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Awesome Altior powers away to reward favourite-backers

Nico de Boinville celebrates as Altior returns triumphant in the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham
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That's not supposed to happen in a race named after Arkle, is it? The greatest chaser of his, or any, generation dealt only in certainties.

It was invariably 'Himself' first, the rest nowhere and those who backed him at long odds-on rarely had a moment's worry.

But the latest 2m novice chasers' championship that has borne his name since it was founded in 1969 raised more questions than it answered.

For sure, the record books will show that Altior started at an Arkle-style price of 1-4 and was an Arkle-like six lengths and nine lengths clear at the line.

Yet that does not tell the full story as the horse rated the first-day banker by so many had only just moved up to press the leader Charbel and was still half a length down when that rival knuckled on landing after the second-last fence.

Altior, minutes before scoring a equaliser in the BetBright Cup
What might have happened had the front-runner stayed on his feet? 

Kim Bailey, who made the bold decision to take Altior on rather than find an easier option, is adamant the sponsor's innovative £2,000 prize for the winning groom and yard would have had a different destination.

"He has gone back to the stables and they say he is fine but it is frustrating," the trainer said. "There is only one Arkle.

"David Bass said he hadn't even moved on him, he was absolutely cantering. He said he was going too well really. And we know he stays. I feel convinced he'd have won.

"We'll see how he is and he might not run again this season; he was trained for today and this was the most important thing. He didn't deserve to fall as he jumped the fence fine, he just knuckled – he was going too quick."

But Nico de Boinville knows a thing or two about winning a championship race from the front round here, thanks to Coneygree, and he is convinced he would have prevailed.

"Would I still have won?" he said. "Yes, definitely, the way he's finished.

"If you go back to the way he won his hurdles the gears were never instantaneous. He has to go through them and once he hits top gear bang, he's off."

Six of the best

Nicky Henderson also knows what it takes to win this race – Altior gave him a record-breaking six Arkle victories, topping Tom Dreaper's five.

And he said: "I feel sorry for Charbel, he ran a great race and we were only upsides at the time. But we've met before, he led us over the last at Sandown and Altior did what he did then."

Relief was the trainer's prime emotion after Altior had emulated the likes of Remittance Man, Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre. 

"This is the one that had to win," he said. "To get one on the first day takes the pressure off."

Altior could take the rest of his novice season off and Henderson said: "He's been pretty perfect all year. I don't know if he'll run again.

"There is no reason why not and maybe the Celebration Chase at Sandown could be a race for him. He wouldn't go to Aintree as that is two and a half miles and he doesn't need that."

 The question that arises now is whether Altior can emulate Remittance Man and Sprinter Sacre by landing next year's Champion Chase against Douvan, the current king of the division.

"I've got nothing to throw at Douvan tomorrow," Henderson said. "He'll win, we'll watch, and then we'll see what happens next year.

"There is so much to look forward to next year. Altior's life is still in front of him, this is only the beginning, it is his first season over fences."  

Racing Post Arkle result

He was going too well really. And we know he stays. I feel convinced he would have won

Key data

Altior Charbel
E.W. Terms