Nicky Henderson could decide this weekend whether Altior will make his next appearance at Kempton or Ascot.
The brilliant 10-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since suffering his first defeat in 20 starts over obstacles when runner-up to Cyrname in a much-anticipated clash at Ascot in November.
He missed an intended outing in last week’s Desert Orchid Chase due an abscess, but is set to return later this month – either in the Grade Two Unibet Silviniaco Conti at Kempton on January 11 or in the Clarence House at Ascot the following week.
Speaking in his Unibet blog on Friday, Henderson said: “Altior was given an entry in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot and we also have the option of the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton a week earlier.
“His abscess has cleared up fine and he’s in rude health, so we’ll make a decision very shortly; probably Sunday once I’ve spoken to the Pughs (owners).”
The Seven Barrows handler endured a disappointing start to 2020 at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, with some disappointing results highlighted by the fall of Champ when seemingly set to win the Dipper Novices’ Chase.
Henderson added: “It wasn’t the beginning to 2020 we hoped for and Champ was obviously the most high-profile ‘loser’ of the day.
“He was travelling really well and I thought his jumping was excellent but he seemed to get distracted approaching the second-last and ultimately paid the price for his lack of concentration.
“He was quite sore in his shoulder afterwards and is still a little bit stiff now, but I’m quite keen to give him another run before Cheltenham as you can’t go into an RSA off the back of a crashing fall like that.
“We’ll have a look at something like the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot.”
Henderson also provided an update on plans for his potential Champion Hurdle squad, headed by Epatante, who leapt to the head of ante-post lists for the two-mile championship with a brilliant display in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day.
“Epatante probably won’t run again until the Unibet Champion Hurdle as she doesn’t really need to, but Call Me Lord could head up to Haydock for the New One Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial on January 18,” said Henderson.
“I also need to get another run into Pentland Hills, although where that will be I haven’t decided yet; maybe the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown.”