Altior out to delight his fans with bid for 17th straight win in Clarence House
Matchbook Clarence House Chase | G1 | 2m1f | ITV4/RTV
It’s the smallest field since the race’s status was upped to Grade 1 in 2008, but that won’t bother the legions of Altior fans who will flock to Ascot to watch him attempt an incredible 17th straight success.
Altior has been a joy to watch during that unbeaten sequence over hurdles and fences, which began with a 34-length romp at Chepstow in October 2015.
He went on to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle that season before developing into a totally dominant two-mile chaser.
Victory for Altior would be his 12th consecutive win over fences, equalling the record for the longest winning streak over fences held by Game Hen (1885-86) and Gangbridge, whose sequence included the 1901 Welsh Grand National.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase hero reappeared with a comfortable victory at Sandown in the Tingle Creek Chase, and didn’t need to come off the bridle to pulverise Diego Du Charmil in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on December 27.
His trainer Nicky Henderson said: “It’s not Altior’s fault that he keeps scaring the other horses away. When Sprinter Sacre was around they made the effort to come and see him in action and people love horses like him and Altior racing.
“Having been through this before with Sprinter Sacre and other very good horses, the races sort of stop being about ‘this is exciting, he could win a big race’, to thinking that everything has to go right and he has to put in a proper performance otherwise he’s going to be criticised.
ALTIOR IN NUMBERS
Consecutive victories 16
Days since last defeat 1,361
Aggregate winning distance 221 lengths
The other runners
As Henderson says, horses aren’t machines and it’s a well-known saying in racing that “you should never be frightened of just one horse” – even if the horse is as majestic and all-conquering as Altior.
Colin Tizzard is pleased to get Fox Norton back on track for his first run since he pulled up behind Might Bite in the 2017 King George at Kempton.
“He's coming back from injury and we're glad to have the three-horse race as there won't be the hurly-burly,” Tizzard said.
“For the last month he's been out twice a day as we want him fit to do himself justice. He's up against it with Altior, but if we come a good second we won't mind.
"Although we went to Cheltenham with Native River with one run last season, I think two runs would probably be better as you've got to have match practice to stand an equal chance as the rest, that's why he's starting now.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Diego Du Charmil completes the small, but select, field.
“We’d be very hopeful of him finishing in the first three!” assistant Harry Derham quipped. “Look, someone has got to take Altior on, but we’re under no illusions about what faces us.
“We’re rated 156 and that makes him not the easiest horse to place in the world. This race has really good prize-money, so we’ll take our chance and see what he does, but we’re realistic about it all.”
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