Nicky Henderson defends disclosures around condition of Altior

British trainer ‘very disappointed’ with certain members of the media

Nicky Henderson, British jump racing's champion trainer, launched an angry defence of his conduct at Cheltenham on Friday in the face of continuing questions raised by his disclosure on Wednesday that Altior, the hot favourite for the Champion Chase in March, needed a wind operation and would not be fit to race until after Christmas.

Henderson told viewers of the On The Line programme on At The Races on Monday that last season's brilliant Arkle Trophy winner was "totally on target" for his much-anticipated return to action in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown next month.

However, Altior was friendless in the ante-post markets for several hours on Wednesday afternoon, before Henderson revealed on Twitter at 7.08pm that last year’s brilliant Arkle Chase winner had a problem, and would miss his intended return at Sandown.

Five minutes later the trainer's blog on the website of the gambling firm Unibet disclosed more detail about the issue – "a small issue with his wind whereby his larynx isn't opening sufficiently" – and also that it had initially surfaced when Altior "made a whistling noise on Saturday".


The apparent discrepancy between Henderson’s positive quote on Monday and his statement that the first hint of a problem with Altior was two days earlier was swiftly highlighted on social media, along with his unease in the betting in the hours leading up to confirmation that he needed an operation. Henderson, though, said in an interview with ITV Racing on Friday that he did not feel there was anything more he could have done.


“There was no issue on Saturday,” Henderson said. “This started on Tuesday. I’ve just got to say that I am seriously disappointed and incredibly upset with some of the attitudes that have been taken by members of the press, media and television.

“This issue raised its ugly head on Tuesday, and…we couldn’t have done this any better, any quicker, any more professionally. And the next thing is, you call it Altiorgate, that’s fine. It’s ridiculous. I am to say the very least extremely upset with some of the intonations, the insinuations that have been made.

“You couldn’t have done this any quicker. The only thing I was waiting for on Wednesday was a second opinion, which I got at four o’clock in the afternoon, spoke to the owners and we went to the press immediately.”

Pressed by the interviewer, Matt Chapman, on whether there had been "nothing on Saturday at all", Henderson said: "If you go to every horse that's ever made a squeak in your life, I'd spend my whole time sat behind a desk doing nothing. Of course we had a look for a good reason, but I had no reason to believe there was anything wrong, there was nothing.

Very disappointed

“I’m very disappointed with certain members of the press room and media. I was going to mention them but I’m going to refrain, but only just, I can assure you.”

Asked after the conclusion of the interview why he had not mentioned Altior’s “whistle” until Wednesday, Henderson said: “What else can I do? There was nothing to tweet about on Saturday. They did the test on Tuesday.”

Pressed on his reference to Saturday in his Unibet blog, he added: “It started on Tuesday for goodness sake, have you not got that yet? They did the test on Tuesday. [The whistle] gave me a reason to do it. It doesn’t mean anything. Come and spend a day with me and I’ll teach you about horses, about which you evidently know nothing.”

– Guardian Service