Altior made to work but eventually eases to Arkle victory
Nico de Boinville’s mount was led out all the way by Charbel before a fall at the final fence
Altior ridden by Nico de Boinville on their way to winning the 2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters
It was a case of ‘job done’ for Altior after he ran out a workmanlike winner of the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.
So impressive when landing the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the same card 12 months ago and unbeaten in four previous starts over fences, the seven-year-old was considered one of the bankers of this year’s Festival and was priced up accordingly as the 1-4 favourite.
While never looking in serious danger of coming to grief, Altior was safe rather than spectacular in the jumping department in the hands of Nico de Boinville.
Old rival Charbel put up an exhibition round from the front for much of the two-mile journey and was certainly not done with when crashing out two fences from the finish.
His exit left Nicky Henderson’s charge in the clear and it is perhaps a measure of his reputation that his six-length verdict might be viewed by many as underwhelming.
Malcolm Jefferson’s northern raider Cloudy Dream ran a fantastic race in defeat to finish second, with Ordinary World back in third.
De Boinville said: “You are aware of the expectation, so you just try to do it justice.
“They went a good gallop and it took me a while to get the gears, but after the last he has taken off.
“He travels and jumps, wherever you put him in the race.”
Henderson said: “That was the one that had to win. It takes an awful lot of pressure off us.
“They went a good gallop and Charbel was still galloping away, but we jumped and travelled well. I feel sorry for Kim’s (Bailey) horse (Charbel). I hope he’s OK because he’s run a great race. They were only upsides at the time.
“He jumped great and Nico said they went a right good gallop all the way. Just for a moment he had to say ‘come on, we’re off’, then he quickened up the hill very well.
“We knew he’d come up the hill. He’s very, very good and there’s a lot to look forward to.
“We’ve gone down the chase route and we’ll have to stick to that now.
“He’s done it well and jumped very well from what I could see. On we go.”
The Seven Barrows handler is keen to see his charge in action again this season and is already looking forward to a potentially mouthwatering clash with Douvan next term.
He added: “It’s not the sort of thing we need to jump to straight after the race, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t run again, Sandown (Celebration Chase) would be the obvious way of going but he won’t go to Aintree. If he’s going to run again, I would have thought Sandown.
“We will just go quietly and take it one fence at a time and one race at a time.
“This is only his first season over fences. Hopefully Douvan will do his job (in the Champion Chase) and then maybe we will all meet up again next year.
“I am sure Altior still has his life in front of him and it is only the beginning of his life over fences.”
A philosophical Bailey said of Charbel: “David (Bass) hadn’t even asked him a question. That’s life.
“He jumped the fence fine and just knuckled over, but he’s fine. It’s a difficult fence.”
Jefferson was delighted with the performance of Cloudy Dream.
He said: “I didn’t expect any better than that so I’ve got to be delighted.
“I thought he ran a blinder against a very good horse.
“There’s a nice race at Ayr for him but I’d imagine he’ll go to Liverpool as Trevor (Hemmings, owner) loves his runners there.
“There’s the two-and-a-half-mile race (Manifesto Novices’ Chase) there.”