Nicky Henderson will not retire Altior despite heavy loss at Kempton

NICKY Henderson suffered his second shock reverse of Christmas when steeplechasing superstar Altior was well-beaten in Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase.

This was Harry Skelton and Nube Negra defeating Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.

Seven years after Henderson’s equally illustrious Sprinter Sacre was pulled up in the corresponding contest, Altior’s defeat came 24 hours after the trainer’s Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante was eclipsed by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle.

However, Henderson, the champion trainer, dismissed talk of retiring Altior who never travelled well under Nico de Boinville and was well beaten by the unheralded Nube Negra.

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“I’d be very surprised if that’s the end. I don’t think you can say that’s the knockout blow,” said a visibly shellshocked Henderson when pressed on the future plans for the four-time Cheltenham Festival winner.

Nicky Henderson with Altior before the superstar steeplechaser's shock Kempton reverse.

Meanwhile, Nube Negra’s success was the culmination of a dream weekend for trainer Dan Skelton and his brother Harry who partnered the horse to victory in this prestigious Grade Two race.

They won a fiercely competitive novice hurdle at Kempton with Third Time Lucki before Shan Blue’s superior jumping prevailed over the highly-rated The Big Breakaway in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over the King George trip of three miles.

On Nube Negra, a clearly elated Harry Skelton said: “He was brilliant, he travelled and jumped with a lot of zest which is what he’s always been good at. I was always in a canter on ground slow enough for him.”

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