NICKY Henderson hopes to make up for lost time with Altior when his stable star lines up in the Win Bigger On The Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury today.
The 10-year-old lost his long unbeaten streak first time out this season when succumbing to Cyrname – the extended trip at Ascot, and heavy ground, did not suit.
And while Henderson regrets, with the benefit of hindsight, the Cyrname clash last month, he hopes today’s test will put the horse spot on for next month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Altior, who had won 19 success races before defeat, will need to be at his best next month if he’s to defeat the next generation of two-mile chasers who are headed by the Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil who has won both the Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chases.
“Altior schooled last week. You might have seen the film. You would seriously wonder why in the world we would want to go further than two miles,” enthused Henderson.
“No horse in England would keep up with what he was going the other day, not one. Blink and you would have missed it, but that’s him. He works as well as ever.”
The trainer admitted that the race at Ascot was the wrong option for a seasonal comeback. “I just think Ascot didn’t help either horse at the end of the day,” he said.
“The problem was it was the first run of the year. If you do that later in the year that’s fine, but they were both having their first run and that is not the time to do that.
“Paul [Nicholls] might disagree with me totally but his horse didn’t run his race in the King George and we took a long time to get over it. Under normal circumstances he wouldn’t have run but you are then leaving the race as a walkover.
“What would the racing public say about that? Remember when Frankel moved up two furlongs in 2012 and everybody said ‘My God, can he get it?’. He was brilliant at York, and he was fantastic, but we were going five furlongs further in bottomless ground – and we were not prepared.
“I admit that, and it was my fault. He was as fit as I could get him first time out, but you don’t normally expect to come into that sort of clash on your first appeaeance.
“We said we would have a go at a longer distance, but what we did was leave all the other races like the Clarence House Chase going begging. It was the wrong thing to do but there was a lot of pressure put on us, saying ‘Come on, do something different. If you say he is a champion, prove he can stay. Otherwise he is just a boring two mile chaser’. So he’s a boring two mile chaser.”
The trainer continued: “Altior has to prove himself again and I think he can. He’s been beaten once in a two mile five race in a bog when he wasn’t half ready for it.
“That doesn’t mean he’s old. He got beaten. It was going to happen and that was the day. It wasn’t stamina because he didn’t finish any further behind the winner than he was two out.”