Nicky Henderson remains confident in star horses Altior and Epatante

NICKY Henderson reports Altior – the dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero – to have returned an unsatisfactory scope following his shock defeat at Kempton.

The trailing Altior (right) suffered a shock reverse in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on Sunday.

The 10-year-old was beaten three and a half lengths by Dan Skelton’s unfancied Nube Negra on his seasonal bow in Sunday’s Desert Orchid Chase, struggling from an early stage. Henderson, the reigning champion trainer, was quick to underline his faith in his star steeplechaser after the race when asked if he would now retire Altior.

The trainer told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “We had him scoped (after the race).

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“There was evidence (of a dirty scope). I spoke to (vet) Simon Knapp last night – he confirmed there was, and we need to do a tracheal wash, which then goes to the laboratory. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find there is something amiss.

Nicky Henderson's Altior, the mount of Nico de Boinville, is a dual winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

“It’s definitely not normal, because he was scoped on Christmas Eve and we know it was 100 per cent clean, but 48 hours is a long time in a horse’s life.

“It would be enough (to affect his performance) – it would in Simon Knapp’s opinion anyway.”

Henderson plans to ease off briefly with some of his string to ensure all are in top shape as the season builds into the new year.

“We’ve got one or two horses that aren’t quite right,” he said.

Jockey Tommy Dowson was an impressive winner on South Terrace at Catterick before suffering a heavy fall in a subsequent race and being stood down.

“I think I’ve got two more this week – (then) we’re going to have a quiet time, and I think I might leave them alone this week.”

Henderson also suffered a surprise reverse at Kempton on Boxing Day when reigning champion hurdler Epatante, the mount of Aidan Coleman, was beaten by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle.

Henderson suspects there was a reason for her below-par run too, but believes both she and Altior are capable of making amends when their issues are resolved.

He added: “I don’t think it’s the same (problem with Epatante) – I think something else will come up there, and I’ve got ideas.

“That wasn’t her, and we know it wasn’t her. (Whether she was in season) is being investigated.

“I’d be surprised if Epatante ran again before Cheltenham – she didn’t last year, and I see no reason to run her again.

“I’m perfectly happy with both these horses that I’ve got good grounds for thinking there are reasons behind this – and with a bit of luck and a following wind, we can get them back into action.”

Meanwhile, a crowd of 800 racegoers took advantage of Tier 2 restrictions to attend Catterick where Gavin Sheehan landed a treble courtesy of Bardenbella, Anythingforlove and Sigurd.

Jockey Tommy Dowson had another rollercoaster day – he enjoyed an impressive win on Phil Kirby’s South Terrace before suffering a crashing fall in a later race and being stood down. He also suffered a leg injury in a heavy fall at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

Annie Mc could star in today’s feature Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase at Doncaster, meanwhile, a race won so memorably 12 months ago by the aforementioned Dowson on the now-retired Lady Buttons.

Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, the six-year-old won three last year before finishing unplaced behind Samcro at the Cheltenham Festival.

She looked in need of the run behind Nuts Well in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree but shaped better when finishing fifth behind Chatham Street Lad in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.