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Altior Ready to Cement Legacy Among Cheltenham Greats

Posted on February 02, 2019 by Cathy Carter

Cheltenham-1You have to go all the way back to April 2015 to find a race in which Altior was defeated. It was just his 3rd outing, a national hunt flat race at Punchestown, and the 14/1 Altior was well-schooled, finishing 6th in a race that had several prominent horses of today, including Bellshill, Supasundae and Disko.

17 races later and Nicky Henderson’s Altior hasn’t missed a step. It’s a run that has included the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Arkle and, of course, last year’s Champion Chase. A hat-trick of Grade 1 wins at Cheltenham, achieved with the minimum of fuss.

Legacy can be a strange thing to witness in horse racing, as sometimes we are not fully aware that history is unfolding in front of our very eyes. Altior’s effortless victories perhaps clouds the fact that we are seeing one of the greats in action. Few horses have given him a real battle: the last time a horse finished within 4 lengths of Altior was back in 2015, when Ch’tibello finished just over a length behind in a Grade 3 hurdle.

It’s perhaps unfair to judge Altior’s career over those he has beaten, but it’s natural to lament that he did not come up against, for example, Douvan when he was at his best. On the other hand, the likes of Min and Un De Sceaux – remarkable horses in their own right – have challenged and been swatted aside with ease.

Altior odds-on for Champion Chase

That brings us to this year’s Champion Chase, when once again it’s not quite clear who is going to give Altior a challenge. The latest Cheltenham betting odds for the Champion Chase show Altior priced as low 4/11 with Bet365 for his 4th consecutive Festival victory. The best odds you can currently find from top bookies is 4/7 from Betfair. Incredible confidence for such a high-quality race.

 

Of course, the horse touted recently as being the one to finally take Altior’s crown is Footpad. He is, for the moment, given odds of 7/1 by Betfair. He is due to run in the Dublin Festival a couple of days from now, and it really feels like Footpad needs a performance as his runs this season have been fairly unremarkable.

Unclear where challenge will come from

Min, priced at 12/1 by Betfair, and Un De Sceaux (16/1) are also found at the top of the betting markets, but Willie Mullins may use them elsewhere if he feels they are not up to the task of beating Altior. Looking at the rest of the field, the likes of Sceau Royal (16/1), Fox Norton (25/1) and Simply Ned (33/1) don’t really look like challenging Altior, short of capitalising on an off day, which as we have seen, doesn’t often happen to Nicky Henderson’s charge.

While anything can happen in horse racing, it seems Altior is almost certain to take that second successive Champion Chase. Footpad, who spent the past year rated just behind him in Timeform’s chasing rankings, must be at his very best – if Mullins decides to run him in the Champion Chase – but event that might be enough if Altior is in the mood.

Cheltenhham-2

In the end, regardless of his competitors, we should be appreciative that we are watching one of the modern great horses. Altior may not have given us the thrilling battles won by Kauto Star or the absolute hammerings handed out by Sprinter Sacre, but he is a great nonetheless. Perhaps we won’t appreciate just how great until his remarkable career comes to an end.


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