Nicky Henderson has set his sights on the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on November 23 as a starting point for Altior, with the King George VI Chase his first major target of the season.
The nine-year-old has dominated the two-mile division in recent campaigns, but connections are now ready to tackle a longer trip with their charge, who is unbeaten in 14 starts over fences to date.
Altior could face a stern challenge on his intended return at Ascot though, with Paul Nicholls also aiming the highly-rated Cyrname at that race, but Henderson believes it to be the logical first port of call.
He told his Unibet blog: “(Owners) Patricia and Chris Pugh came down to the yard this week and saw Altior on the gallops and after plenty of input from everyone, we have decided that we are going to go down the King George route, therefore the obvious race to start in is the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on November 23.
“We were considering the Peterborough Chase at Huntington on December 8, but the timing for the Ascot race is ideal so everything tells us to go there. It’s the only and obvious road (we think!) and while nothing is set in stone, that is very much our intention at the moment.
“Nico (de Boinville) is definitely of the opinion that he wants at least an extra half-mile and thinks he will actually benefit from going further – in fact he says ‘the further we go the better we go’ so I have to listen as that’s what your jockeys are there for.
“Obviously we’re forfeiting the Tingle Creek, but he’s going to get beaten one day so I think we have to go down another road and if it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to the Game Spirit, Champion Chase and do all of that again, but hopefully we won’t have to.
“Assuming we get to the King George in one piece and win, then I guess the Gold Cup questions will start being asked, but until we get to Kempton on Boxing Day we simply cannot answer anything else before then.
“I’m sure he will stay further. Sometimes last year everyone could see that he wasn’t going as well in his races as he probably should have been which was because he was nearly flat to the boards, hence we are all in agreement that the step up in trip is in his best interest.
“A lot of people have told me we have to go up to three miles and that he isn’t a true champion until he’s raced over different distances, so OK, he’s being aimed at the King George by popular demand!
“Joking aside, it’s not to prove that point, we are doing it simply because we genuinely believe he wants it.”
Henderson also confirmed dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air will once again start his campaign in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, with a third Cheltenham win the ultimate prize.
The trainer added: “Buveur D’Air looks fantastic and I couldn’t be happier with him at this stage.
“He’ll take the usual route to Cheltenham and we’ll kick off at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth which will be a good starting point towards winning a third Unibet Champion Hurdle.