Thu, 30 Jan 2020
NICKY Henderson remains positive that stable star Altior can rediscover his top form ahead of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, which kicks off on March 10.
The 10-year-old hasn’t run since his first career defeat over obstacles in November when he finished second to the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Henderson was speaking ahead of Altior’s potential return to action in the Game Spirit at Newbury on February 8.
“The plan is Newbury a week on Saturday, but it’s been a frustrating time,” he said. “We said we’d try him over a distance and it was his first run of the season.
“Normally in your first run you don’t want your horse wound up to 100 per cent because he has a long way to go.
“He was where he would normally be for his first race, but the other horse was very fit and was on his best trip at his best track.
“It was a desperately hard race and we didn’t quite get to it – he was very tired at the end.”
And with what happened to Altior at Ascot, Henderson compared the 10-year-old to two-time Queen Mother Champion, Sprinter Sacre.
“He put a lot into it,” he admitted. “Sprinter was the same because he’d be winning championship races very easily, but you’d never want to underestimate what they put into it.
“Because of the adrenalin and atmosphere, a lot of energy is in that because they soak it all up and with Sprinter it used to buzz him up because he was a showman.
“People thought he was having easy races, but he wasn’t because he was always putting in 110 per cent and that’s why he was so good.
“It takes some time to get over certain races and it has taken Altior some time to get over his race at Ascot,” said Henderson.
A number of big stars at Seven Barrows have been affected with injuries this year, but Henderson still feels confident ahead of the Cheltenham Festival – where Altior will be chasing a third straight Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He said: “With our big boys, things have been good, but we have been a bit unlucky really with Buveur D’Air being out for the year, Angels Breath being out for the year and Altior having a bit of a flop start.
“We have to get him [Altior] back into the fray, but we still have a lot of options because we still have five in the Champion Hurdle who have realistic chances of winning.”