De Boinville so excited about Newbury mount on 'flying' Altior
Nico de Boinville is set to get his first proper Altior fix of the season at Newbury on Saturday, with the until recently sidelined rider reporting one of the sport's most exciting talents to be "absolutely flying" as he prepares to tackle Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase second favourite Fox Norton.
Noel Fehily capitalised on De Boinville being injured when partnering Altior to three wins over fences this season, but Nicky Henderson and owner Patricia Pugh have decided the mount on the odds-on Racing Post Arkle Chase favourite will be regained by De Boinville.
Should ground conditions become very soft connections could yet consider bypassing Newbury but, otherwise, racegoers at the track's Super Saturday card are set to enjoy a mouthwatering match-up - the second of two on the programme.
Leading Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hopes Native River and Bristol De Mai feature in a five-runner entry for the Betfair Denman Chase, while Altior and Fox Norton are among seven possibles in the Betfair-backed Game Spirit Chase.
"Altior is absolutely flying," said De Boinville, buoyed by a morning schooling session.
"As the governor said, we'll be wary of the ground, as he wouldn't want it too soft, but it would be more good experience for him if he does run.
"This will be more of a test than he's had so far. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Fox Norton's win at Cheltenham as I was on the operating table, but I'll have a look back at the race as I gather he was pretty impressive.
"This will be a good test for Altior, but if he's as good as we all think he is - and we do hold him in high regard - I'd like to see him put up a good show."
"Altior has been a joy to watch while I've been off, and he's spurred me on to get back to full fitness.
"I've been really impressed with the way he's taken to fences. I always thought he'd make a fantastic chaser and he's proven what we all reckoned he could be.
"He's such a fresh, exuberant horse and fences have seemed to focus him a bit. That's not to say he wasn't very good over hurdles, just that he's more of a chaser, I'd say."
Henderson concerned about ground
Henderson said: "Nico is going to ride Altior. He's always ridden him and deserves to ride him. It's a very difficult one and we have talked about it. Noel's got on very well with him, but Nico is our jockey and he's been unlucky not to have been able to ride him this season."
Highlighting his ground concerns - Newbury's chase course was soft on Tuesday - Henderson added: "I've always thought Newbury would be a good track to give him a spin round before Cheltenham, but the ground would be my biggest concern. There'll be a point when it will worry me.
"Last season he went straight from Kempton on Boxing Day to Cheltenham, but this season's a bit different. We know he's better on good ground, and with frost around it could become tacky. We'll have to see but the intention is to run."
Gary Moore said he hopes to give Traffic Fluide a first outing of the season in the race but that stablemate Ar Mad will miss Cheltenham.