Cheltenham Festival 2018: Altior shines to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Altior landed a superb victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on the second day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
And Nicky Henderson's star could bid to extend his unbeaten sequence over obstacles stepped up to 2m4f in the JLT Melling Chase at the Randox Health Grand National meeting at Aintree Racecourse in four weeks' time.
Despite coming on and off the bridle and probably not enjoying the rain-softened ground, under Nico De Boinville, the eight-year-old showed all his class to romp home by seven lengths from the Wilie Mullins-trained Min (11-4) with God's Own a further 11 lengths back in third.
Altior was winning at the Festival for a third successive year having won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2016 and the Arkle Trophy Chase 12 months ago.
Despite only two days ago being said to be lame with a poultice on his foot, Altior won for the 13th time over obstacles - eight of those over fences.
The clash with Douvan didn't materialise and Mullins' other big gun, fell before he could ever get into a battle.
It wasn't plain sailing either for Altior as he looked in some trouble as Politologue, God's Own and Min were going well ahead of him. But he was galvanised by De Boinville and flew up the hill to win in style.
It provided Henderson with a record 60th winner at the Festival and gave him a fifth victory in the Grade One feature on Ladies Day.
Henderson said: "We've been lucky enough to have been down this road a fair few times.
"It's 90 per cent re lief, and 10 per cent pure joy. Everybody's done their bit.
"It's been a long winter, but I've a team back there who have just done everything."
Henderson went on: "It's amazing when you see a horse appreciated like that.
"He stays this trip very, very well. It does look he'd love another half a mile. Would he get three (miles)? I don't know.
"It's only his second run of the year, so we've been playing against the clock a little bit.
"You knew he had a fight on his hands, but he had nowhere to go for a moment. As soon as he saw that daylight he was up and gone very quickly - and he was going to win. The anxiety had gone and he wasn't going to get caught.
"I think we're in ground that doesn't lend itself to these classy horses, the gear changes and split-second movements, it's not easy when the ground is like this.
"When their class is b eing eliminated a bit because of it, they have to show they are brave as well."
De Boinville said: "I was in serious trouble the whole way round. It's not his ground at all.
"His jumping just kept him in the race. He's some horse.
"He's had a hard race there. He's some horse to get me out of trouble."
He added: "He's exceptional. He's the best of the best. That was just sensational. Boy, am I lucky to ride him.
"Everyone loves an Irish banker, but how about an English one?"
The rider reserved special praise for Henderson, saying: "That was a great training performance. To come back from a scare on Monday, that was a great training performance."
On Min and Douvan, Mullins said: "Min ran a terrific race, he was going away from the third and fourth horse and just met a superstar on the day. It was a tremendous training performance from Nicky and the horse.
"We did well to finish second. Paul (Townend) gave him a fantastic ride, he came through at the right time and it looked like the winner was beaten but he just found another gear going up the hill.
"To me, watching what Douvan was doing at the time, he looked to be back to himself. Patrick (Mullins) looked to be very comfortable. I just hope he wasn't racing too fresh and that he might not have finished off his race, but Patrick was riding him with huge confidence anyhow. It looks well for the future that we could get him back to himself."
God's Own could head to the Melling Chase, which he won two years ago.
Trainer Tom George said: "I'm proud of him. He didn& #039;t like that ground, but he still put in a good show. The spark is still there and there is another good day in him.
"It is a credit to him, given the situation he was in. We had to run to get the match practice into him. It bodes well for the future when we get the good ground for him.
"The horse was very fresh and we do train them for this time of year, so it shows he has still got it. I don't know what the gap is between Aintree and Punchestown and we have got to think carefully. We have got to pick where the ground will be best, as we have got that run into him today."Source: Google News