Horse Talk with Simon Jackson:
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NICKY HENDERSON has given an upbeat report on Altior ahead of his proposed return at Newbury on Saturday, while admitting that he would have preferred the race to come a week later.
The dual Cheltenham Festival winner is unbeaten in 11 starts over obstacles but has not run since winning the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown in April, 2017.
A breathing problem was discovered in November when being prepared for the Grade 1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December which required wind surgery.
The eight-year-old is set to make is belated comeback in the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury where he is set to face a maximum six opponents.
“I think Altior is going to run at Newbury on Saturday though I am not going to promise, Henderson said at a stable visit on Tuesday organised by Betfair.
“I did want to get another school into him. He schooled last week and was fantastic, but he was nearly too fantastic. He needs to do it again to take that freshness out of him – he was so fresh that he wanted to murder them.
“We weren’t able to school him today (because of the frosty conditions) and I suspect we won’t be able to do so tomorrow.
“I am not saying I am not going to run him because I cannot jump 10 fences with him, because he was brilliant last week. He is just very fresh. He went 10 furlongs on the grass this morning and he was in great form.
“I would buy another week – I really would, but the only danger is, because he is so talented, the work is too easy for him.
“We are lucky – we have got a lot of good horses, but he can chew them up a bit!
“I have to be realistic about this – I would like to get a race into Altior – if he gets beaten, he gets beaten. He is going to get beaten one day. I hope he doesn’t. I am not being down on him – his work is fantastic. His wind is fantastic, his jumping is fantastic – all in all he is just in great form and in excellent shape.
“He is working as well as he ever did – the frightening thing is how good he is – he is just a very, very, very, very good horse. He has won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, won the Arkle and he is unbeaten over obstacles.
“We are all excited to have him back. The Champion Chase is what we need and it is just finding the right route in. We are all happy that he is pretty ready to go – we took his blood this morning and that will have to come up all right. All being well, we are looking forward to running at Newbury on Saturday.
“He is coming into a competitive race against fit horses – that is the danger. The competition will be as strong as in March.
“The best way to prepare for Cheltenham is for him to race on Saturday – the timing is good – four and half weeks between races.”
Horse Talk with Simon Jackson. Showcasing horse racing in London and the south east.