Al­tior’s un­beaten record looks safe

Cham­pion Chaser hard to beat in Tin­gle Creek 2017 Na­tional win­ner re­turns to Ain­tree

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Racing - By Mar­cus Army­tage

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

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