NICKY Henderson has confirmed that Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Altior will put his unbeaten record over steeplechase fences on the line at Sandown Park this weekend.
The eight-year-old, who races in the colours of Patricia Pugh, has not been seen in competitive action since winning the end of season Celebration Chase at the same track in late April.
Altior’s exploits in the 2017/18 campaign, including Champion Chase glory at the Cheltenham Festival, saw him earn a rating of 175 in the Anglo-Irish Jump Classification, just one pound behind Gold Cup winner Native River.
Henderson is chasing his second Tingle Creek Chase victory, having previously taken the prestigious two-mile contest with the outstanding Sprinter Sacre in 2012.
“Altior is in very good form and we are looking forward to Saturday,” said the champion trainer after 10 horses were declared for this prestigious Grade One race over two miles.
“We contemplated running in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month, but we were happy to wait for the Tingle Creek and he is in good order.
“We will look after him for the rest of the week and hope all goes well with him.
“It is shaping up to be a very good race, but we are delighted with him.”
Henderson is more relaxed after dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air’s comeback win in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle atoned for the desperately disappointing run of Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.
“With Buveur D’Air winning at Newcastle on Saturday, it was nice to get the show back on the road after Might Bite got beat at Haydock,” he added. “We are looking forward to the race.”
Un De Sceaux won the 2016 Tingle Creek and could bid to regain his crown for Willie Mullins.
Ireland’s champion trainer has also entered the prolific Great Field and Min, while Henry de Bromhead’s veteran Special Tiara completes the potential Irish challenge.
The Gavin Sheehan-ridden Saint Calvados caused an upset when beating the Mullins-trained Footpad on his seasonal reappearance at Naas, and his trainer Harry Whittington has already stated his intention to have a crack at Altior this weekend.
Nigel Twiston-Davies says Ballyoptic, runner up in Ayr’s Scottish Grand National, is set to reappear in this Saturday’s Becher Chase at Aintree.
Twiston-Davies views this race as the ideal preparation for next April’s Grand National at the iconic Merseyside track.
The trainer, who already has a record six wins to his name in this race over the National fences, could also run 2017 Becher winner Blaklion, Go Conquer and Calett Mad.
However it is Ballyoptic, beaten at Ayr in a photo-finish, which is attracting the most pre-race interest.
“We could have run in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at the weekend, but we would like to get some experience over the Grand National fences into him as hopefully he could be a horse for the National,” he said.
“He ran a fine race in the Scottish Grand National last time and seemed to stay the trip very well. He is a smart horse and if we can get him jumping slickly, then we would be hopeful of a good run. The Becher looks a good place to start and we are looking forward to it.”