Cheltenham Festival: Martin Girdwood backing Altior in Queen Mother Champion Chase

Cheltenham 2018

Nicky Henderson's decision to abort a novice chase campaign to revert to the smaller obstacles paid off spectacularly when he lifted the two-mile hurdling crown last March and having won each of his previous three starts this season with the minimum of fuss, he was the 4-6 favourite to become the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of the race since Hardy Eustace in 2005.

Altior, last year's Arkle victor and unbeaten from seven starts, has at times been nearly as imperious as his older rival, but he, too, has hardly had an ideal preparation this time, with his breathing operation and recent alarm, although it has to be said he looked pretty much as good as ever when beating Politologue on his comeback at Newbury last month.

There have been five triple winners of the Champion Hurdle.

Mick Jazz finished third at 25/1. The runner-up came and I thought he was coming to beat me, but he's battle hardened. "I've not had a talk to JP (McManus) to see what anybody wants to do, but as long as there's some soft ground around (he could run)".

"It's a special race".

"There's always pressure when you are trying to win these big races, so it's a big relief and it gives us confidence going into the week".

"It's going to be fun, it's got to be, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it". He is young horse and he has done everything right the whole way.

Mr Claisse, said it was the "first time" since 1982 the festival had opened with such "testing conditions".

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He will now be set to become the sixth triple victor of the Champion Hurdle as an eight-year-old next year.

In addition to Faugheen and Melon, Mullins saddled Wicklow Brave, who was seventh, and Yorkhill, who was pulled up.

Winning trainer Tom George said: "He must have a huge engine". "There is still a little bit of heavy ground on what we call the stud bends, so that only affects races over two-and-a-half miles".

It was back to the drawing board then for his astute trainer, the fear being that the horse's confidence might have been unduly shattered.

The Scout is the principal tipster for the Daily Express and Sunday Express, and for the last 25 years he has been acknowledged as one of the top private handicappers in England.

He was a good horse in bumpers, no more, but has been hugely impressive since being launched over flights.

"Now the worry is for him to keep fit and well".

"I think opinion is probably split on whether his last run was a good run or a bad run, given we were getting weight from Our Duke, but I think people forget Our Duke won an Irish National by 14 lengths". "I'd imagine he'll go to Punchestown".


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