Henderson tempted by Melling Chase for Altior

Step up to two and a half miles beckons at Aintree

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Nicky Henderson is leaning towards running Altior in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree.

The nine-year-old extended his unbeaten record over jumps to 18 and claimed his fourth Cheltenham Festival victory when successfully defending his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase earlier this month.

Not for the first time, Altior looked in trouble before powering through the line – giving connections further evidence that he could be just as effective over further than two miles.

The King George VI Chase – run over three miles at Kempton on Boxing Day – has already been identified as a potential long-term target and he could first run over the intermediate distance of two and a half miles on April 5.

Speaking in his Unibet blog on Friday, Henderson said: “Much of the talk will now be what we do next and I suppose the 32Red King George would have to enter the equation because I think more than ever now he is definitely looking as though he wants another half a mile at least.

“He’s just as good at two miles, but the good thing about him is that you can switch him off which means he should have no problem getting further.

“He has come out of the Champion Chase very well, better than last year for sure, so I would quite like to go to Aintree for the Melling Chase on the Friday of Aintree, but I need to speak to Patricia and Chris Pugh this weekend before we make any final decision.”

Henderson also confirmed Buveur D’Air is likely to bid for a second Aintree Hurdle success last month – having fallen when bidding for a third straight win in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Other Seven Barrows inmates potentially bound for Merseyside include Triumph Hurdle hero Pentland Hills and RSA Chase runner-up Santini, while a trip to Ireland for the Punchestown Festival is under consideration for Might Bite.

The enigmatic 10-year-old travelled well for a long way when bidding to go one better than 12 months ago in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but stopped quickly from the home turn and was pulled up by Nico de Boinville.

Henderson added: “Might Bite looked to run very well in the Gold Cup up until a certain time before it all came to an abrupt end.

“He doesn’t seem to be jumping with his usual fluency and accuracy so we had his back looked at this morning – just to see if there is something we could put our finger on – but the physio says it’s the best back he’s ever seen on a racehorse so I have to admit I’m completely flummoxed.

“I keep getting different theories; Nico wants to go back in trip, somebody else wants to do something else and the other person wants to do that so I’m very much confused.com!

“I have absolutely no idea where we will go next as I don’t want a reproduction of what we’ve seen so far this season but Punchestown, on some nice spring ground, is a very distinct possibility if we can get him back 100 per cent.”

Henderson tempted by Melling Chase for Altior
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