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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

He's back! Altior the headline act on a day of quality over quantity

Altior: landed the Game Spirit Chase last year
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This weekend jump racing fans will get the chance to clap eyes on some returning stars, and they should be able to get long, lingering looks with small-but-select fields the theme at Newbury and Warwick.

While the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle has a full field of 24, the brace of Grade 2 highlights at Newbury – the Game Spirit Chase and Betfair Denman Chase – have three runners apiece.

Each-way punters may be out of luck, but the quality of the fields are hard to dispute, as Champion Chase favourite Altior gets his season up and running in the Game Spirit.

Nicky Henderson described the eight-year-old as being at his "most vulnerable" for this comeback earlier in the week, but the weight of his reputation has still put off potential rivals.

However, Politologue and Valdez, the two who have put their heads above the parapet, are no back numbers and it should still be a great race.

Three of Altior's best performances

Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham, March 2016
Taking up the lead after the second-last, Altior charged up the hill in the manner of a top-class horse to win by seven lengths, lowering the colours of the Rich Ricci-owned hotpot Min

Betfair Exchange Chase, Newbury, February 2017
In a performance that belied his lack of experience over fences, Altior sauntered home ahead of the likes of Fox Norton and Dodging Bullets to earn comparisons with the brilliant Sprinter Sacre, who also won this race en route to Arkle victory.

Celebration Chase, Sandown, April 2017
His second foray out of novice company and pitted against the Champion Chase winner Special Tiara, this was arguably Altior's biggest test yet. However, he slammed Henry de Bromhead's star by eight lengths.
Kitty Trice

It is also a case of quality over quantity in the Denman Chase, with Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful Native River out to press his case.

Not sighted since finishing third in the Festival highlight last year, Native River will need to get rid of any ring-rust in a hurry as he faces Saphir Du Rheu, who was fifth in last season's Gold Cup, and Cloudy Dream, who runs in Ruth Jefferson's name for the first time since the death of her father Malcolm.

Barters Hill is another attraction on the card, and Ben Pauling's stable star will make his return over hurdles against seven rivals on his first start since suffering a tendon injury at Cheltenham in November 2016.

Saint Calvados: has won first two starts over fences for Harry Whittington

Warwick wonders

The Grade 2 Betway Kingmaker Novices' Chase is the highlight on Warwick's card, and, once again, it is a race low on numbers but high on intrigue with four runners declared.

Saint Calvados, who held an entry in the Game Spirit, will bid to stay unbeaten over fences, but that could be a stiff task as he faces Henry VIII runner-up North Hill Harvey, Diego Du Charmil and Drumcliff.

Saturday cards

If you are interested in this, you might also like:

Henderson: this is when Altior is going to be most vulnerable

Gold Cup hope Native River fit and firing ahead of return

Whittington readies Saint Calvados for Arkle bid

Exclusive to members: read the big interview with Sir Anthony McCoy from 6pm on Saturday


Each-way punters may be out of luck, but the quality of the fields are hard to dispute

Key data

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