Thursday 22 February 2018

Henderson 'not promising' Altior will make Newbury return

Trainer Nicky Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Nicky Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

Champion Chase favourite Altior will face a maximum of six rivals if he makes his eagerly-anticipated return in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson's charge is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner having landed the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy in each of the last two years and while he has not been seen in action so far this season after undergoing a wind operation, he still heads the market for next month's two-mile chase crown.

He is pencilled in to make his comeback in a Grade Two contest better known as the Game Spirit Chase and while he may not face a numerically strong field, there are a couple of worthy opponents in contention in Fox Norton and Politologue.

Colin Tizzard's Fox Norton chased home Altior in this race 12 months ago before going on to finish second in the Champion Chase.

In Altior's absence the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue has been the star of the two-mile chasing division this season, winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, beating Fox Norton in the Tingle Creek and dominating in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.

Henderson said he is "not going to promise" Altior will take up his entry, but added: "I'd like to get a race into him. If he gets beaten, he gets beaten - he is going to get beaten one day. You have got to hope he doesn't, but you have got to look at it like that.

"His work is fantastic, his wind is fantastic and his jumping fantastic."

The Seven Barrows handler has five potential runners as he bids for a sixth victory in the Betfair Hurdle.

Jenkins, joint-favourite with some bookmakers, has got his act together since being fitted with blinkers and was impressive on his last two starts at Kempton and Ascot. The other stable entries are Kayf Grace, Lough Derg Spirit, Charli Parcs and Verdana Blue.

Last year's winner Native River is one of five entries for the Denman Chase on the same card. Colin Tizzard's charge landed the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Welsh National and this Grade Two prize last season before going on to finish third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup .

He has not been seen in competitive action since that fine effort almost a year ago, but is nevertheless likely to be a hot favourite to successfully defend his Newbury crown on his way to another tilt at Gold Cup glory.

The ultra-consistent Cloudy Dream would be an emotional winner following the death of his trainer Malcolm Jefferson last Friday. The Trevor Hemmings-trained eight-year-old will now run in the name of the late trainer's daughter Ruth.

Anthony Honeyball could saddle classy novice Fountains Windfall, while Gary Moore's Traffic Fluide and the Nicholls-trained Saphir Du Rheu, off since falling in last year's Grand National, are other possibles.

Today's Fairyhouse fixture must pass a 7.30 precautionary inspection due to the threat of frost. Across the water, yesterday's card at Sedgefield was called off due to snow - as was today's meeting scheduled for Carlisle.

Irish Independent

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