I'm not wrapping Altior up in cotton wool, says Nicky Henderson

NICKY HENDERSON says it is not his fault that superstar steeplechaser Altior will face just two opponents in today's Grade One Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Superstar steeplechaser Altior faces just two rivals when he bids to extend his winning sequence to 17 at Ascot today.

A combination of good ground and Altior’s prodigious reputation means the champion two-miler only has to beat the worthy Fox Norton and Diego Du Charmil to extend his winning sequence.

Victory would, therefore, set up the tantalising performance of Altior having to make a successful defence of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March to equal the modern-day record of 18 set by Big Buck’s.

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“He won’t mind good ground. I don’t think it will get quick, but if they have a drop of rain that is grand and will be fine,” said Henderson last night.

Trainer Nicky Henderson, during a stable visit to his Seven Barrows Stables in Lambourn. Picture: Simon Galloway/PA

“There is nothing I can do about the field. Nobody wants to see a three-horse race and it is a shame. You get good sponsorship and prize-money, but we have to have a route for these top horses to take them to the top races.

“The last thing I’m going to say is bring it back to handicap as these Grade One and Grade Two races are the Pattern and you have to give these horses a route. If they are going to cut up like this it is a pity.”

A wind operation meant Altior had a chequered preparation prior to Cheltenham last year, but things are going far more smoothly this season for Nico de Boinville’s mount.

There has also been talk about stepping Altior, owned by Patricia Pugh, up in trip, but Henderson is resisting this for now.

“They keep coming, but he keeps beating them. What more can he do?” he added. “I want to see him stay unbeaten over fences, but I’m not wrapping him up in cotton wool as we are coming out three weeks after the Desert Orchid and we have had three really quite quick runs.”

The British Horseracing Authority have taken steps to reinvigorate further National Hunt racing in the north of Britain after announcing the launch of the Racing Post ‘Go North’ Weekend.

The three-day meeting will see competitive and valuable jump racing take place at Musselburgh, Kelso and Carlisle on March 20-22 next year.

The cards at Musselburgh and Carlisle will feature three each of the six finals for the Northern Lights series, which has been restructured to run during the core of the jump season rather than through the calendar year.

The BHA said they hoped the concept will provide “meaningful end-of-season targets for horses trained in the North and provide a showcase for jump racing in a region which boasts a rich history of success”.

Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell said: “It’s great to see the industry working together to give trainers, owners and yards based in the north some really decent prize-money to aim towards at the end of the jump season.”

However, given that many of the standard-bearers of Northern racing’s resurgence, like Waiting Patiently, Definitly Red, Sam Spinner, Midnight Shadow and Lady Buttons, are trained in Yorkshire there will be obvious disappointment that this county’s racetracks have been omitted.