Altior impresses on return to win Game Spirit
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson fired a warning to any potential Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase rivals when declaring the athletic son of High Chaparral would improve for his impressive win in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase, his first since April.
Henderson was hurt when some suggested he had not been as forthcoming about Altior’s absence as he might have been, but the recent bulletins from Seven Barrows have had an upbeat tone and the eight-year-old proved he had not lost any of his zip or dash when sweeping by Politologue for a convincing success in the hands of Nico de Boinville, whose partner was deemed as good as ever by his rider.
He said in the week he had not trained a better worker than Altior, also winner of this race last season and who will spearhead a formidable squad for the Cheltenham Festival next month.
He said: “If you could dream what would happen that was just about it. He took a blow between the last two, which is fine, but it was exactly what we wanted and he didn’t make a noise.
“What we knew was he was in brilliant form. He never got as far as galloping before we had to stop. That is not his ground but he travelled very well and he has so many gears; he’s just got class and is very, very good.
“The danger is his work is so easy. We’re lucky we’ve got a wonderful bunch of horses, but we haven’t got much to go with him. It’s hard to find horses to go with him and you can’t go sacrificing Buveur D’Air every day.
“There must be a lot of improvement.”
Owned by Christopher and Patricia Pugh, Altior, who is now unbeaten in a dozen starts over hurdles and fences, is a top-priced 11-10 with the Champion Chase sponsor – he is odds-on with all other firms – to add that highlight to a bulging CV that already includes an Arkle and a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.