MARCH 2019: Altior retained his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown, beating Politologue by 1¾ lengths.
MARCH 2018: Altior made it three consecutive Cheltenham Festival victories with success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, holding off old rival Min by seven lengths.
MARCH 2017: Altior returned to the Cheltenham Festival and won the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, drawing clear of Cloudy Dream to score by six lengths.
MARCH 2016: Altior won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a seven-length defeat of Min.
NOVEMBER 2015: Altior landed the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 2 Supreme trial, by half-a-length.
Altior is a four-time Cheltenham Festival winner that has essentially done it all in the two-mile steeplechase division of British National Hunt horse racing. Year in and year out, he has turned up at Cheltenham and delivered.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has had some special racehorses in his Lambourn stables down the years, but you would be hard pressed to find one that tops this particular animal. Altior and Cheltenham races go hand-in-hand after wins in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 2017 Arkle Challenge Trophy for novice chasers, and the last two renewals of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
A bay gelding by dual Breeders’ Cup Turf and 2002 Epsom and Irish Derby double winner High Chaparral, Altior has won 20 of his 23 career starts and all five previous outings at Cheltenham. That success on the track has brought almost £1,250,000 in prize money to owner Patricia Pugh.
You hear the phrase “horse of a lifetime” a lot in racing. In Altior’s case, it is apt. He has won 10 Grade 1 races, including the Celebration Chase at Sandown Park in three consecutive years. Other major race victories on his CV include the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park, Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (twice) and the Tingle Creek Chase.
Altior has set a record for the most consecutive victories under National Hunt Rules with a 19-race unbeaten streak. He surpassed previous holder Big Buck’s who dominated the staying hurdle division between 2009 and 2012. Altior’s run started in October 2015 and lasted until November 2019, so he went four years undefeated.
Already sure of his place in history among the pantheon of jumps racing equine greats, Altior’s legend will grow even further if he can win at the Cheltenham Festival for a fifth time.
Given his fabulous record at Cheltenham, it is hard to bet against Altior in his bid for a Queen Mother Champion Chase hat-trick. Only one horse in the race’s storied history, Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984 and 1985) has won it three times before, however.
On Cheltenham ante-post markets Altior ranges in price from standout best odds of 4/1 with 888Sport down to 5/2 with bet365 for a third Champion Chase crown. That means he is a clear second-favourite in the market behind young pretender Defi Du Seuil. Those odds will shorten if he comes through and wins his intended Cheltenham Festival prep run in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
Philip Hobbs’ stable star Defi Du Seuil is three years younger than Altior and obviously has more scope for further improvement. His owner, the legendary gambler JP McManus, has never had a Champion Chase winner.
Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins is also yet to win this race but has a strong hand of entries. They include Altior’s old rivals Douvan, Min and Un De Sceaux, who he has always beaten, and a couple of younger sorts in Chacun Pour Soi and Cilaos Emery.
A Plus Tard is another previous Cheltenham Festival winner like Altior, Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux entered in the Champion Chase. He is a potential rival, because he has since gone to land Grade 1 glory for trainer Henry De Bromhead after his Listed success in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase last year.
Off the back of losing his long-standing unbeaten streak and minor setbacks for other intended runs before the Game Spirit, if ever there is a time to take on Altior in the market, then it may be now. He can never be written off or counted out, however, so punters disregard him at their peril.
Altior saw his undefeated sequence end on 19 with a loss to Ascot specialist Cyrname on reappearance in November during the Grade 2 1965 Chase. It is worth noting this was his first try over a distance of two miles and five furlongs, and races on the Berkshire go right-handed rather than the left-handed configuration of Cheltenham.
In other words, everything was in Cyrname’s favour and Altior was at a bigger disadvantage than his odds suggested. Having his stamina stretched on his first run of the campaign is far from ideal. Henderson said Altior finished tired and perhaps wasn’t ready for the rigours of stepping up in trip on testing ground.
That has been his only run of the season to date. Altior next races in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury – an event which he has twice won and used to prepare for Cheltenham Festival victories in the past.
Before losing the unbeaten streak, Altior completed last season with a perfect five wins from five. He started off in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, holding Un De Sceaux by four lengths. Altior then followed-up in the Desert Orchid around Kempton under a penalty, where he bolted up by 19 lengths and still on the bridle.
He went back up into Grade 1 company for the Clarence House at Ascot, where he showed tendencies to jump out to his left. Altior made all, however, and beat the returning Fox Norton eased down by seven lengths. Successful defences of his Champion Chase and Celebration Chase crowns by smaller margins of victory followed in a virtually flawless campaign.
As the undisputed and absolute best two-miler over fences of his generation, Altior has proven himself time and time again, earning an adoring legion of fans and been a wonderful advert for the sport.