Break has prepared Altior for Celebration Chase – de Boinville

Nico de Boinville celebrates Altior's win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Nico de Boinville celebrates Altior's win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
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NICO de Boinville believes the extra time between his races will help Altior in his bid to end the season on a high in the Celebration Chase at Sandown, the culmination of the 2017-18 National Hunt season.

The star two-miler may have had a truncated campaign due to a wind operation, but he showed his brilliance to lift the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last month after winning his prep race at Newbury in February.

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson resisted the temptation of running him over two and a half miles at Aintree two weeks ago to wait for this Grade One over two miles, which he won 12 months ago.

It was a decision that had the total approval of the jockey, who reports Altior to be primed for a return to action.

“I worked him on Sunday after coming back from Ayr and he’s in good nick, good to go,” said de Boinville who has become one of the most accomplished big race riders of his generation because of his cool temperament.

“I think we were in trouble at one stage (at Cheltenham), but that’s why I’m grateful we’ve waited for Sandown and didn’t go to Aintree as I think those extra couple of weeks have helped him.

“I think he is very relaxed, he’s really settled down compared to what he was like as a novice hurdler – he used to be a flat-out runaway. I guess horses change with age.

“He’s fairly straightforward and very versatile and you’ll know he’ll stay.”

Altior, who compares favourably with Henderson’s former Champion Chase hero Sprinter Sacre, has five rivals as he seeks to stretch his winning streak to 14.

They include the 2017 Champion Chase victor Special Tiara who is being rerouted to Sandown after being a late withdrawal from Tuesday’s Champion Chase at Punchestown due to the rain-softened ground.

However yesterday’s heavy rain at the Esher track will not favour Henry De Bromhead’s horse. An intriguing entry is Diego Du Charmil, who put up an eye-catching display to win the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Grand National day under teenage jockey Harry Cobden.

Meanwhile Blaklion, a first fence casualty in the National when brought down, heads the field in the bet365 Gold Cup – formerly the Whitbread.

The Becher Chase winner will carry top weight for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies who also runs Benbens and Bigbadjohn.

Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost team up with Present Man and the resurgent Philip Hobbs runs Rock The Kasbah.

Meanwhile Warren Greatrex has kept faith with Irish amateur jockey Noel McParlan for Missed Approach rather than utilising a more experienced rider for this three mile, five furlong marathon.

The pair teamed up to win the Fulke Walwyn and Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival last month – but that race was restricted to amateur riders.

“He claims 3lb off his back, which can only help, and obviously he did nothing wrong last time, did he?” said Greatrex.