Altior breezes to 16th successive win over jumps
Altior proved the one and only in so many ways as he extended his unbeaten run to 16, one short of the inestimable Big Buck’s for consecutive successes over jumps.
In a Grade 2 race that five years ago witnessed his equally awesome former stablemate Sprinter Sacre splutter out, Altior took the breath away once again.
For starters, he was the only winning favourite over the two-day meeting at Kempton, after being backed from 1-6 into 1-8 on course.
Secondly, Patricia Pugh’s eight-year-old drew everyone’s attention as he put in a mesmeric and flawless performance to win the Unibet Desert Orchid Chase and return to a hero’s welcome.
There were suggestions that Altior could even probably give Santa a run for his money delivering Christmas presents, although winning trainer Nicky Henderson preferred to talk in terms of teaching Strictly Come Dancing winner Stacey Dooley a lesson in nimbleness and flamboyance.
Henderson said: “If you were asking what he got out of 10, you couldn’t give him anything but 10, and if it was Strictly Come Dancing I think he would’ve definitely got 10!”
The trainer admitted to getting into a fluster pre-race with all to lose and little to gain at a meeting which had been a “debacle” on day one, with another of his champions chinned.
Nico de Boinville, who had achieved that Buveur D’Air chinning on stablemate Verdana Blue with a stunned look on his face 24 hours earlier, returned fist-pumping and wreathed in smiles to an ovation on Altior.
Henderson added: “Nico said you will not go quicker on lovely ground and yet he had to take pulls on him all the way through – he has so many gears. He’s got it all.
“It’s been an amazing story from Sprinter Sacre retiring and being lucky enough within a year to have found another one who’s getting very close to what he could do.”
Bookmakers agree as Altior is no bigger than 1-2 with the sponsor to repeat his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase win.
First Henderson plans to give racegoers another treat at Ascot in just over three weeks’ time in the Matchbook Clarence House Chase, but deprive Newbury of another Game Spirit adventure.
“We’re doing it slightly differently this year – this time last year he was still in bed with a sore throat,” explained the champion trainer.