Champion trainer Nicky Henderson is confident ante-post favourite Altior is “on schedule” to be ready for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Last year’s unbeaten Racing Post Arkle winner had his return to action delayed this season following a wind operation but is now set to resume cantering at Seven Barrows this week.
Henderson had Altior ready to run before the wind operation cropped up and he says that is a big bonus. Altior is the 5/4 favourite for the Queen Mother in March and, according to Henderson, it wouldn’t be a concern to go straight there without a run.
“We’d have had Altior out [already] if it wasn’t for the snow,” said Henderson. “We’re well on the schedule that was set. It’s quite tight to take in a race before but there’s no doubt he’ll be right for the festival. He was fit and ready to go when we had to stop so we have plenty of time.”
Altior has become arguably the biggest name in jumps racing and is unbeaten in five starts over hurdles and six races over fences to date. His hand in the Champion Chase has arguably strengthened while he’s been idle.
Last year’s beaten favourite Douvan has been ruled out for the season by Willie Mullins while his stablemate, Min, who finished second to Altior in the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham in 2016, blotted his copybook when losing the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase in the stewards’ room after he had edged out Simply Ned at Leopardstown this week.
The only upwardly mobile runner in the two-mile chasing division appears to the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue who supplemented his Tingle Creek win with victory in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton this week.
Politologue is the 7/2 second favourite for the Champion Chase following that impressive successive.
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