News Nicky Henderson says Altior is not yet a definite runner at Newbury

Nicky Henderson says Altior is not yet a definite runner at Newbury


Nicky Henderson is "not going to promise" Altior will take up his entry in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

The superstar chaser has not been seen in competitive action so far this season after a well-publicised breathing operation ruled him out of an intended return in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December.

Henderson has been thrilled with how his charge has performed since returning to full work, but speaking at a media visit to his stables on Tuesday morning to promote the Betfair 'Super Saturday' fixture, the Seven Barrows handler stopped short of committing to a weekend comeback.

He said: "I think he is going to go but I am not going to promise.

"I did want to get another school into him. He schooled last week and he was fantastic, but he was nearly too fantastic. He would want to do it again to take that freshness out of him. He was so fresh that he wanted to murder them.

"He went 10 furlongs this morning on the grass and he was in great form."

Henderson admitted he would prefer a little more time to prepare his eight-year-old, but is keen to give him a run before the Queen Mother Champion Chase in just five weeks' time.

Altior is as short as even-money to clinch the two-mile chasing crown and claim a third Cheltenham Festival success following his previous triumphs in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy.

"I'd buy another week with him," Henderson added.

"The only danger is, because he is so talented, the work is too easy for him. We are lucky we have got so many good horses but he can chew them up a bit.

"I'd like to get a race into him. If he gets beaten, he gets beaten - he is going to get beaten one day. You have got to hope he doesn't, but you have got to look at it like that.

"His work is fantastic, his wind is fantastic and his jumping fantastic.

"All in all he is just in great form, he really is."

Reflecting on the wind problem that ruled him out of first half of the season, Henderson said: "It only occurred when we moved him. On our all-weather you couldn't hear a thing, it was only one day when we moved him on to the grass and that was his first day up there.

"The vet thought you could leave it, but would you get through the season? The chances are you wouldn't.

"We had an option - listen, leave it. On the other hand, the Champion Chase is the only target and you couldn't take the chance.

"If you ran him in the Tingle Creek and it hadn't worked, we wouldn't have time to get back for this."

Altior will face a maximum of six rivals if he makes his eagerly-anticipated return in the race better known as the Game Spirit, which he won last year.

Colin Tizzard's Fox Norton chased him home 12 months ago before going on to finish second in the Champion Chase.

He subsequently claimed Grade One events at Aintree and Punchestown and made a successful start to the current campaign at Cheltenham in November. However, he will return to Newbury with something to prove after pulling up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

In Altior's absence, the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue has been the star of the two-mile chasing division this season, winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, beating Fox Norton in the Tingle Creek and dominating in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.

Saint Calvados has won his last two starts at Newbury for Harry Whittington and has been given the option, but is also in the Kingmaker at Warwick against fellow novices.

Gary Moore's Traffic Fluide, Harry Fry's Overtown Express and Alan King's Valdez, who has been off the track for over three years, complete the potential field.