Altior’s unbeaten record looks safe
Champion Chaser hard to beat in Tingle Creek 2017 National winner returns to Aintree
Altior should get the defence of his Champion Chaser title off to a winning start in today’s Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park.
The eight-year-old, who is unbeaten in 14 races over hurdles and fences, indeed unbeaten since his final bumper in April 2015, missed this race last year because of wind surgery, but he has won twice over fences there, so the demanding course should hold no fears for him.
Although he is taking absolutely nothing for granted, trainer Nicky Henderson, boosted by Buveur D’air’s Fighting Fifth win a week ago, reports him to be in great form, saying: “He has had a very clean preparation and had an away day to Newbury, but only galloped a mile and a half on his own. He did not have a two-mile gallop like Buveur D’air that day. It was just to freshen him up.
“His schooling has been terrifying – never once inside the wings. Two-mile chasing around Sandown is one of the most exciting things in racing. It’s not going to be tactical, I think we all know there’ll be a right pace on and they will set a searching gallop.”
Altior may have just three rivals but they are all high-calibre. The Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux is 10 years old but will love the ground and on his last start at Punchestown, in April, he beat Douvan by 3½ lengths.
The other two have just graduated out of novice ranks and are still unexposed. Sceau Royal was only beaten once last year but missed the Arkle after a setback. However, he has the advantage of a run under his belt.
The same can be said of Saint Calvados, who claimed the notinsignificant scalp of last year’s Arkle winner Footpad at Naas last month. The five-year-old went far too fast in last year’s Arkle, and if he were to get into a rhythm in front without being taken on, he is perhaps the one to give Altior most to think about. However, if Altior is anywhere near his best he will take all the beating.
Lalor was an impressive winner at Cheltenham on his chasing debut and should take another step forwards in this sphere by winning the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Chase, although connections are reported to be concerned about his ability to be at his best on heavy ground.
The last time we saw One For Arthur on a racecourse he was winning the 2017 Grand National. After a year off with a tendon injury he returns to Aintree for today’s Betway Many Clouds Chase, which looks a nice reintroduction as Lucinda Russell builds him towards a second crack at the National.
Kieran Shoemark, the promising Flat jockey attached to Roger Charlton’s yard, has been suspended pending a hearing before the disciplinary panel after testing positive for a banned substance, believed to be cocaine. Shoemark, 22, broke six ribs and punctured a lung at Lingfield in June and only returned to the saddle three months ago. He faces a six-month suspension.
On track: Altior is back in action in the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown today