ALTIOR, centre, wins Champion Chase
Superstar steeplechaser Altior was made to dig deep and battle magnificently to successfully defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday.
The victory was the Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old’s 18th consecutive victory, matching the record held by erstwhile champion chaser Big Buck’s. And it was Altior’s fourth victory overall at the Festival.
Sent off as the 4-11 favourite, Altior galloped confidently throughout most of the 3200m Grade 1 contest, tracking pacemaker Saint Calvados. A small mistake at the water jump did not seem to unsettle him unduly.
However, he seemed to lose momentum in the soft going inside the final 200m and his rivals were ready to pounce.
The crowd gasped when the champion looked in big trouble jumping the last unsteadily – with rivals Politilogue (11-1) and Sceau Royal (16-1) right alongside him.
Jockey Nico de Boinville got Altior balanced again and asked him to prove his class and bravery. Which he did, in stirring style, pulling clear of his two adversaries to win by nearly two lengths.
De Boinville said: “He’s a phenomenal athlete and he just seems to find an extra gear from somewhere. He doesn’t know how to lose at the moment – long may it continue.”
Bookmaker Paddy Power immediately made Altior the 3-1 favourite to complete a hat-trick of Champion Chase victories in 2020. – www.racingpost.com