Tuesday 16 October 2018

'I'm lucky to be associated with Altior, he's a freak'

Nico de Boinville celebrates with the trophy after riding Altior to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters
Nico de Boinville celebrates with the trophy after riding Altior to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

Marcus Armytage

If the mark of a true champion is to overcome adversity, then Altior, who was all at sea on the mud, added his name to the list of Festival heroes when he sprinted up the hill to win the Champion Chase by seven lengths as hats and newspapers were launched skywards.

In another life, his jockey Nico de Boinville might have been one of those soldiers who is unexceptional in peacetime but extraordinarily cool under fire.

After Douvan had crashed out at the last ditch, four out, while leading, there were five horses in with a chance on the home turn.

Four of them were going better than the labouring favourite in fifth, and an upset was on the cards.

But the winning post is not on the home bend and there were no signs of panic from De Boinville - as good a man for the big occasion as there is riding in Britain.

Racing to the second last, he switched to the outside, found some better ground and, in a few strides, had gathered in all but Min.

He passed him in the air at the last and sprinted up the hill as he had done in the previous two Festivals, in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle Chase.

Former stablemate Sprinter Sacre may have pulled harder at the heartstrings, but as trainer Nicky Henderson said, he could not win the Supreme.

"That was sensational," said De Boinville. "He was in trouble all the way. Only his jumping kept him in it. It was a true test.

"I'm very lucky to be associated with him. He's a freak. He's very different to Sprinter Sacre.

"Sprinter was at his best between three and two out in a race, Altior is at his best at the finish."

Of the late scare caused by an infected foot, De Boinville said: "The Guv'nor was very open about it on Monday. I got a scare but I knew the team at home would get Altior right. It wasn't easy for him today but his class saw him through."

It was a fourth Champion Chase for Henderson and his 60th Festival winner in all.

Two of those Champion Chases were with Sprinter Sacre. Horses of a lifetime, it seems, are like London buses for the trainer these days.

"The foot was nothing," said a beaming Henderson. "It was of no consequence and when he wasn't winning round the last bend I wasn't about to start using that as an excuse. It has been a tough year (with his wind operation) but he's very good, he's just got gears.

"It was a great ride. Nico was very cool. When he pulled him out (after the turn-in) he was electric. For a few seconds, I thought 'this isn't going to happen' but as soon as Altior saw daylight he knew where he was going.

"To find those gears on that ground off that pace, you have to be pretty good."

The eight-year-old's owner, Patricia Pugh, is curator at the Horseracing Museum in Newmarket and in Altior, the Latin word for higher, she certainly has a priceless item to show off. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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