Altior produces record-equalling 18th consecutive victory but is pushed all the way during Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase triumph
- Altior was heavy favourite setting off in Betway Queen Mother Champions Chase
- Nicky Henderson-trained gelding was odds-on with Nico de Boinville on board
- Saint Calvados set early pace by Altior never looked in any real trouble
Nico de Boinville hailed Altior as the best horse he has ridden as he partnered the brilliant gelding to a record-equalling 18th consecutive win over jumps.
After his second successive Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase victory, the winning sequence of the Nicky Henderson-trained 4-11 favourite now matches that of four time World Hurdle winner Big Bucks.
That’s not the only thing they have in common. There were times when Big Buck’s looked like he was in trouble yet he always delivered. He had grit to go with glitz.
Altior was pushed all the way as it won the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Altior, who has now won at four Festivals having landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and the Arkle Novices’ Chase in 2017, is the same.
The gelding, who took his career earnings past £1million, can look under threat. He definitely did on Wednesday. Saint Calvados cut out most of the running, but the rest of the field played a cat-and-mouse game sitting on Altior’s tail waiting to pounce.
He suffered a momentum-stopping mistake at the water jump and was even headed when strong-travelling Sceau Royal pinged the last fence.
Sceau Royal and eventual runner-up Politologue challenged on either side of the winner
Yet, like the postman, Altior always delivers and, by the finishing line, he was a length and three-quarters clear of runner-up Politologue and going further away with every stride.
Appropriately, earlier in the day his great former stablemate Sprinter Sacre had been paraded. He was also a dual Champion Chase winner warmly loved by the Festival crowd who have now taken Altior to their hearts as well.
De Boinville was Sprinter Sacres’s work rider before he was promoted to the job of Henderson’s stable jockey when he rode him in his last five races.
The 29-year-old jockey said: ‘I don’t think I rode Sprinter Scare at his peak. I am riding Altior at his peak. For me he is the best I have ever ridden. The public are really warming to Altior and I think he has lit up the Festival this year.
‘He has toughed it out. It is almost like he doesn’t know how to lose. Everyone wanted to have one go at me and see if they could do me for speed.
‘They gave it a good go but he has managed to find that extra gear. I don’t know where it comes from but he is just a fantastic racehorse.’
De Boinville, who also won the Coral Cup on Henderson’s 28-1 shot William Henry, finished second in the RSA Chase on Santini and third in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Bright Forecast, admitted the water jump error had shaken him.
He added: ‘It felt pretty horrendous, I’d say it was just miscommunication. He was winging fences and I felt there wasn’t a stride there and wanted him to pop.
‘I was trying to be careful. You can’t get too extravagant in this tacky ground. He has pulled up a tired horse but he i s phenomenal.’
For Henderson, the result brought relief as much as it delivered joy. The trainer said: ‘Watching it is seriously like hitting your head against a brick wall — the only nice bit is when it stops.
‘It was a cracking good race probably for everyone else but for me it was hell. It felt a bit like that, but he can do anything. Bar one mistake his jumping was great.
‘As soon as Nico had to say ‘Put your head down we have to go’, he found all that was needed. The great thing is he is a hugely talented horse but he is a very brave one too. He knew what he had to do. He wasn’t exactly enjoying it but he put his head down, said “I’m the best” and he is.’
Asked to compare Altior with Sprinter Sacre, Henderson politely declined but said: ‘We are very lucky guys. You retire one horse and in five minutes find another.
‘They have both achieved the same thing in winning two Queen Mothers. Sprinter had the blip in the middle (with a heart problem) whereas this fella has come through with an unblemished record. Let’s just say they are very, very good and we are very lucky.’
Altior is set to try to win his 19th consecutive race in the Celebration Chase at Sandown on April 27. Next season a step up in trip and a shot at the three-mile King George VI Chase is on the cards. Henderson said: ‘We will have to seriously think about it and putting it on the agenda.’