He doesn’t represent an attractive betting proposition. But Altior is impossible to oppose in his bid to repeat last year’s victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s star boasts an unbeaten run of 17 races, stretching back to October 2015.
He was an impressive winner of this event last year, in the process slamming four of today’s rivals, having won the Arkle 12 months earlier. And he has done nothing this season, apart from jumping to his left last time in the Clarence House at Ascot, to suggest he’ll be vulnerable this afternoon.
A year ago, Altior hit his customary flat-spot before reaching top gear, storming up the hill to beat the Mullins hope Min by seven lengths, with God’s Own, Politologue and Oridnary World well stretched-out behind.
Altior ended last season with a win in the Celebration at Sandown. And he’s unbeaten in three starts this campaign, producing a good display to beat Un De Sceaux which, arguably, ran the race of his life in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
He followed-up by disposing of Diego Du Charmil in the Desert Orchid at Kempton over Christmas, a
particularly impressive display.
Last time, his tendency to jump left caused some concern in the Clarence House. But he still had plenty in hand, beating Fox Norton convincingly.
Now a nine-year-old, Altior is hard to fault and, barring accidents, he should become the first horse since Master Minded (2008-2009) to retain the two-mile championship crown.
Last year, Min (Ruby Walsh) traded at very short prices turning for home, before Altior swept past him and stretched clear up the hill.
Ruby’s tactics might be different this time, but it’s still hard to see Min reversing that form.
This term, Min has a two from two record, having proved too strong for Shattered Love and Balko Des Flo in the John Durkan (two and a half miles) at Punchestown before recording a no-nonsense victory over Ordinary World and Saint Calvados (both in the field again) in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month.
Like Min, the rest of today’s field is firmly held on form by the odds-on favourite. But it would be no surprise to see Henry de Bromhead’s Ordinary World, which faded to fifth last year, running another cracker and, perhaps, finishing in the frame.
Gordon Elliot hoping to reach heights of last year’s Day Two
Having saddled a Wednesday treble at last year’s Festival, Gordon Elliott should again hit the heights with Tiger Roll and Delta Work today.
Delta Work, winner of the Pertemps here last year, comes into the RSA Insurance Novice Chase, which his partner Davy Russell won on Presenting Percy last year, on the back of two rock-solid Grade 1 wins.
He outstayed subsequent dual Grade 1 winner Le Richebourg in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse and, last time, at Leopardstown over Christmas, produced a workmanlike display to land the Neville Hotels Novice Chase over three miles. Elliott’s charge is not flashy. But he might grind it out well enough to see off Paul Nicholls’ talented but slightly quirky Topofthegame.
Winner of the race last year, Tiger Roll will be a short-priced favourite for the Cross-Country and the three-time Festival scorer, which also landed the Aintree Grand National last year, sets a high standard.
He travelled sweeter than ever when winning the Boyne Hurdle at Navan last time, with blinkers back on, and gets the vote here over the Enda Bolger-trained pair Josies Orders and Auvergnat, and the rest.
The Elliott-trained Battleoverdoyen, unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, looks Ireland’s main hope for the opening Ballymore in which he faces the highly-rated, Nicky Henderson-trained Champ.
But for those seeking a solid each-way, Sam’s Profile, runner-up to Battleoverdoyen in a Grade 1 in Naas in January and with yesterday’s rain to help his cause, fits the bill.
A smaller-than-usual Irish challenge for the bumper includes Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten Envoi Allen, the Mullins-trained Blue Sari, a runaway winner of his only start, at Gowran Park, and Joseph O’Brien’s pair Meticulous (the mount of Donnacha) and Sempo. Marginal preference is for Envoi Allen.
The Boodles, formerly the Fred Winter, sees a 12lb weight-range from top to bottom. And although just 2lb off top-weight, I like Band Of Outlaws, ridden for Joseph O’Brien by his cousin J J Slevin.
He has won twice with the minimum of fuss over hurdles, travels well and has a change of gear, which should give him every chance in a race where stable-companion Fine Brunello is also of interest.
Peter O’Hehir’s tips
1.30. Sam’s Profile
2.10. Delta Work
4.10. Tiger Roll
4.50. Band Of Outlaws
“This Article First Published on www.irishmirror.ie“