NICO de Boinville is the first to accept that there will never be another steeplechaser like Sprinter Sacre, the horse that made him.
So long known as the jockey entrusted with riding the fragile two-mile superstar on the gallops, the combination’s emotional Queen Mother Champion Chase win last March eclipsed even the rider’s Gold Cup victory on Coneygree 12 months previously.
Yet, with Sprinter Sacre retired, de Boinville hopes Altior can fill the void.
Winner of last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Nicky Henderson-trained horse switched to larger fences and is a red-hot favourite for next month’s Arkle Trophy, the two-mile championship race for novice chasers, after old foe Min, from the luckless yard of Willie Mullins, was ruled out because of injury.
After three months on the injury sidelines with a broken arm, de Boinville cannot wait for Altior to complete his Cheltenham preparations in today’s Betfair Exchange Chase, better known as the Game Spirit, at Newbury.
De Boinville returned to the saddle at Catterick on February 3 and his comeback rides have included a facile win on Henderson’s Might Bite, one of the favourite’s for the RSA Chase, at Doncaster on Thursday.
“Altior is in great form, his schooling has gone well and he’s working well – I’m very much looking forward to riding him in a race again,” said the jockey, who was a frustrated spectator when Altior won all three of his chase starts this term under the veteran rider Noel Fehily.
“When you’ve been out injured for a long time, every day you go racing is a good day, so I’m just glad to get back on him.
“He’s been very impressive so far this season for Noel Fehily and I’m just lucky the owners have decided to go back to me when they could easily have stuck with Noel.”
Fox Norton has been a revelation this season, winning first time out for Neil Mulholland at Cheltenham in October, which prompted his purchase by Ann and Alan Potts, who then sent him to Colin Tizzard.
His progress was halted by an injury he picked up after winning the Shloer Chase back at Prestbury Park in November.
“We’ve all seen Altior and he looks fantastic,” said Tizzard. “Fox Norton cut a leg when he won at Cheltenham. It was quite a bad cut and it took time to heal.
“For a month he didn’t do anything and we’ve gradually got him back. He would need a race before he goes to Cheltenham and this was the obvious race to go for. For these big championship races, you have to be on your game and one run should put him right.”
Novice chaser Politologue completed his Cheltenham preparations with victory in Kempton’s Graduation chase yesterday,
Owned by John Hales of One Man fame, the JLT Novices Chase over two-miles five-furlongs is likely to be the horse’s Festival target. The victory completed a double for Sam Twiston-Davies, stable jockey to champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who earlier brought up his fourth successive century of winners aboard Captain Buck’s.