Nicky Henderson reflects on 'wonderful journey' as Seven Barrows stable star Altior retires
Nicky Henderson has described the career of Altior as a ‘wonderful journey’ after it was announced that the dual Champion Chase winner would be retiring.
The Seven Barrows handler revealed that Patricia and Christopher Pugh, the owners of Altior, made their decision after he finished second in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown in April.
Henderson said: “I would love to have seen him go on, but it’s the owner’s prerogative and I know they made their mind up after Sandown, so we have to respect it.
“The one thing that both Nico [De Boinville] and I wanted to do was to see him over two-and-a-half miles because that is what he wants.
“However, it’s over, he’ll have a good retirement with Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald and we have to look back at what was an incredible career.”
Henderson admitted how incredible it was to see Altior break through at Seven Barrows at the same time as the great Sprinter Sacre was coming to the end of his career.
“When Sprinter Sacre retired, he [Altior] was waiting to follow on and to have one horse like that was great, but to have two like that was ridiculous really and you can’t believe how lucky you are.
“They were both utterly unique and the fact they both won Supreme Novice Hurdles, Arkles and two Champion Chases is bizarre.”
During a phenomenal career, the 11-year-old ran up an unbeaten record of 19 races over jumps – a world record – which included four victories at the Cheltenham Festival.
In the record, which began in October 2015 and ended in April 2019, he won the Supreme Novice Hurdle (2016), the Arkle Trophy (2017) and back-to-back wins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2018 and 2019.
“He won 19 out of 19, he won just over £1.4m and for three years he was completely unbeatable.
“In those 19 races, 10 of them were Group 1s and five were Group 2s, so it wasn’t as if he was messing around,” added Henderson.
Altior’s first defeat in 20 starts came in November 2019, when he was defeated by the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname.
However, he returned to winning ways in the Game Spirit at Newbury in February 2020, before his final race at Sandown in April, when he was defeated by Greaneteen.
Henderson said: “He is 11, but there is nothing wrong with him and in his last race at Sandown he ran a fantastic race.
“We had troubles going into Cheltenham and we couldn’t get him there, but we got him ready for Sandown and he ran brilliantly – just like his old self.
“He was jumping and he went a million miles an hour and only just got beaten,” he said. “You could argue that at his best he shouldn’t be getting beat, but it was still a good performance.”
Due to two separate injuries, Altior has not raced at the Cheltenham Festival since 2019 and Henderson explained how unfortunate this was.
“He was a pretty straightforward horse, he had no complications and sadly the year before last he got a splint before Cheltenham.
“This year, he got some muck on his lungs and it was cruel because we were in a pretty good place. Up until then he never had a problem in his life.
“We have been very lucky and it’s been a wonderful journey that we will never forget.”