Nicky Henderson says that she would have no concerns about sending Altior straight for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival without a preparatory run.
Altior won all of his six starts over fences last season including the Arkle Trophy at Prestbury Park in March and his comfortable victory over the Champion Chase hero Special Tiara in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April.
However, he has not been seen in competitive action since due to a “wind problem” that surfaced last month and delayed his return.
Since then the horse has had a minor procedure to rectify the issue but he is still someway off a return. It is thought that Newbury’s Betfair Exchange Chase, also known as the Game Spirit, on February 10th is the only realistic target before the Cheltenham Festival.
Speaking this week Henderson said, “The Game Spirit is probably the last chance before Cheltenham. We have got to play it by the book and we can’t go any faster than the rule book says. He is not even being ridden yet. He is allowed to walk at the moment. He is as frustrated as I am. You are watching the Tingle Creek (at Sandown last Saturday) and you are about to watch the Clarence House (at Ascot in January) and it is awfully disappointing watching it and not being there. I can’t believe we weren’t going to be involved.”
However, she went on to say that “it really wouldn’t worry me if we went straight to the Cheltenham Festival. We have done this before. We could get there without a race and that is not a worry.”
The trainer acknowledges that it would be better to have a race before the festival but insisted that going straight in “is perfectly possible”.