Thu, 31 Dec 2020
NICKY Henderson has stressed that retirement is not an option for Altior after his shock defeat in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on Sunday.
The two-time Champion Chase winner was well beaten by 20-1 shot Nube Negra, finishing three-and-a-half lengths adrift on his seasonal debut.
Altior, who last raced in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February, was heavily backed to win the race – something he achieved in 2018.
Despite finishing second, the Seven Barrows trainer was quick to talk down it being Altior’s last race.
Henderson said: “We’re not talking about retirement, I can assure you, and we’ll probably go to the Game Spirit at Newbury.
“I don’t think Altior ran too badly. He didn’t travel like he should do and he didn’t do what he should do, but he finished the race well.
“Thank god we didn’t run him at Sandown [in the Betfair Tingle Creek] because that really would have done him in.
“It was soft enough for him at Kempton, but it wasn’t anywhere as near as it was like at Sandown.
“The main thing is that he is back here safely and we’ll give him time to digest it all.”
Epatante & Altior galloping around Newbury - Pic: Francesca Altoft.
There was also another shock for the Henderson yard at Kempton as Epatante lost to Silver Streak in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle.
Henderson said: “She is fine and I think I know where it all went wrong and we almost certainly won’t run again before Cheltenham.”
However, there was no surprise in the Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices' Chase on Sunday as Shishkin romped to victory.
“I thought he was great and I think everyone else did as well because he was very good, very clean and he does everything you ask him to do.
“You don’t have to ask for a lot either – he just gives it because it is pure natural talent.”
Nicky Henderson will be having a quiet few weeks at his Seven Barrows yard
The 70-year-old did explain that it’s going to be a quiet spell for the team over the next couple of weeks as they reassess their targets for the New Year.
He said: “We’re certainly not shutting up shop, we’ll keep going, but what I intend to do is to take it a bit easier for the next fortnight.
“It’s for two reasons. They have to get vaccinated first and then the second reason is because of the ground and there are only two going descriptions at the moment and that’s heavy or abandoned.
“We have had a few little problems, so it’s a good time to clear the decks a bit and sort everything out because it’s been a busy period.”
Henderson also confirmed that Buveur D’Air and Champ are both working hard to return for the Cheltenham Festival in March.