‘He’s a superstar’ – Altior wins thrilling Champion Chase at Cheltenham

'He's a superstar' - Altior wins thrilling Champion Chase at Cheltenham
It was a third consecutive Festival triumph for Altior, winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 before last year’s Arkle success

Altior powered to a brilliant win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on a dramatic day at the Cheltenham Festival.

The evens favourite, ridden by Nico de Boinville, shrugged off a late fitness scare to provide another big victory for trainer Nicky Henderson, who landed the Champion Hurdle with Buveur D’Air 24 hours earlier.

Douvan fell at the fourth last and Altior was behind the leaders at the home turn but had plenty in reserve to beat Min (5-2), with 40-1 outsider God’s Own third.

Earlier, the Festival’s all-time leading jockey Ruby Walsh was stood down from racing after suffering a suspected broken leg in a fall.

Meanwhile, trainer Gordon Elliott celebrated a 469-1 treble thanks to victories for Samcro, Tiger Roll and Veneer Of Charm.

And Presenting Percy triumphed at the Festival for the second year running with an impressive victory in the RSA Chase.

Amazing Altior triumphs

Altior has a racing record of 14 wins in 16 outings

Altior, last year’s Arkle Chase winner, had been lame on Monday, but was passed fit to race and showed his well-being by taking his unbeaten run over jumps to 13.

But it was not completely straightforward. The horse appeared to hit a flat spot midway through the two-mile contest on soft ground before looming in the shadow of Min and surging clear after the final fence.

Douvan, a Willie Mullins-trained stablemate of Min running for the first time since a shock defeat in this race last year, had been travelling well in front before falling.

Victory for Altior provided a 60th Festival win for the meeting’s all-time leading trainer Henderson, who also has the favourite for Friday’s Gold Cup in Might Bite.

No trainer has ever won the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup in the same year.

“It’s good to watch Altior do that. When he pulled him out it he was electric, wasn’t he?” Henderson told BBC Radio 5 live.

“To find those gears in that crowd you have to be pretty good.

“In 2016, we had to retire and say goodbye to one of the greats, Sprinter Sacre.

“Within 12 months of retiring him, we’ve got something creeping along that’s started to look like him. To see two of them in such a short space of time is extraordinary.”

De Boinville said he had to use ‘plan Z’ when he was forced to wait before Altior moved into top gear.

“To come back from the scare of two days ago and do that was incredible,” said the jockey.

“He’s exceptional – the best of the best – and that was sensational. What a superstar he is and, boy, am I lucky to ride him.”

Trainer Nicky Henderson is congratulated on a fifth Champion Chase victory by the Duchess of Cornwall


Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent at Cheltenham:

That was a fairly extraordinary and, as a result, unforgettable success by Altior who had looked to all the world to be in a fairly unpromising position at the second-last fence.

But in a matter of a couple of strides he accelerated to grab the initiative and end up recording a third Festival win that can only be described as runaway.

Douvan may have fallen, but what was great to witness was the apparent return to his old self, jumping fabulously and, as they say, ‘tanking along’ prior to the mishap.

Photographers on the course during a race on the second day of the Festival

Treble top for Elliott

Elliott saw hot favourite Apple’s Jade beaten in the Mares’ Hurdle as last year’s leading trainer drew a blank on day one, but he bounced back with three wins on a great day for the Irish.

Samcro was a popular winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle for 18-year-old jockey Jack Kennedy, justifying the horse’s odds of 8-11 and status as Irish ‘banker’ of the meeting.

The unbeaten six-year-old took his winning run to seven with a two-and-three-quarter-length defeat of Black Op.

“With horses like this, there is lots of pressure on them delivering, but Samcro did it well and we can enjoy this now,” said the trainer.

Kennedy clocked up a double when landing the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on 33-1 outsider Veneer Of Charm.

Elliott had sealed another success in the preceding race when the remarkable Tiger Roll (7-1) won the Cross Country Chase under Keith Donoghue.

That was a third Festival victory for Tiger Roll after the 2014 Triumph Hurdle and last year’s National Hunt Chase. Bookmakers reacted by cutting his odds for the Grand National at Aintree in April to 14-1 from 33s.

Mixed fortunes for the Walshs

Katie Walsh celebrates her first Festival winner since 2010

Presenting Percy, the 5-2 favourite ridden by Davy Russell for trainer Patrick Kelly, ran out a convincing seven-length winner of the RSA Chase from Monalee.

Bryony Frost had led for a long way on Black Corton but eventually finished out of the places.

Walsh, who only returned from a broken leg six days earlier, was injured again when his mount Al Boum Photo fell at the second last fence.

He is stable jockey for trainer Willie Mullins and his absence led to a reshuffle of riding plans.

Deputy Paul Townend took the ride on joint favourite Max Dynamite, but Mark Walsh claimed the Coral Cup aboard 20-1 chance Bleu Berry for Mullins’ fourth winner of the 2018 meeting.

And a fifth came courtesy of 25-1 chance Relegate in the Champion Bumper, ridden by Ruby’s sister Katie.

“My heart goes out to Ruby, but that’s racing,” she said.

“What’s his bad fortune has turned out to be a marvellous day for me, but all I can think of is him to be honest.

“He’s up and he’s talking, we are not waiting to hear if he’s woken up yet and that’s the main thing.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *