Published 30th January
ALTIOR is a price-based selection at current odds to ward off the threat posed by younger pretenders and record a hat-trick of Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase wins.
Much as I’m an admirer of Defi Du Seuil, and acknowledging the potential of Chacun Pour Soi, it’s hard to accept that Nicky Henderson’s star is not favourite given he’s unbeaten in all four previous Festival visits.
The ten-year-old started that particular sequence in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, followed by the Arkle in his novice season over fences and then the last two renewals of the two-mile chase championship.
Indeed, he’s five from five at Cheltenham (having won a Grade 2 novice hurdle there in November 2015) and unbeaten overall on all starts outside of bumpers prior to his defeat by Ascot specialist Cyrname in a 2m5f chase at the Berkshire track on sole outing this season.
It’s hard to accept that Nicky Henderson’s star is not favourite given he’s unbeaten in all four previous Festival visits.
That seems to have set the alarm bells ringing where the rest of the campaign is concerned but, given the circumstances, it’s far from conclusive proof that he’s on the downgrade.
Although he’s missed a couple of obvious engagements in the two months since, it’s worth remembering the first of his Champion Chase victories came off the back of just one run that season - in the Game Spirit at Newbury in February.
In other words, Henderson still has ample time to get him back on track for a race in which he has put up top-line performances over a course and distance at which he remains unbeaten.
Defi Du Seuil also has a compelling record at Cheltenham - albeit not good as the selection’s - and seems to be developing into the real deal over fences.
Philip Hobbs’s seven-year-old is the main danger in my eyes (Chacun Pour Soi, his Punchestown conqueror, having raced only in France and Ireland) but is generally half the odds of the selection and that seems hard to justify on all known form.
Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Wednesday 11th March
1pt win ALTIOR (7-2 William Hill, 100-30 Betfair Sportsbook, BetVictor, Betway, Paddy Power)
Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo