarter or mile-and-a-half horse.”