Altior bids to 'celebrate' 19 on the trot at Sandown
The British jumps season draws to a conclusion today at Sandown where the star attraction is Altior, which will be short odds to make history by winning his 19th consecutive race in the Celebration Chase.
Of course, this two-mile Grade One is something of an impostor. It was one of the good things to come out of the infamous foot-and-mouth epidemic in 2001 and, while it would be disappointing were Altior to be beaten, he is not a machine.
Between the last two fences of the Champion Chase, Alan King's Sceau Royal looked like he might bring Altior's wining run to a halt before being overpowered up the hill and finishing a close-up third. He appears to be the main threat but will need a career best.
In days of yore, the Bet365 Gold Cup (then known as the Whitbread) was one of the great staying chases of the season and it has lost a bit of its gloss, indeed it only shares top billing on the day now with the two-mile chase.
Nicky Henderson's Beware The Bear ran a terrific race under a big weight in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham and appears to be one of the few going forward in the race thanks to blinkers and a change of tactics.
The key to a lot of the big staying chases these days seems to be unexposed novices. Talkischeap and Just A Sting both seem to be better on good ground and so have chances.
At Sandown yesterday, Bangkok earned a 10/1 quote for the Epsom Derby after a comfortable victory in the Classic Trial. He took a short while to settle but was always travelling like the winner in fifth, had a clear run up the outside and was probably not doing a lot in front. "We do think a lot of him," said trainer Andrew Balding. "He has done everything very easily at home and will stay further."
Jockey Sylvestre de Sousa was impressed, saying: "He's still a big baby. When he got his head in front he started looking around."
John Gosden, who saddled a nice Oaks prospect in Sparkle Roll to win in good style yesterday, reports that Calyx will not run in the 2,000 Guineas and last night it was announced that the Marcus Tregoning-trained Mohaather will also miss the race.
At Navan tomorrow, Aidan O'Brien should maintain his good record in the featured Vintage Crop Stakes with 2017 Irish Derby winner Capri expected to justify favouritism in the hands of Ryan Moore. The Ballydoyle team will also be expected to land the opener with debutante Tango, but Shining Forth's experience might prove decisive. (© Daily Telegraph, London)