Can Nicky Henderson Revitalise Altior Following a Disappointing Twelve Months?

Dual Champion Chase-winning star Altior has become a household name over the last five years, and his exploits at the Cheltenham Festival have resulte

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Dual Champion Chase-winning star Altior has become a household name over the last five years, and his exploits at the Cheltenham Festival have resulted in the 10-year old becoming one of the most recognisable names in the sport. However, Nicky Henderson’s talented chaser has endured an extremely underwhelming twelve months, and connections will be hoping that he can put that hugely disappointing campaign firmly behind him.

His long unbeaten run over the larger obstacles came to a crashing halt in November 2019, when the 2018 Tingle Creek winner was beaten by Paul Nicholl’s Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot. It was the first time that Henderson’s charge had tackled the longer trip, and he wasn’t able to keep up with the energetic seven-year old, weakening two from home.

Fans were understandably keen to witness Altior’s return to action at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. However, they were left disappointed, with connections deciding against a Champion Chase defence. Henderson blames himself for the Irish-bred gelding’s struggles, with the six-time Champion trainer admitting that he shouldn’t have sent him to the Berkshire track.

However, despite those regrets, the Seven Barrows handler is feeling confident ahead of his star chaser’s return to action in December. Connections are hoping for a far more straightforward campaign for the Irish-bred bay, and plans for a far more orthodox route to the Cheltenham Festival have been drawn up this time around. With the splint issue having been corrected, and a successful gallop at Newbury under his belt, the hugely talented 10-year old is ready to return to action, and has already been installed as the 5/2 favourite for the 2020 Tingle Creek Chase.

Henderson is feeling bullish about Altior’s chances of bouncing back and has recently suggested that he’s “never seen him move better”. Jockey Nico de Boinville is also reportedly pleased with his progress, and having swerved the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, he should be ready for his December trip to Sandown.

National Hunt enthusiasts are anticipating another fascinating renewal of the Grade 1 Steeplechase, with Defi Du Seuil and Politologue also featuring prominently in the ante-post betting. It is just one of a number of high profile races taking place throughout the month with the Becher Handicap Chase, Grand Sefton Handicap Chase and the much-anticipated King George VI Chase amongst the highlights. Even though it’s not always possible to watch every single one of these races live, fans and bettors can stay up to date with the latest developments by visiting Paddy Power’s today’s racing results page. An extremely busy month culminates with another hugely competitive renewal of the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on December 27th.

Altior has gone off as the odds-on favourite in each of his last six outings, however, given his prolonged absence, and the competitive nature of the 2020 Tingle Creek, he is unlikely to begin this contest at such prohibitive odds this time around. Henderson will be keen to take a more traditional approach this year, and his path to the Champion Chase is likely to be far more straightforward, and that looks likely to suit all parties. Connections will be keen to put the last twelve months firmly behind them, and they will be feeling quietly confident that the vastly experienced chaser can roll back the years in Surrey next month.