London – Financial gains will be thin on the ground for the successful prediction of Altior’s record-equalling 18th consecutive victory as the brilliant two-miler bids to retain his Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase title.
There will not be many prizes for originality either – so given the low-risk and low-reward equation in the highlight of Cheltenham’s Wednesday card, it may just be worth daring to think the unthinkable.
A yawning seven lengths separated Altior from his nearest pursuer, Min, a year ago, once Nicky Henderson’s superstar had engaged his famous overdrive and swept decisively clear.
Twelve months on, there has been no discernible dimming of Altior’s shining light – and, at the age of just nine, there is no rational reason why there should be.
In fact, with three routinely dominant victories under his belt so far this season – two Grade 1s and a Grade Two – Altior’s path to the Festival has been notably smoother than in his graduation year, when a wind operation delayed his return until almost mid-February and limited him to that solitary pre-Cheltenham outing.
That points perhaps to an even better Altior then this time round – a possibility entirely reflected in his likely long odds-on starting price, however, and good reason therefore to consider the alternatives.
If Altior has every right to improve on his 2018 performance, then the same is true – only more so – of the year-younger Min.
After his Cheltenham exertions last March, a month later Willie Mullins’ contender could not cope with Politologue over 4000m at Aintree or his own two stablemates Un De Sceaux and Douvan in Punchestown’s Champion Chase.
But on his return this season, with the minimum fuss, Min has given weight and a beating to Shattered Love over 4000m at Punchestown – then followed up over an extended 3200m at Leopardstown last month.
Altior could not have achieved either victory any more easily – and although it will be a stretch for some to entertain the idea that those seven lengths between them can be overturned, at the odds it is worth an interest.
Irrespective of that outcome, Ireland may well be set for another profitable day – with Delta Work a very worthy favourite in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase.
The home defence of the 4800m novice-chase championship is stout – but in Delta Work it is highly likely to meet its match.
Whereas rivals have had various complicating issues on the road to Cheltenham, Gordon Elliott’s champion in waiting has had a seamless campaign of three straight and emphatic victories – the last two at Grade 1 level.
Delta Work arrived in the Cotswolds last spring perhaps under-estimated, even apparently by some of those in his own camp. He was a narrow and gutsy winner of the Pertemps final then, though, and has since found his true vocation.
Tiger Roll is another Elliott favourite whose claims are hard to ignore, especially after his unexpected win when he warmed up in a Grade 2 hurdle. The Grand National winner will be a banker of the meeting for many, and looks to have his field covered in the Glenfarclas Chase – en route back to Aintree, of course.
Mullins may well be in business in the Coral Cup, in which he cornered the market with a dozen possibles at the confirmation stage.
The Closutton handler will have been relieved to see his leading contender Uradel make the cut and he looks dangerously well treated near the foot of the weights following his eye-catching run at Leopardstown last month.
Elliott’s Lethal Steps is a tentative choice in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – better known as the Fred Winter.
In the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Sams Profile may conceivably need further to be at his best, but has established a level of form that ought to see him competitive.
At the other end of the card, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Paul Nicholls has chosen Ask For Glory from his strong team this year and has prospects of putting one over on the raiding party. – Press Association
SELECTIONS (UK times):
CHELTENHAM: 1.30 Sams Profile, 2.10 DELTA WORK (NAP), 2.50 Uradel, 3.30 Min, 4.10 Tiger Roll, 4.50 Lethal Steps, 5.30 Ask For Glory.
HUNTINGDON: 1.45 Finawn Bawn, 2.25 Vivaccio, 3.05 See Forever, 3.45 Derrynane, 4.25 Enlighten, 5.05 Arthur’s Reuben, 5.40 Soyouthinksoagain.
KEMPTON: 4.40 Valley Belle, 5.10 April Wine, 5.45 Ulster, 6.15 Torolight, 6.45 Shug, 7.15 Bond Angel, 7.45 Cold Fire, 8.15 Elusif.
LINGFIELD: 1.55 Fiction Writer, 2.35 Little Miss Daisy, 3.15 Beat Le Bon, 3.55 Call Out Loud, 4.35 Royal Born, 5.15 Orobas.
DOUBLE: Delta Work and Tiger Roll