Altior shows old spirit to win Betfair Game Spirit Chase in Newbury to boost Queen Mother Champion Chase chances
- Altior claimed victory in Newbury’s Betfair Game Spirit Chase on Sunday
- The horse is hotly-tippped for next month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase
- Jockeyed by Nico de Boinville, he won the Queen Mother race in 2018
- Trainer Nicky Henderson believes victory in Newbury is a big confidence boost
Altior dismissed the doubters by showing he remains the one to beat in next month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase with a cosy win in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
Defi Du Seuil remains 2-1 favourite for the Champion Chase while Chacun Pour Soi is breathing down Altior’s neck at 9-4 in the ante-post lists but in beating Sceau Royal three and a quarter lengths, 10-year-old Altior showed he retains the sparkle that has seen him twice claim the Champion Chase.
Suggestions that Nicky Henderson’s outstanding chaser might be on the decline after his 19-race unbeaten run was ended by Cyrname had looked a knee-jerk exaggeration.
Altior – ridden by Nico de Boinville – won Sunday’s Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury
That run had been Altior’s first try at two and a half miles in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November on his first run of the season.
But jitters were hardly helped when Nico De Boinville-ridden Altior missed a run at Kempton over Christmas with a painful abscess and subsequent possible runs at back at Kempton and Ascot.
Henderson said: ‘There is no doubt we were under pressure today but I have got to say I was fairly confident.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said he was confident going into the race despite the pressure
‘Nico said what he really liked was when he asked him to put it to bed the gears were still there and they worked very well. As much as anything it will have done his confidence the world of good.
‘What happened at Ascot was not nice and it took a lot of getting over. It is lining up to be a very good Queen Mother Champion Chase.’
Henderson’s Festival hand was further strengthened when Chantry House defied a 6lb penalty to beat Manvers House in the Betfair Exchange Novices’ Hurdle under Barry Geraghty.
Altior (left) is one of the favourites for next months’ Queen Mother Champion Chase
Altior won the prestigious race at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 on Ladies Day
With the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite Shiskin also in the Henderson stable, the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle may end up being Chantry House’s Festival target.
Henderson’s Might Bite is also heading to the Festival but it will be to contest the Cross Country Chase after he finished third to Native River, the rival who beat him in the 2018 Gold Cup, in the Denman Chase.
The chance to emulate Kauto Star and re-gain his Gold Cup crown is the target of Colin Tizzard-trained Native River, who made all under 22-year-old Jonjo O’Neill.
Trainer Paul Nicholls admitted he might consider supplementing Pic D’Orhy to the Champion Hurdle after the Harry Cobden-ridden 33-1 shot beat Ciel De Neige three-quarters of a length in the Betfair Hurdle.