Altior back on track in bid to be five-time Festival winner

Nicky Henderson is relieved to have finally got Altior’s season up and running – and “all is going well” for his bid to emulate Badsworth Boy in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Nicky Henderson with Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful Santini.

Not since former Yorkshire trainers Michael and Monica Dickinson’s 1980s great has any horse landed a hat-trick in the two-mile championship – and Altior is also bidding to become a five-time Festival hero, having won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle.

Altior lost his 19-race unbeaten streak first time out at Ascot to Cyrname – a reverse Henderson is still kicking himself over – but he showed the engine remains intact when winning at Newbury recently, and it is all systems go for March.

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“All is going well at the moment, and he is in good form,” said Henderson.

Jockey Nico de Boinville and Altior

“He has just had a couple of quiet days since Newbury.

“If you take Newbury as his first run of the season, which you virtually have to, it was perfect.

“If we were coming into the Tingle Creek or something (next), you would have to say he is spot on.

“The disaster was the first run of the year – it was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong ground over the wrong trip. I couldn’t have made a worse job if I had tried.

“I’ve always said if it wasn’t for there being so much hype, and there hadn’t been the big build-up (he would not have run) – I should have really been the spoilsport and taken him out on the morning of the race, but you couldn’t really.”

Despite Altior’s defeat on his first run over two miles and five furlongs, Henderson is adamant his stamina is not an issue.

“I’d love to go to Aintree (for the Melling Chase over two-miles-four-furlongs), but he is not a horse that can do that. We wanted to go there a couple of years ago, but he hadn’t recovered from Cheltenham.

“He is good at telling (jockey) Nico (de Boinville) when he is absolutely on song, or 10 degrees under.

“If he said he is ready I would love to go to Aintree and try him over two and a half there.”

Stablemate Santini is among the favourites for the Gold Cup, having been placed at the last two Festivals, and arrives on the back of a victory over Bristol De Mai last month.

“We know he likes Cheltenham, and he has run two cracking races there,” said Henderson.

“His race in the RSA last year was fantastic, because we had a dreadful time with him. We were trotting him up outside, and he had problems with his feet. Then we had flu vaccinations, and he was meant to have a run in the Reynoldstown, and he had no preparation or racecourse experience anything.

“I admit he wasn’t very impressive first time out at Sandown. We cauterised him after that, and there was no point going to the King George because Kempton is not his track.”

Henderson also confirmed Might Bite will take on double Grand National winner Tiger Roll in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

Brian Hughes has lodged an appeal against the three-day ban imposed by the Carlisle stewards yesterday.

Hughes, who is chasing a first jump jockeys’ championship, was found in breach after weighing in light following victory aboard the James Ewart-trained Bingo D’Olivate in the second division of the Introducing Racing TV Handicap Hurdle.

The clerk of the scales lodged an objection, with the market leader subsequently disqualified and Hughes suspended “as he had failed to draw the correct weight”. Ewart was handed a £750 fine.

A report from the stewards read: “The clerk of the scales objected to the winner, Bingo D’Olivate, ridden by Brian Hughes, and trained by James Ewart on the grounds of the rider weighing in at 11st having weighed out at 11st 5lbs.

“Bingo D’Olivate was disqualified and the placings were revised as follows: 1st Dequall, 2nd Ballydonagh Boy, 3rd Emissaire and 4th Notwhatiam. The rider, the trainer, the trainer’s representative, a member of racecourse management, the raceday assistant and the clerk of the scales were interviewed.

“Hughes was suspended for three days as he had failed to draw the correct weight. James Ewart was fined £750 as the cause of the weight loss could not be established.”

Now on 128 winners for the campaign, Hughes is due to be out of action on March 2, 3 and 4, but the Professional Jockeys Association soon announced his intention to appeal.

It tweeted: “We can confirm an appeal has already been lodged with @BHAPressOffice against the decision of the Stewards @CarlisleRaces.”