Altior, Epatante and Santini headline Nicky Henderson’s contenders for the championship races at the Cheltenham festival 2020.
Henderson is the second most successful trainer in history at The Festival with 64 winners, one behind great rival Willie Mullins, and has been the leading trainer at the meeting nine times. If you are looking to find the latest betting offers for Cheltenham head to BettingLounge.co.uk
Altior is aiming for a third successive victory in the £400,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles, a feat achieved only once before by Badsworth Boy in 1983, 1984, 1985.
Now a 10-year-old, Altior tasted his first defeat over obstacles when stepped up in trip to two miles and five furlongs in the G2 1965 Chase at Ascot in November, but bounced back with a dominant victory back at two miles in the G2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on 8 February.
Altior is unbeaten in four starts at The Festival, having also captured the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase in 2017.
Speaking from his Seven Barrows Stables in Lambourn stables this morning, Henderson said: “All is going well with Altior. He has been ticking over since Newbury and will have a couple of schools before Cheltenham. I seldom school him but I think he just enjoys it.
“If we take Newbury as Altior’s first run of the season, which you have to really, it was perfect. If you were coming into the Tingle Creek or something on the back of that, you would say we are absolutely spot on.
“The disaster was the first run of the year – in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong ground over the wrong trip. I could not have made a worse job of it if I had tried! If it wasn’t for the hype and build up around the race, I should have really been the spoilt sport and taken him out on the morning of the race. But you couldn’t. It would have been a walkover and Ascot would not have been very happy with me, nor would the rest of the world.
“I paid the penalty for running him because it took him until Newbury to get over it. In fairness, I think Paul [Nicholls] says the same thing with Cyrname. It was a bruising race we had at Ascot, both having our first run of the season. Had they run before it in a prep race, I suspect both of them would have been all right. Altior was exhausted and there was no question of him running at Christmas.
“It looks a seriously good Champion Chase and should be a big battle. Altior is certainly fresh and well now, and the better ground, the better he will be. I suspect Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi probably handle softer ground better than we do, although Altior has won on soft ground. You saw at Newbury how Altior can change gear. You have to ask the question, and once Nico (de Boinville, jockey) did, he answered very quickly.”
Altior is the 2/1 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with sponsor Betway.