Altior has Douvan in his sights with Tingle Creek the first stop
Some would argue Arkle winner Altior was the real champion chaser of 2016-17, with his unbeaten novice campaign including victories in open company in the Game Spirit at Newbury and Celebration Chase at Sandown. Here, trainer Nicky Henderson provides an update on the ante-post favourite for the Champion Chase
Where did he spend his summer?
He was at Charlie and Tracy Vigors' place at Hillwood Stud. We have about 40 there over the summer and it's only ten minutes away, so we see quite a lot of the horses. He was in a field with about ten others, the same field that Bobs Worth and Sprinter used to spend their summers in. He's quite a relaxed horse, a good athlete, but he also knows how to unwind.
Did he summer well?
He did, as did all of our horses. He had a good eight weeks up there and, because he's not in as much of a rush to come back as others, he was one of those who came back a bit later. He looks grand but we won't be doing much with him in September.
Where will we see him next?
I'd imagine we'd go straight to the Tingle Creek. He's a big horse, but he's not impossible to get fit at home so we think we'll be able to get him to the track ready to run as well as he can. We could go to the Shloer, but it's quite close to the Tingle Creek and, having discussed it with the owners Christopher and Pat Pugh, that's one of the two major targets this year.
What's his long-term objective?
It would be the Champion Chase, I see no reason to go up in trip at the moment. He's beaten most of the two-milers around, with the exception of Douvan. Without knowing the plans for him, the only meeting between them before Cheltenham I could possibly imagine would be in the Tingle Creek. Altior's owners are very good, they take a real interest and understand how we me might try to get the best from the horse. The Pattern's the Pattern; before Cheltenham it's just a case of plotting your way around the same races and keeping the horses in good form. Then there's so much in the spring. He could go to Aintree, like Sprinter did, and there's also the Celebration Chase at Sandown, which is a very good prize now.
What excites you most about him?
Probably his speed. People have talked about moving him up in trip, but I thought his best run last year was in the Celebration Chase, where some very quick horses couldn't go fast enough for him. He might need a little niggle into the bridle, but he's always been very talented and that's what gets you wondering how much more there is to come. There's also his jumping. It was really good in places and he has a lot of scope, but I did feel he was learning all the way through last season and, although we stepped him up a couple of times, novices really helped him come on.