NICKY Henderson reported Altior to be in “spectacular form” after the star chaser enjoyed a racecourse gallop at Newbury.
The eight-year-old is unbeaten in 14 starts over jumps – a run that features three successive wins at the Cheltenham Festival, including last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Having sidestepped a possible outing in last weekend’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, he instead made an appearance at Newbury’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning, enjoying a solo spin in the hands of conditional jockey Ned Curtis.
Henderson revealed it is the first time Altior has worked on grass this season, and he is now counting down the days until his intended reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on December 8.
“I couldn’t have been happier with that. It was a much-needed away day for him and he’s just had a nice stretch over a mile and a half,” said the champion trainer. He’s in seriously good form – spectacular form.”
Should Altior come through the Tingle Creek unscathed, he has the option of tackling to three miles for the first time in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Altior was joined by a handful of stablemates, including dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air.
Just as he did last season, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old is due to return in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday week, but the unseasonably dry weather is giving Henderson cause for concern.
“Newcastle is the plan, but if it was good, good to firm, we’d all be worried,” he said.