It has been a frustrating season for the once-unbeatable Seven Barrows superstar, with a combination of factors restricting him to just the one competitive appearance.
The 11-year-old missed an intended outing in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in early December due to unsuitable ground conditions – and when he did eventually return in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton a few weeks later, he was laboured in defeat behind Nube Negra.
Henderson was optimistic of a much-improved performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last month, but for the second season in succession, Altior missed out on a hat-trick bid following a late setback.
With cheekpieces fitted for the first time, hopes are high Altior can silence the doubters on the final day of the campaign.
“I am delighted to say that everything has gone very well in the lead-up to this race and, barring mishap over the next 24 hours, he goes there at the top of his game and in flying form,” Henderson told Unibet.
“He hasn’t raced on ground like this for quite some time, but we worked him on our grass gallop during the week with a couple of lead horses and he absolutely bounced off the surface so there shouldn’t be any excuses where that’s concerned.
“Obviously Put The Kettle On is a very talented mare and Sceau Royal is a big danger too, but we are all happy with Altior and the cheekpieces could help.
“It’s just great to get him back on track!”
Put The Kettle On became the first mare to win the Champion Chase at Cheltenham – her second Festival success following victory in the Arkle 12 months earlier.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead, who also saddles Ornua, is keen to discover whether Put The Kettle on can prove as effective at Sandown as she is at Prestbury Park.
He said: “She’s unreal, she’s savage to do what she did in the Champion Chase, it was unbelievable. She loves it at Cheltenham.
“I don’t know whether it’s the travelling, Aidan Coleman or whatever – this week will tell us if it’s just Cheltenham, but we’ll gradually narrow it down as to what makes her tick over there.”
Paul Nicholls fires a twin assault, with Champion Chase fourth Greaneteen joined by course-and-distance-winning stablemate Dolos.
“Greaneteen ran very well in the Champion Chase and surprised a lot of people. He was second in the Tingle Creek here and we’ve kept him for this race,” said the Ditcheat handler.
“It’s an open race, I think. Altior has got a bit to prove possibly over two miles, but he likes it round there, and the one to beat is the Champion Chase winner.
“Dolos absolutely loves Sandown and quick ground. He’s a massive price for a horse with his rating and his record at the track.”
Alan King’s Sceau Royal endured a troubled run on his way to finishing fifth in the Champion Chase.
“It looks a helluva race, but our horse is in great nick,” said King.
“We had no luck at all in the Queen Mother, but he’s come out of it in good order and shouldn’t really mind the ground, I don’t think.
“Let’s hope he’ll run very well.”
Emma Lavelle reports Irish Prophecy to be in tip-top condition ahead of the bet365 Gold Cup.
The Wiltshire trainer has had the long-distance handicap chase on the final day of the season in mind for several months.
Irish Prophecy was given a break after winning at Taunton in November and had a warm-up outing over hurdles in Ascot last month to step up for his assignment.
“This has been very much the plan for him since he won at Taunton,’’ said Lavelle.
“He went to Ascot for a prep run over hurdles which was lovely and he ran avsuper race.
“It was just to get a run under his belt.
“He’s in great order. I think he will love the ground.
“The trip is an unknown, but I suppose it is for a lot of them. I’d like to think he’d run a big race.
“He doesn’t want the ground too soft, so he’s had a lovely mid-season break.
“His prep run at Ascot has hopefully set him up for this.”
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